Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lesson Plans. The good, the bad and the ugly!

Hi Guys,

Today I wanted to talk a little about lesson plans. Now for those senior teachers out there I know what you're thinking 'as if we don't know what a lesson plan is' and I agree, I had to think twice before posting on this topic.

The reason I ended up biting the bullet and writing about this is because surprisingly enough during my time training teachers I've had more than a few teachers come up to me and ask me 'What is the best way to make a lesson plan' I've also had them ask 'How do I write out a syllabus'. So that alone tells me it's worth talking about and posting up here.

So let's get into the nitty gritty. The reason I've entitled this post 'the good the bad and the ugly' is because in regards to lesson plans I've seen them all. For many teachers in Indonesian schools lesson plans are a cause of distress. I suspect that is because of a number of reasons:

1. The teachers are asked to give one years worth of lesson plans at the 'Raker' time, which would be a small book. I've seen some institutes give a day or two for 'fine tuning' a years worth of lesson plans. This is all easier said than done. How do you expect a teacher who has been assigned a different subject to last year or even a different level to 'fine tune' the last teachers lesson plans (that is to say if that last teacher made any at all)? How do you expect teachers to handle changes in the curriculum and/or program or be creative in the way they teach when they are asked to confirm exactly how they are going to teach the subject one year ahead of time? These are of course rhetorical questions. We can not ask this of teachers and should not.

2. Often teachers after a hard days teaching, socializing with parents and correcting work don't feel up to letting their creative juices flow out into making improving lesson plans and sometimes just don't make the time to do so. That is why we see 'RPP' (lesson plans) coming up as a popular download on the net. I sometimes wonder whether the teachers lessons look anything like what they've given their coordinator or dept head.

3. Quite often in schools here, there are no set coordinators or department heads. If there are they are usually assigned fairly heavy teaching or administrative duties. This means they often don't have time to properly check over teachers lesson plans, give feedback or do walkthroughs (lesson observations). They usually just request lesson plans are in by a certain date (if they are unreasonable they will ask for a years worth of lesson plans all at once) and then they file them, never to see the light of day again.

So you'd wonder why any teachers would want to hand their lesson plans in if that was the case.

That being said, I have worked at one school before where teachers were asked to put their lesson plans in only one day before, were given feedback on their plans, given training on how to make good lesson plans and were given their lesson plans back before they had to teach and they still didn't like writing lesson plans. So what's the deal?

I think most of the case it's a simple case of poor 'macro planning'. Basically if you don't know how to write up a great syllabus yet you aren't going to be able to make great lesson plans and to write a great syllabus you should have a strong underlying teaching methodology to follow. Think about 'How I want to teach my students?' before you even begin to put pen to paper.

Then and only then think about the curriculum, then the syllabus then the lesson plan.

So it goes like this:

Step 1. Methodology --> How I'm going to teach my students (how are they going to learn best)?

Step 2. Content (curriculum) --> What I'm going to teach my students (what should I expect from them) and how am I going to asses them?

Step 3. Timeline (syllabus) --> When am I going to teach the content my students and what is it going to align with in the rest of the curriculum i.e. other subject/programs?

Step 4. Details (lesson plan) --> Use the above information Step 1 for structure Step 2 for content and step 3 for position to make your lesson plan. It's just basically cut and paste and adding one or two things once you have a strong methodology to guide you. It is best to make a formula that repeats itself and takes care of all of the above. That way the structure is the same, you only have to change the content.

So basically if you're not happy with how you're going to teach your students (your method) change it before the year starts then choose a curriculum (if you can) or edit the curriculum that has been served to you by a 'higher power' (more likely) to suit your methodology. After that make sure every thing you want can be achieved (with plenty of time to spare) in the timeline and think of extra things you can integrate into your classroom (like excursions or daily activities to complement the curriculum). Finally make a basic format and formula for your lesson plans based on the above e.g. Lesson 1/5: Like this! Lesson 3/5 Like that! and Lesson 5/5 some kind of formative assessment. Walla! 50% of your lesson plan woes have gone out the window.

That being said though, there are many teachers out there that will look at the above and say 'what a lot of hard work!' and 'I'll have corrections to do, as it is I am taking work home!'. Well obviously this article isn't for them and they probably didn't read this far anyway (joking). But in the off chance that you are thinking that; which is more important, having the students know what mistakes they've made, or delivering such a shockingly good lesson that the students don't make so many mistakes?

Anyway I hope you enjoyed this write up on Lesson Plans, if it was all child's play for you maybe you can forward the link to some of your workmates that perhaps aren't so savvy yet?

Either way keep up the great work and let's change some lives!

Warm Regards,


P.S. I may post up a basic 'Engage Study and Activate' lesson plan format later, just for newer teachers of EFL to use as a reference. The reason for this is because we still have a lot of English Teachers who haven't any formal Education Qualifications (sometimes they can turn out to be the best teachers). I don't know when I'll post that up but I'll try and remember to do it soon. ^_^

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