When you start out teaching, one of the hardest things to do is to see the wood (the whole course of study that your learners will work through) for the trees (the individual lessons you’ll teach that comprise this course of study).
Nevertheless, thinking about things from this wider perspective is a must if you are to achieve a balance of skills and activities that take place, as well as making sure that what you do fits in with the other teachers who are also teaching your class. Here are some points to consider when planning for the longer term.
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Planning a course of work
While you might not be the person responsible for designing a whole course of study, it’s useful to consider how your lessons fit into a course.
Some of the things you need to keep in mind are as follows:
- the age of the learners, their level, and their needs
- the length of the course, and whether it started before you became a teacher
- the coursebook or syllabus that the class is following
- the language, subjects, and type of activities that have been covered so far, and
- the other teacher you need to liaise with.
The learners are the most important part of your class, and long-term planning must involve their specific needs.
Are they aiming to survive in an English-speaking country, for instance? Do they need a certain specific type of English for their employment?
If you have a class of learners with similar needs and requirements, you might wish to build these into your planning on a regular basis, at the expense of the coursebook if necessary.
If you have a group with a wide variety of needs, you might want to focus on each particular learner, in turn, making sure you try to do something specific for each person over the course of several days or weeks.
Each of these approaches will require long-term planning.
Striking a balance between individual and whole-class needs
At lower levels, you’ll probably find that learners are happy to have a lesson that is pitched to all of them, quite simply because they are all new to the language and their pre-existing knowledge of English will be fairly similar.
However, when you teach learners at intermediate level and higher, you’ll start to notice a greater divergence in terms of what they already know.
Some will have a firm grasp of the passive voice, for instance, while others will be totally unfamiliar with this grammar.
You’ll probably find even greater disparity in terms of knowledge of the vocabulary you teach.
Think about how you can give extra activities to those with strong pre-existing knowledge of the grammar, or how you can use those learners who already know the words to help teach the vocabulary to the other members of the class.
Tips for success
- Don’t form an opinion of the class as a whole based on only one or two individuals. You’ll often find that certain members of the class are more vocal than others when trying to help shape the content of lessons. Accommodate such learners on occasions, but don’t neglect the others when it comes to long-term planning.
- Vary activities over the course of a number of lessons so as to make sure classes appeal to a variety of learning styles.
- Try and maintain a medium pace that means the faster learners can be challenged with supplementary tasks, while the slower ones can be encouraged and helped to keep up by their more knowledgeable peers.
- Plan individual or group tasks that are geared toward a particular learner, then do something similar with a different learner in the next class. This way you can deal with individual needs while still having everyone in class working on course-related activities.