Let’s agree on being sensible teachers entering classrooms with a notebook or a sheet of paper with some appropriate notes scribbled on them. The question is not to plan or not to plan. That’s out of the question. The questions that I would pose are how detailed should these notes be? What part do they play in the lesson? Should every step of the plan be followed? Should you allow yourself to be guided by the plan or should you allow your lesson to flow according to the plan? That is, should you allow yourself some room for improvisation? I do.
Still, what I know about lesson planning comes from the methodology classes that we had at teacher training university where I studied. Let’s face it – the knowledge is rather basic. We were given the big picture of what a well-structured lesson should look like. Hence, I publicly admit that I have never written a lesson plan in such a detailed way as to note timing of every section, let alone write up my exact words for introducing these sections. Frankly speaking, I’m rather scared of going on a CELTA course for this very reason. Dissecting a lesson will not appeal to me and I might as well fail, and of course failure is something a teacher fears so much. I have a feeling that this skill of writing in-depth lesson plans could be very helpful, so, to my regret, I’m held back from further development due to my unwillingness to welcome change.
Having worked in the profession for almost eight years, I have shaped an image of what a perfectly suited lesson plan is for me. This perfectly suited lesson plan reminds me of a to-do list. There are points mentioning activities I plan to do, along with explanations of how to conduct this or that activity, as well as NB (nota bene) points I want to remind myself not to forget or want to remind students to pay attention to — and that’s it. The one core principle that is an absolute must for me to stick to is meaningful connections. Logic, consistency and clear-cut structure are crucial. In an ideal lesson plan, tasks are interrelated and help meet lesson objectives. It’s also important that a lesson aims at practising several skills rather than just one, thus providing multifaceted language experience and loading. Yet the lesson itself could be a flow of activities, pre-planned or spontaneously arising in my mind. In the class itself, students’ reactions play a great role as well. A teacher needs to be sensitive to this emotional aspect of a class and easily adjust.
Maybe it’s not planning that I would speak of as being important, but rather an ability to structure a lesson in such a way that at the end of it, students have a clear and complete idea of what the lesson has just been about. Additionally, students should be able to see how the teacher has managed to interweave this particular lesson into the pattern of lessons that make up a course.
A lesson plan can be long or short, detailed or sketchy, but it should do its work.