One question on my job interviewer list is whether the candidate can handle more levels/age groups and different types of courses in one day. Most candidates answer automatically yes. However, a normal teaching day in our part of the world looks like this: pre-scheduled courses start at 3pm, 4.30pm, 6pm and 7.30pm (e.g. two YL, a one-to-one and finally an adult class) and you might be even lucky to get an individual lesson before that (let’s say 1.30 to 3pm). It can easily get overwhelming to sit down and write four-five lesson plans in a row for the coming day. You may not know where to start and how to proceed. There is always a first time to teach a group/book/unit/grammar point/topic, etc. Important to get down to work and follow some important steps:
First things first: find out what you are supposed to teach. Many schools provide a long-term plan, although these might only say: teach unit 1 in lessons 1-3. You might not even have a book, just be given the syllabus points to teach, so need to prepare everything from scratch. Or you might get pre-written lesson plans from your school. Even in this latter case, you need to prepare.
Let me give you a kind of list to follow in case you have the feeling you can’t get all these lesson plans done:
- Organize visually what you have to do: put all the materials for the different classes in front of yourself in separate piles: register, books, your notebook, folders with homework assignments to correct and/or worksheets, flashcards, etc. This way you can manage time better since you see how much is still awaiting you, but seeing the piles disappear one after the other will be really motivating.
- First get the corrections done. If you have any written homework assignments to correct, do this first. If the class wrote a test in the previous lesson, correcting these is absolute priority. Why? First, because you need to give feedback on these as soon as possible (possibly not more than one week after your student handed it in to you). Secondly, because based on this you will see if you need to insert a feedback session on the writing task in your lesson, whether you can move on in the syllabus or need to go back and reteach/revise previous points, etc. The main mistakes in test papers will become the teaching aim or target language on your coming lesson plan.
- Familiarize with the topic: you might be given a point or a lexical field or a function you are supposed to teach. First thing to do, make sure you know what you are going to teach. Check a grammar book for the grammar point, make a list of lexical items for the vocab lesson or clarify what instruments (grammar and lexicon) you need to fulfill the function (e.g. giving advice – grammar: modal verb – should, topic might be teen consultancy or family matters).
- Familiarize with the materials: if you need to follow a book, read the unit you need to cover. Spend a couple of minutes analyzing it: what skills does it train? Where does the target language come up? Are the examples clear? Is practice provided? Do you need audio materials/equipment? Is there any difficult lexical item you need to pre-teach?
- Read the teacher’s book: you might be able to design your lesson using only the student’s book, but if you need any reinforcement, read the suggestions of the teacher’s book. It might give you good ideas for further practice (freer practice) and also advise you on social forms.
- Know where to find materials: not all courses follow a book, sometimes you need to design your worksheets and other materials. You must try once or twice to do it on your own, you might discover a hidden talent of yours. Still, you can save an awful lot of time if you know where to look for materials. This is something you can do continuously. You can subscribe to newsletters and get whole lesson plans mailed to you. I find materials from the British Council/BBC Teaching English website (Teaching Kids, Teaching Teens and Teaching Adults) very useful. Also MacMillan provides a wide range of excellent lesson plans (e.g. Life Skills Resources). Other options are the Oxford University Press Teachers’ Club (subscription still free) or onestopenglish (this one for payment, though). Busyteacher.org is another gold mine for worksheets (always proofread, not all of them are high quality, but can be changed), and there are others (although for payment) like Teach-this, . I also find Lessonstream a really good place to go. If you need anything, just google the level, the age and the syllabus point you need to teach and you will definitely find something interesting.
- Write your bulletpoints for the lesson using your phases (in my CELTA training we used the following phases: warm up, lead-in, main part, student’s practice). I really don’t think that you need to write what the teacher and the students will do in detail and what problems you need to prepare for. This is useful in the training, though. You need your notes you will understand and formulate then to your class. Mind, though: you might want to spend a minute more and write the instructions you are going to give your students, this way you don’t need to stress over them in front of the class. Keep it short and simple – this is the rule. Grading your language doesn’t come naturally at the beginning.
- Design your whiteboard plan for the target language: what are you going to write onto the board while eliciting the target language? Do you have enough and clear examples? This is more important than describing the process itself.
- Add social forms to the different phases: are students going to work individually, in pairs, in small groups or in open class? Then check that these options vary on your plan and none of them dominates.
- Add time limits for the exercises: The golden rule is that you need to overprepare, but the secret of a successful lesson is timing. You need to know when to stop working on one exercise and move onto another one. This will guarantee that you reach your target in the lesson and cover the syllabus in your course. You won’t be able to estimate the time precisely, but you can give yourself a max. time-limit for each exercise. This way, you won’t get too longwinded in any exercise.
- Plan when you are going to do the administrative tasks: If you need to take attendance, are you going to do this at the beginning of your lesson while having small talk with your students or will you do it on your own while yours students are working on something? What homework will you assign? Is there anything you need to give feedback on (test or homework).
Some advice for emergency:
- Don’t write long lesson plans: too detailed plans only make you nervous about what comes next, instead of enjoying teaching. Bulletpoints are enough. More important that you spend time on your whiteboard plan and language analysis.
- Know how to gain some minutes: you might understand during the lesson that something is not going as you planned or that you don’t remember the next thing to do. Keep calm and give your students something to work on. One or two questions are enough. While they are discussing, go to your desk, take a deep breath and use your cheat sheet. Decide what to do or jot down some sample sentences for the language clarification. After two minutes, ask your students for feedback on their mini-task and lead them back to the point where you left off on your lesson plan.
For further tips you will find this article interesting.