Thursday, 17 September 2015

Saving time on planning

I understand that many schools ask teachers to produce a written lesson plan for every lesson on a standard proforma. I would have hated that. It takes up teachers' valuable and limited time.

I am happy to share the fact that, once I had been teaching for a couple of years, my written lesson plans usually consisted of a few lines at most in my A4 planner and I only wrote more detailed plans when there was an official lesson observation from my line manager or Ofsted. (Ofsted do not requite this any more.) Our schemes of work were shared and familiar to us all, mainly consisting of a mix of text book resources and our "in house" resources. I made good use of our effective text book, Tricolore, and spent some time finding or writing good new resources.

Back in the day resources were much scarcer - I fondly (?) remember recording and transcribing long wave French radio broadcasts for listening exercises. Enough with the nostalgia!

If a language teacher has good subject knowledge and proficiency, once they have established a good repertoire of tried and tested routines, lesson planning need not take very long. If you have ready-made quality resources the job is even quicker. Once you have got to grips with the basic tricks of the trade the resource can become the plan.

If the resource is a set of flashcards or powerpoint pictures, then you run through your repertoire:

  • Whole class repetition (normal, whispered, sung, shouted)
  • Individual/small group repetition
  • Hiding pictures for a guessing game
  • Showing pictures with written word
  • Combining pictures to produce longer lists
  • Making up sentences using the words
If you have a text:
  • Reading aloud
  • Class reading aloud
  • Find the French
  • Correct false statements
  • True/false
  • Question answer in TL
  • Question answer in English (last resort!)
  • Aural gap fill from memory
  • Pair work
  • Oral to written QA
  • Written QA
  • Summary
  • Translation
If you have a recording or video:
  • Gap fill
  • True/false/not mentioned
  • Questions in TL or English
  • Find the French
And so on. For a long list of what you can do with a text, see the Teacher's Guide of

It's also very useful to have a range of nil preparation games and fillers so you know you have something to fall back on if timing goes awry.

The skill in using some of these techniques needs to be acquired. For example, smart questioning sequences using the full range of question types need planning for until they become second nature. It also takes experience and a good feel to know how to pitch exercises for the class in front of you. This is technically known as cognitive and affective empathy.

Once you are competent with grammar and vocabulary - I do realise that many teachers have to survive on insufficient knowledge and skills - and you have become proficient in a repertoire of effective techniques, planning should take relatively little time.

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