Thursday, March 15, 2007

New teachers and lesson plans

By Eve Ross Beijing Institute of Machinery

A new teacher asks: “Is there a formula that if used in lesson plan development can almost guarantee a fun class? What sort of patterns or > formulas in lesson making have worked best for all of you?”

Well, there are some pretty standard formulas for lesson plan development.

A well-structured lesson makes the material easier for the students to grasp and retain. But I don't think there is a secret lesson plan formula that equals fun.

That said, here are some hints for planning fun lessons:

When you find a lesson plan that works, don't do another one just like it. Vary it somehow. Let's say you used a riddle lesson plan in which you started off class with a riddle, let students guess the answer, then had them to write their own individually. Next week, DON'T introduce limericks by starting off class with a limerick, letting students guess the last line, then having them write their own individually. That would probably be a fun lesson plan on its own, but the problem is that your presentation would be exactly the same as the previous lesson. This gets boring. Try to teach limericks in a different way than you did the riddles, for example: start out by just saying the rhythm of a limerick (daDAdadaDAdadaDUM), then say it with the words, then write a limerick as a class (you write on the board as students suggest the next line). Caveat: Chinese students take a while to get used to Western teaching techniques, so more repetition than variety will be necessary for the first few weeks at least. You'll know when they're bored and ready for a change.

Use your creativity to turn the rote practice part of your lesson into a game. A standard party game or children's game (Bingo, Jeopardy, Pictionary, Tic-Tac-Toe, 20 Questions, I Spy, Simon Says, etc.) can be adapted in order to use whatever particular language you want your students to learn.

You're an actor. I know, you thought you were a teacher, but you're an actor. Your jokes, puns, slapstick, smiles, funny faces, and general willingness to make a fool out of yourself can enliven even boring material. Even grammar, if you were called upon to teach it. And drama is good for your students, too. They have a hard time imagining themselves using oral English in real life, so sometimes you have to say, "You're the employer. You're the job applicant. Let's hear the interview." "You're the American roommate. You want to watch TV. You're the Chinese roommate. You want to do your homework." And they'll probably surprise you with a realistic dialog.

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