Planning a grammar lesson for a TESOL / TEFL class is something that many new teachers find very difficult and this article is designed to offer some advice. Here we are focusing our attention on lessons where the focus is grammar as teachers often find this most difficult of all.
1. The first thing to say is that lesson planning is very important whether a teacher is newly trained or experienced. It is true that an experienced teacher may not need to do as much preparation on a day-to-day basis as a newly trained teacher but, nevertheless, it is important that every lesson is prepared with care.
2. When planning a grammar lesson try to embed the grammar in a typical situation so that the new language is easier for the students to understand. For example, if you have a class of adults you could build your lesson around having a car serviced in a garage to introduce or practise the Present Perfect tense. In the course of your lesson, sentences like this could naturally arise. They've changed the tyres. They've serviced the engine. They've replaced the wipers. Alternatively, you might focus on improvements to a house. They've changed the windows. They've mended the roof. They're made some flower beds.
3. One of the commonest mistakes that new teachers make is that they do not lay out their lesson plan in a clear way. In some cases they arrange their plan with multiple sub-sections:
If a lesson plan is arranged in this way it can be confusing when teaching as it is quite complex and so very easy to accidentally skip a step. Skipping a step is especially easy when a teacher is under stress; for example, when being observed by the head of department! A far simpler way to arrange the lesson plan is to have consecutive numbering which is clearly shown, like this:
A plan like this can be easily followed because it is clearly numbered.
4. Another mistake some teachers make is that they squeeze multiple activities into one step of their lesson plan. Here is an example:
Step 4: Introduce the first conditional: If you eat that apple you will get a tummy ache. Provide practice. Introduce the second conditional: If I was a cat I would enjoy chasing mice. Practise. Introduce If I had passed the exam I would have gone to university. Practise.
Here the teacher has squeezed multiple activities and different language constructions into one step. As a result the new language is very unlikely to be either introduced in a coherent way or practised in an effective way. Each example of new language should be introduced separately. (In fact, these different constructions should really be covered in separate lessons.) The introduction of new language and the practising of new language should generally be separate steps arranged something like this:
Introduce new language A
Practise new language A
Introduce new language B
Practise new language B.
5. Many teachers make very general comments in their plan such as Practise the target language. While the teacher may have some idea in their mind about how they are going to practise the target language there is no indication in the plan and this can cause problems as teachers can get confused or make mistakes. It is much better to state clearly in the plan how something is going to be practised. Practise the target language. Tell the students to work in pairs. Tell them to ask each other questions, like this: Have you ever been to... ? Yes, I have. I went there in... / No, I haven't. I've never been there.
6. It is a very good idea to include examples of the language that you want to focus on in each of the lesson plan steps. Unless this is done it is all too easy to make mistakes. Thinking again of the example in point 3 above, I have seen teachers trying to teach/practise the conditional if + present + future but half way through the lesson drifting off course to if + past + conditional. These are different constructions with very different meanings and muddling them up will certainly lead to confusion.
7. It is often best if a lesson includes quite clear controlled practice early on (especially with students who are below intermediate level) and this can later be followed by more interactive practice. This could take the form of small groups working together, or students moving around the classroom talking to each other or a game, or something similar. This interactive practice will enable the students to use the new language more freely, and perhaps more creatively, and to gain in confidence.
Here is a short, simple lesson plan a teacher might use with elementary-level young learners where the new target language is the use of a little and a few as in a little rice and a few oranges.
Step 1: Ask the students whether they go shopping with their parents. Where do their parents like to shop? Do they enjoy shopping with their parents?
Step 2: What foods do their parents buy regularly. List them on the board as they name them.
Step 3: Can we write the number 10 in front of all of these? Can we write 10 in front of the word apples? Can we write 10 in front of the word rice? What can we write in front of words like rice and sugar? (a little; a kilo of; a bag of etc). Make two lists - one where we can put a number and one where we can't.
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