Last week we talked a little bit about the 3 Stages of Lesson Planning, but this week I want to dive deeper into the topic of pre-planning, to specifically talk about the first two steps in my pre-planning routine.
Pre-planning is the stage of lesson planning that focuses on making decisions about what direction the lesson will go in, based on student needs, requirements, curriculum, and any other influences that may be at work in your classroom.
Pre-planning is a great time to allow yourself the time and space to think through how you can create a lesson that will engage your students and be entirely applicable to their daily lives and needs. Without pre-planning, it can be easy to just jump into planning out activities and end up overwhelmed, directionless, and with a disjointed lesson.
Many teachers don’t give pre-planning a second thought, but it’s a really integral part of creating a positive learning environment and, in my experience, can be the key to slowing down and finding focus in the classroom.
There are four steps that I follow when it comes to pre-planning: use, topic, language, and review. These four steps actually make up the framework for The Busy Teacher’s Guide to Pre-Planning.
If you’re interested in learning more about pre-planning and how it can help you to create more interactive and useful lessons for your learners, continue reading to learn more about the first two steps: use and topic!
Use: How Will My Students Be Able to Use English at the End of This Lesson?
“Begin with the end in mind,” is a popular (and effective) tool for everyone from business leaders to ESL teachers. It was originally used in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but is a great way for teachers to create a more focused and driven lesson plan.
For many teachers, this stage of pre-planning will result in learning objectives. Whether you’re required to set formal learning objectives or not, figuring out what your goals are for the lesson or how your students should be able to use English by the end of the lesson is an effective habit to practice.
If you’re following a curriculum, you may already have learning objectives in front of you, or at least a lesson goal that you’re required to fulfill, but that doesn’t mean that you can skip this stage. Figuring out how to approach and fulfill your requirements is an integral part of creating a lesson plan that will meet your students’ needs.
If you aren’t required to set formal learning objectives and/ you don’t already have them spelled out for you, taking time to figure out how to meet your students where they are and setting clear goals for doing so will make sure that you’re creating an engaging and seamless lesson from the very beginning.
Your lesson goals should be influenced by the needs of your students, both inside of and outside of the classroom. The only ways to really know what your students need from you as a teacher is to observe them while they’re using English in the classroom and ask them about their experiences with English outside of the classroom.
Topic: What Will My Students Be Talking or Learning About?
Now that we’ve figured out what your students need to be able to do by the end of the lesson, we need to figure out how we’re going to accomplish those goals, which is the aim of the remaining three sections. The topic can be a little tricky because sometimes it will be linked to your lesson goals and other times it won’t be.
If your lesson goals are to have students be able to describe past events in conversation, your topic could be anything from history to current events to sports to raising a family. The list could go on and on because you can talk about past events with any topic.
However, if your lesson goal is for your students to be able to apply for and interview for jobs, your topic is going to be a little bit more specific. The topic that you discuss and learn about will be related to careers, jobs, experience, education, and other things that are necessary for accomplishing those goals that you set.
If you find that your topic is already decided for you because of your lesson goals or the curriculum you’re following, remember that you can always make adjustments and find ways to relate the topic to your students’ lives. If your topic is transportation, for instance, take it a step further and talk specifically about bus schedules or buying a car or Nascar racing.
I like to use this time to figure out what situations or contexts my students use English in the most or need to use English in, as well as what they’re interested in as people (not necessarily as students). These two factors have a huge influence on what topic I decide to discuss in my lesson.
Pre-planning is a really important part of my lesson planning routine, and it’s one that I’m really passionate about helping your to make a habit of. Pre-planning is the difference between a stressed and frazzled teacher who throws together a few activities and a teacher who, though probably stressed and frazzled, has taken the time to figure out the best course of action for her students.
I Want to Hear From You!
Do you follow a curriculum?
If so, how do you make it more applicable and helpful for your students?
If not, where do you begin when it comes to planning a lesson?