By Sarah Hardin

            Over the years of teaching EXCEL, I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of lesson plans. Some have been great, but others have needed lots of improvement. Why is it so important to have a good lesson plan form that you use regularly? Often teachers forget to think about basic structural parts of their lesson, and as a result, their teaching is not very successful. Are they using many different kinds of groupings in their lesson? What materials do they need to remember to bring? Does the lesson involve different skills?  Also, I have seen some lesson plans that were great, but they were so messy that the teacher couldn’t follow them. After seeing teachers have these problems time and time again, I realized how helpful a good lesson plan form could be. I realized that all teachers have different likes and dislikes about how to write their lesson plans, but I think that if you look carefully at this form you will find ways to adapt it for yourself.

            The top part of the lesson plan includes basic information so that you can know what book and unit the lesson is for just by glancing at it. It is also helpful to know the page number so that you, and your student, can get to the right spot in your book without wasting your precious class time. Also included in the top part of your lesson are objectives.

            Objectives are extremely important. There is a saying that goes, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit nothing.” It means that if you have no purpose in mind when you plan your lesson, if you have nothing specific that you are trying to achieve, then you will simply waste time and not accomplish anything in your class. Objectives must be measurable. You cannot simply say that in this lesson students will learn about clothing—your objective must be something that you can actually check. For example, “By the end of this lesson students will be able to correctly describe what they are wearing” or “By the end of this lesson, students will be able to correctly identify items of clothing.” For both of the example objectives, I could design an activity that would let me know if I met the objectives of the lesson or not.

            The warm-up or review part of a lesson should be interesting, but should make good use of your class time. It is best to use this short time at the start of class to do a fun review activity. Remember, if you don’t review previously taught information, your students will forget it. This could also be a time to grab your students’ attention by reading a story, showing pictures, or singing a song that relates to what you will be teaching in this lesson.

            Most of you have heard of three-stage lesson plans. I hope that you all use them! The three stages are presentation, practice, and communication. The presentation part of your lesson is when you introduce the new vocabulary or grammar that your students will study that day. It should be interesting, but understandable. Sometimes you may need to do a lot of explaining, other times you can use pictures, miming, and timelines to teach the topic.

            The second main part of your lesson is practice. This is a time for your students to use what you’ve taught them in a structured way so that they become more familiar with the material, and gain confidence with it. Dialogues are a good example of a practice activity.

            The third part of your lesson should be communication. This is when your students get to use what you’ve taught them to communicate new and unknown information to each other. If the information isn’t new, then it isn’t real communication. Instead of dialogues, you could use role-plays for a communicative activity and have your students make up their own words.

In the form, for each of the parts of a lesson, there is a section for you to write brief explanations of what you and your students will do.  Next there is a column to write what skills you have your students use (speaking, listening, reading, writing). Remember that if students don’t have any practice activities for a certain skill, you can’t expect them to be able to communicate using that skill. There is a grouping column in which you can keep track of what groupings you use (pairs, whole class, individual, groups) and what structures you use. For example, you do a pairs activity and used double-lines as the structure for it. Materials is a very important column. There have been countless times when teachers have planned excellent activities but have forgotten the necessary cassette, scotch tape, drawing pencils, or other necessary items and so they couldn’t use the activity. Finally, when you are planning your lesson, it is important for you to think about the amount of time that each activity will take.

At the end of the lesson, you need to have a way of evaluating if your students met your lesson’s objectives or not. Also, you should think about what homework you want to give to your students before you get to class, not at the end of the lesson. Finally, one of the most important things you can do to improve your teaching is to think about your lesson afterwards, and evaluate what was good, what needs to be improved, and how would you alter the lesson if you taught it again. You should think about these things and write them down right away because if you wait, you might forget some great ideas.

Sarah Hardin is currently an EXCEL supervisor for students in Dornod and Tov aimags as well as a teacher at Zuunmod College.