29 statements about lesson plans

The following are some statements about lesson planning I believe I have heard, read, thought and imagined in the past few years. I felt spending some time thinking about the statements might be interesting or useful so here I am typing them up. I also thought the list could be a nice start or part of a workshop related to lesson planning. If you’d like to read about my experiences and thoughts related to lesson planning from 2000-2010 you can find them here. 

I wonder if there are statements you strongly agree with or strongly disagree with or those you think are slightly BS, totally BS or totally legit. Any other additions to the list are welcome as well.

  1. I am too busy to plan regular lessons.
  2. There is no need to plan for most classes.
  3. There is no sense planning lessons if we are not paid extra to do so.
  4. The best lessons are those that are unplanned.
  5. Since we are just “covering” grammar points there’s no need for lesson plans.
  6. A lesson plan is essential for every class. 
  7. You can’t have a lesson plan if you don’t have target language. 
  8. We need to use the proper format when lesson planning. 
  9. The key to a successful lesson plan is following the correct frameworks appropriately. 
  10. Lesson plans are primarily for the teacher. 
  11. Lesson plans without objectives are useless. 
  12. Lesson plans need to have SMART objectives. 
  13. We need to use the right verbs when writing objectives so that we know what students will learn. 
  14. Lesson plans can be written in any format, including the back of a napkin. 
  15. We need to write out everything the teacher will say in class. 
  16. We need to write out everything the teacher will do in class. 
  17. We need to write out everything the students will do in class. 
  18. We need to write out everything the students will say in class. (Even if it takes 30 pages). 
  19. They key to lesson planning is finding the right Youtube video to start the lesson. 
  20. The best starting point to lesson planning is choosing fun activities.
  21. The hardest part to planning lessons is choosing objectives. 
  22. The hardest part to planning lessons is choosing appropriate activities for lessons. 
  23. Even if we don’t plan for regular lessons we need to be sure to do so for open classes. 
  24. Lesson plans for open classes need to show new activities. 
  25. Lesson plans for open classes need to be fancy and flashy.
  26. Lesson plans need to include some use of the latest technology. 
  27. Lesson plans (especially for open classes) need to include eye catching materials. 
  28. There is a strong correlation between lesson planning skills and teaching skills. 
  29. There is no correlation between lesson planning skills and teaching skills.

Glossary: 

open class = sort of a like an observed demo class. Probably with real students and probably already practiced a bit. It depends on the situation but the purpose might be for the teacher to get feedback on his/her lesson but it also might be for the teacher to introduce ideas/techniques/methods/memes/activities to those in attendance.

regular class = A normal class on a wet Tuesday in May.
(Or actually any day of the week with any weather. Just a normal class without observers)

cover = one of my least favorite words related to teaching. I don’t really know what it means but I do know that it doesn’t tell me much about what the students are doing or learning.

Updates and additions:  

Jonathan Sayers (@jo_sayers) over at ELT+Technology decided to follow a suggestion in the comments to put the list on Survey Monkey. And, here is the collection on a Likert scale. Check it out.

 

LINKS!

Some links were mentioned in the comments:

http://elt-resourceful.com/2012/08/29/whats-the-point-of-planning/ 
(From Rachael Roberts)

 

http://www.icaltefl.com/index.php/resources/tefl-tesol-teaching/24-lesson-plans/108-lesson-planning
(From @icaltefl)

 

and some links came to mind after I posted this:

 

6 iTDi posts on lesson planning:
http://itdi.pro/blog/category/topics/lesson-planning/

 

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57 comments

  1. geoffjordan

    I suggest that you put these statements on SurveyMonkey in Likert format and invite people to respond.

      • geoffjordan

        Well, that wasn’t really what I meant. My suggestion was that if you followed my suggestion, you’d have some interesting data to discuss. As it is, it’s quite hard work to look down the list and respond to the questions in any general way on this blog.

        Only trying to help!

      • mikecorea

        No worries… I appreciate the attempt to help. I am actually fine with the list as is and completely fine with the possibility of a lack of comments as well. I am happy enough to share the list with those who might be interested and hope that people can find some use for the list (including putting it on survey monkey).

        On a related note, it is always interesting to note the impact of suggestions when a clear reason is not given. 🙂

  2. Rob Dickey

    Thanks for your list. I’ve taught in teacher training programs where I was expected to teach a lesson planning component that adhered to some of the more restrictive viewpoints (design, vocab, etc) in your list. My own philosophy being that planning a lesson has little to do with a written lesson plan., Once you have some experience designing the formalistic lesson plan, to help you get comfortable thinking through the issues those formulas are supposed to defend against, the formulas are far less important. If you are working through a particular book that day, even margin notes might do.

    • Rob Dickey

      If I look at just one comment, it would be
      >> 4. The best lessons are those that are unplanned.
      I guess it depends how we define “lesson.” Some of my most successful classes, in terms of engagement, in terms of what sparked students to ask questions about language, where those where I walked in the door and said “Close your books. What do you want to talk about today?” Sure it’s hard to explain some language items off the cuff, but with internet and a projector, we can show students how to find answers. Dictionary.com is an easy start. Google “could would might may” for modals and the challenges of tense. Etc.
      ….. Sure, this approach doesn’t fit in a nice syllabus or curriculum of careful building blocks in language learning development. Lessons are supposed to be sequential? But I don’t believe in that approach anyways…

    • mikecorea

      Great points, Rob. It seems that sometimes it is hard to get out of the thinking that such lesson plans are simply for the course in order to develop and show skills related to the course. I feel like lots of teachers feel guilty when they don’t follow the plans that they were forced to do on courses when they get back to their regular teaching. I think this is unfortunate because the training course lesson plans and the regular teaching life lesson plans have entirely different purposes.

      By the way, I almost included a point about margin notes!

    • mikecorea

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I hoped the list might be of some use to other teachers and teacher trainers (especially in Korea). Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      You wrote that your answer depends on how we define lesson. I’d also add that it depends on how we define, “best.” You mentioned student engagement as well as Ss asking questions about language. Those sound like pretty good starting points to me.

      I guess for me personally, I like to have things planned out but also like to be extremely flexible as new things come up.
      I really like your points about information being right in front of us. I’d also add that the less than great explanations also often seem like a nice trade-off in terms of all the other benefits that come from such lessons. And, as you said there are ways to help students see ways of finding answers for themselves.

      Thanks for the insightful comment!

  3. Heidi Nam

    30. Lesson plans are for substitute teachers/co-teachers. 31. Lesson plans are for the MOE/school evaluation. 32. Lesson plans are for open lesson evaluators. 33. Lesson objectives are for open lesson evaluators. 33. Lesson objectives should be expressed in language that a student can understand. 34. Lesson plans result in teacher-centered classes. 35. I don’t need lesson plans because my PPT tells me what comes next. 36. I must follow the [time allotments, sequencing, etc.] in my lesson plan as precisely as possible. 37. A description of what occurred in the lesson (written after the lesson) is more useful than a lesson plan. 38. The best starting point for lesson planning is needs analysis. 39. Lesson plans are for teaching portfolios.

    • mikecorea

      Ohhhh…those are excellent. So nice. Thanks for sharing! 🙂 Wow. I like these so much. So much food for thought here. I also think these statements (beliefs) are ripe for some excavation and exploring.

      I struggled to find a way to fit PPT into my list and failed. I like the way you handled it.

      I really love these additions!!

      As I was writing the list, I was thinking about something related to making sure that students read the objectives aloud in class (and then maybe have them translated, and then maybe repeat that but I thought that was a bit beyond the lesson planning itself and venturing into exploring my pet peeves!

      I wonder if you have really heard someone say number 34? That is very interesting to me. (and my expectation would probably tend to be the opposite–depending on a wide variety of factors of course)

      Thanks again for the great additions!

      • mikecorea

        Hmmm…interesting. I personally like to draw a clear distinction between the PPTs (materials) and the lesson plan itself. This is of course just my own way of thinking of it.

  4. Heidi Nam

    No, I haven’t heard anyone say 34. I suppose a lot depends on what is considered a lesson plan. I was thinking of a defense of community language learning or free-talking classes.

  5. livinglearning

    Wonder if I could add “Lesson plans can be written for other teachers to use.” and of course “Lesson plans must be made by the teacher who will use them.” and “Lesson plans should be fun.”
    I don’t think I have particularly strong feelings one way or another about any of your list without context, except to agree that lesson plans can be written in any form (assuming they don’t need to be submitted, and even then assuming whoever they’re submitted to is fairly tolerant / oblivious).

    • mikecorea

      Nice additions here! I think I will use this list someday for training purposes and I will be sure to add those that you added.

      About the “lesson plans must be made by those who will use them” point” I can only say that I’d be much happier to be given some objectives and some materials and some suggestions than a full lesson plan written by someone that is not me. I’d be even more bummed out to (frequently) have to teach from someone else’s plans. I think it might be fun and interesting and instructive from time to time but I’d really prefer not to use someone else’s plans for very long.

      Ohh, living learning, you touched on some very interesting things here. Submitting lesson plans is such an interesting idea.
      I just wrote about that I’d prefer to make and follow my own plans…but if i have to submit plans I’d really love to know the purpose of doing this.

      Neguices.

      You may have touched a nerve here because I have been asked to submit far more lesson plans than I cared to in my life and it largely seemed like a colloidal waste of time. Like some sort of time wasting quality assurance program that can’t really assure anything because the people doing the collecting are not the people with any sort of expertise in teaching.
      I can imagine some situations were lesson plan collection and collation from admin can be helpful but my initial reaction is that it is unhelpful and largely a waste of time.

      I am now thinking of all the time I have wasted trying to game the system that could have actually been spent planning lessons.

      Thanks for the thoughts !

  6. samuelshep

    I think 14 makes the most investing point: a plan is still a plan if you have just scrawled on the back of yesterday’s handout, put it on the institutional proforma, or even simply sat back and dreamed it up in your head, and will never write it down.

    Oh, and generally disagree with the SMART objectives thing: SMART objectives and their fans assume that learners are going to learn something new in every lesson, and that this is predictable, but sometimes your main outcome is for learners to have practised and revised grammar, practised the skill of listening for gist, or just read and enjoyed a text (it’s a brave, possibly career-suicidal soul who has extensive reading for a learning objective in an observed lesson). I would never assume that just because a learner can listen and identify the gist of one text that they have now mastered that skill for ever and ever and can apply it effectively to all contexts. I know here in the UK ESOL context people (well, managers) get obsessed with each lesson marking off a different learning outcome, ticking off a skill as if that’s it, and done with.

    That said, if you were to say “learning objectives should try for SMART if you can, because that makes them clearer, but don’t bust a gut adding numbers to everything just so that it’s Measurable” then I would broadly agree there.

    • mikecorea

      Hello Sam,
      (Warning flip flopping ahead)

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I like your point about not busting a gut trying to make sure plans are as SMART as possible. I think sometimes it can take a lot of effort and mental gymnastics to get things SMART. That said, I do really like the emphasis (call me a behaviourist if you will) on verbs that can be measured.
      I guess my issue with a verb like “practice” is that it doesn’t help me know what I am looking for in that practice. I guess I am thinking about time then. When does practice count as having been done?

      That said, I love your point about not assuming that something new will be learned (and measurable) each lesson. This is a really good point. This may or may not speak to the importance of having and following clear goals throughout a course?

      Your point about checklist checking really hit home for me…and as you mentioned we can’t assume that identifying gist in class with one text/context in class means too much when the variables change.

      My defense of SMART would be that it gives a bit more guidance and a lens from which to see how things are progressing. I know you already know that.

      I am setting myself up as a semi-defender of SMART objectives but I think it is quite sad that extensive reading would be a suicidal goal for an observed lesson. I can see how it might not fit into what observers are expecting.

      You wrote, “I think 14 makes the most investing point: a plan is still a plan if you have just scrawled on the back of yesterday’s handout, put it on the institutional proforma, or even simply sat back and dreamed it up in your head, and will never write it down.” Good point, well made. I guess my sincere question would be about the possibility that the act of writing out a lesson plan in helps clarify thinking and brings issues to light that would not otherwise come out if we simply planned in our heads or on a napkin.

      Thanks again for the comments and also thank you for the food for thought!

  7. Sean Lords

    Hi! My name is Sean. I’ve been trying to contact you for the last few weeks to ask you about your guest post policy. I’d still really like to submit an article for publication on your blog, if you’re interested. Hope to hear from you soon!

    -Sean

    • mikecorea

      Hi Sean,
      I replied to you on my “about” page. Perhaps you missed it?
      https://eltrantsreviewsreflections.wordpress.com/about/ Thanks for the interest.
      I must admit that I didn’t post your second message/comment because I’d thought I’d already responded. Later I saw and enjoyed your post on Alex Walsh’s blog.
      I guess my thought is that I am not so interested in activities or lesson plans. The theme of blog seems to be more about questioning things and wondering and the like. The title is rants/reviews/reflections and I might be interested in something that fits into these categories. Please let me know. My email is michael E griffin at gmail dot com (No spaces required). Please fee free to get in touch if you have anything that matches with the blog them. Cheers!

  8. Rachael Roberts

    Have been meaning to respond to this for ages (REALLY busy). I love that you’ve put together so many different aspects,and the way people have taken different ones that stood out for them. I’m with Sam on the back on an envelope (napkin) idea (14). That IS a plan, and, with experience, it’s perfectly possible to do a great plan that way, because most of it is in your head already, even if not quite brought to the surface.
    I don’t think it’s always essential to plan, but I think it usually works better if you do(even if it’s just the napkin). Of course, sometimes, totally unplanned lessons can be astounding, but as a day in day out strategy? I’m not so sure..

    • mikecorea

      Hello friend,
      Thanks for the comments.
      As always your response is very reasonable. 🙂

      I don’t see much benefit in having no plan on a day to day basis either. I guess my personal style is to have a clear(ish) (sometimes with an emphasis on the ISH) destination and some ideas on how to get there. I like to be flexible in the moment on things like timings or feedback to give or options to repeat or revisit or highlight or whatever. I wouldn’t really feel comfortable without far more ideas than time will allow. Earlier in my career this meant stacks of handouts “just in case” but now I think it means a few different wrinkles to consider based on how things go. I guess this points in some ways to the benefits of having clear objectives from which to base the next round of decisions on.

      BTW one thing that was not really covered so much in the list is materials.
      I think here in Korea the public school the books are mostly focused on lexico-grammar points to be explained so the tendency/push not to plan can be strong.

      The reverse is the idea
      “I have a coursebook why do I need to plan” which I have surely heard a bunch.

      Thanks again for the comments. I am very pleased with the discussion that flowed fro m listing these statements.

    • mikecorea

      Plugs always welcome. Especially from your excellent blog! Heck, I am going to add the link to the blog post itself!
      (Another reason I love blogging…we can always remix and change)

  9. icaltefl

    Ha ha – a lot of those are more like excuses! Lesson plans are ESSENTIAL for every lesson. Of course they become easier with time and can be reused, but going into a lesson without a plan is like jumping out of an aeroplane without a parachute! Here’s what we say: http://tinyurl.com/oeqceeo

    • Robert Dickey

      @icatefl — “jumping out without a parachute”? I expect most of the profession, including many top-flight teachers who are highly regarded by peers after open-class reviews, would disagree. At least, the type of lesson plan your website dictates. Now I do agree that we need apprentice teachers to work through formal plans in order to learn how to think through a class (but really, PPP is not the only way!). But ESSENTIAL is not quite the word…

      • mikecorea

        Thanks for the discussion and thanks to @ICATEFL for sharing the informative post. I would to see (here, or in a post or somewhere) more on why lesson planning is absolutely essential.

      • icaltefl

        @RobertDickey – quite simply teachers need to prepare before they go into a class. Are you saying that top-flight teachers tend to walk into class without a lesson plan? A lesson plan for new teachers needs to be highly structured and very carefully thought out with every moment considered and prepared. Obviously more experienced teachers can afford to cut corners but yes, the idea that we walk into class without even thinking about what we are going to do is pretty reckless!

      • mikecorea

        Hi Rob, I think you touched on the point that I wanted to make. I think these very formal and detailed lesson plans to have their place but at some point I think their utility wears off a bit in my view. As you might expect, I am also in full agreement with you that PPP or whatever similar concept is not the only way to plan

    • mikecorea

      I agree that a lot of them do sound like excuses. To be honest, most of them are what I have heard from Korean public school teachers. I put it into my own words but these were the beliefs that I have encountered. Part of my reason for collecting these and posting them was to see what other people thought.

      I think that only after we have isolated and articulated the belief can we think about possibly changing it. I have the sense that many teachers are not really aware of their beliefs
      (and from my view being told the “right way” on a training course–no offense– is part of the problem here)

      I wonder how you would respond to teachers espousing these more excuse like beliefs and how you might help convince them or change their opinions?

      I also wonder if you could say more about why lesson plans are essential.

      Thanks very much for the comments and dialog. 🙂

  10. stevebrown70

    Thank you for initiating this discussion, Mike.
    An idea: maybe it’s about time we all started to question why we plan lessons at all. Here’s why:
    -A very carefully planned lesson can end up being really unsuccessful in practice.
    -A completely unplanned lesson can end up being really successful.
    -A lesson plan that aims to achieve one thing can end up being successful because it achieved something completely different.
    -A lesson plan that does achieve its aims can still be unsuccessful because the aims turned out to be inappropriate for the students.
    If there is no direct correlation between lesson planning and lesson success, why do we make such a big deal out of planning lessons in the first place?
    Lesson plans as we tend to think of them (overall aims/objectives, following logical stages, stage aims, timing, who is doing what at each point in the lesson etc) are built on the rather dodgy assumption that a teacher can control the students’ learning. But as we all know, lessons, learners and learning are all incredibly unpredictable, and therefore impossible to plan for in this way.
    Maybe we need to stop thinking we can plan what our students will learn, embrace the unpredictability of the classroom situation and run with it more?
    Alan Maley and Adrian Underhill are talking a lot these days about the Dark Matter of the classroom, and the importance of Preparedness as opposed to Preparation.
    Worth considering within this discussion?

    • Jonny Lewington

      “If there is no direct correlation between lesson planning and lesson success, why do we make such a big deal out of planning lessons in the first place?”

      If there is no correlation between lesson planning and lesson success, then you aren’t lesson planning very well! Your four points are all valid, but they don’t really lead to the conclusion that there is no correlation between lesson planning and lesson success. SOMETIMES there is no correlation, but as a general trend I would say the correlation is pretty strong.

      For me, the major reason for lesson planning is that it drives innovation. When planning, you have time to think of or research new activities, find new texts, new materials etc and discuss these things with other teachers. Planning is also the major time when I think teachers ‘reflect’ on their teaching. You can’t do these things whilst in the class and in the lesson properly.

      Even DOGME teachers should plan. They should think of new activities they could do to practice language that is likely to emerge. Even if they don’t use those activities, they will have them in their ‘mental store’ for later.

      You can always abandon a plan and let a lesson go somewhere you weren’t expecting. But don’t abandon the planning process. In my experience, there are always a few teachers who boast that they ‘don’t need to plan’, but rarely if ever have I seen a teacher who doesn’t plan teach interesting, varied courses with high rates of student satisfaction.

      • Rob Dickey

        Some of those “I don’t need to plan” teachers are actually following a plan they developed ages ago. They’ve taught “the same lesson” numerous times — perhaps it is a lesson they developed from scratch, perhaps it is how they handle certain pages in a given coursebook. So the comment “I don’t need to plan” is not quite complete. (Whether or not your current students should be subjected to an old lesson plan without considering the differences is a separate question.)

      • stevebrown70

        “SOMETIMES there is no correlation” – that’s enough for me to question why we place such a heavy importance on lesson planning.
        “You can always abandon a plan and let a lesson go somewhere you weren’t expecting.” Yes, you can. However if you did that during an observed lesson (for the CELTA or DELTA, say) there would be an assumption on the observer’s part that something had gone wrong. The success of a lesson is frequently measured against the plan – did you achieve your aims? did you cover all the language you said you were going to cover? did you run out of time? I feel that this takes place at the expense of other factors related to what was actually going on in the moment, during the lesson.
        Anyway, I suspect that you and I may not disagree too much, Jonny. In your comment you seem to be equating planning with thinking. I agree that we need to think about our lessons – before, during and after. It’s not good practice to go into a lesson without having a clue what you’re doing. All I’m saying is that relying entirely on something you wrote BEFORE you went into the classroom makes you less likely to exploit learning opportunities that occur DURING the lesson.
        After reading this post of Mike’s, I went and wrote my own – http://stevebrown70.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/a-case-for-anti-planning/
        This in turn led The Secret DOS to write a response – http://thesecretdos.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/the-map-is-not-the-territory/
        Some interesting discussions are going on over there, which you may wish to get involved in.

      • mikecorea

        Hi Jonny and Steve and everyone,

        Very interesting discussions. Very happy to see this. I think maybe Steve (and Rob) and I are very much in line with questioning the concept of writing up a formal plan a la CELTA etc. for every class. I think those types of plans have their place but it might not be in the day to day life of a regular teacher. Perhaps we are discovering some differences in terms of what “planning” means exactly to each of us.

        I think Rob (below? above?) makes some good points about plans or routines or strategies (or whatever we are calling them) being created in advance.
        I also thinks he raises a great question about using the same plan unaltered for different groups.

        Back to Steve’s response though. He writes, “The success of a lesson is frequently measured against the plan – did you achieve your aims? did you cover all the language you said you were going to cover? did you run out of time? I feel that this takes place at the expense of other factors related to what was actually going on in the moment, during the lesson.” I think this is problematic. Very well spotted and stated.

        I guess for me the important thing about lesson planning that I haven’t seen mentioned so much in the recent discussions across various blogs is that by setting our objectives this can help us make later decisions and alterations. This is to say that if we have a nice objective set our decisions can be guided by this. This can also help us spot out potential pitfalls. At least that is how I see it. For me, personally, I guess.

        Steve wrote, “All I’m saying is that relying entirely on something you wrote BEFORE you went into the classroom makes you less likely to exploit learning opportunities that occur DURING the lesson.” I wonder if there would be much disagreement on this? I guess the degree of reliance or the belief that the plan must or *should be followed to a T is the question.

        Here in Korea I have participated in numerous post lesson feedback sessions on microteaching (in service Korean teachers teaching peers) and one of the most common post lesson questions is about “Why didn’t you follow the lesson plan?” with the idea that it is some sacrosanct document. OK I have ventured into rambling so I will stop here.

        Thanks again for the discussion!

      • mikecorea

        Thanks for the comments Jonny,

        I responded to Steve’s response to you but I have a few quick responses here.

        It seems like our definitions of what is planning might have some differences. For example, (for me personally in practice and how I conceptualize it)…I think of reflecting as a separate thing than planning. In fact my reflection tends to come shortly after class but at a different time than the planning for the next class.

        You wrote, “For me, the major reason for lesson planning is that it drives innovation. When planning, you have time to think of or research new activities, find new texts, new materials etc and discuss these things with other teachers. Planning is also the major time when I think teachers ‘reflect’ on their teaching. You can’t do these things whilst in the class and in the lesson properly.”
        I loved your point about driving innovation. I think this is a great point.

        I would generally not consider planning time to be time spent discussing with other teachers. Also, you talked about dogme teachers thinking of new activities. While I can’t disagree with this I can also say that it need not always occur within the time designated as planning time for a specific class. Sometimes I think of activities for future classes on the train…not in what was intended as a designated planning time. Perhaps I am just splitting hairs here about the when but it is quite interesting to me.

        You wrote,”You can always abandon a plan and let a lesson go somewhere you weren’t expecting’ and I was glad to see this as I fully agree. You continued, “But don’t abandon the planning process.” My point here is that this might be different for different people.” You continued, “In my experience, there are always a few teachers who boast that they ‘don’t need to plan’, but rarely if ever have I seen a teacher who doesn’t plan teach interesting, varied courses with high rates of student satisfaction.” Interesting. What is sounds like here is more about thinking about the course or planning on a curricular rather than individual lesson basis.

        Thanks again for the comments and the exchange.

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  13. Rachael Roberts

    Drawn in again…..as a sometime (for a long time) tutor on both CELTA and DELTA, can I say that changing your plan would NOT be seen as a sign that the lesson had failed in some way. It might be a sign that the plan had failed, but I would always, always far rather see someone respond to what is happening in the classroom than rigidly stick to the plan. And at DELTA level, I’d say sticking to the plan when it’s clearly not what’s needed would be a definite negative because with experience you should be able to be more flexible. I know I’m ranting now, but it’s such a prevalent myth about CELTA and DELTA. I’ve worked with different tutors in different countries, and as an assessor, and I’ve never seen this obsession with sticking to the plan that everyone seems to think there is.
    That said, at CELTA level especially, we will encourage people to try to get to the end of what they’ve planned, rather than wandering off, because there are very short slots, and the next person in line has to pick up from where the first one left off. Also, there is a tendency with inexperienced teachers to spend too long on preambles and not enough on getting to the ‘meat’ of the lesson, where students actually get to do something with the language. So, in that case, they might be asked about whether they achieved their aims. But neither of these situations are about consciously changing a plan to meet the needs of the students. In fact, it’s the opposite, because a more able teacher will be able to adapt what they have planned on their feet to ensure that the students do get a chance to use the language or that their colleague isn’t left floundering because they haven’t set up the groundwork for them.

    • stevebrown70

      Hi Rachael,
      Your point that deviating from the plan may show up a failing in the plan rather than the lesson being taught is an excellent one.
      In recent posts/comments here and elsewhere I have been guilty of criticising the way lesson plans are trumpeted on CELTA and DELTA courses; apologies for getting your back up. This is not a criticism of the trainers though – I’ve trained on a fair few courses myself, and I know a lot of trainers who would always praise trainees who deviate from their plan in order to respond to what is happening during the lesson.
      What concerns me is the disproportionate amount of time that trainees often spend on planning during a course, and the impact this has on their perception of good practice. If you consider the number of hours that CELTA trainees spend on lesson planning (receiving input, discussing with their TP group/trainer, actually writing) and compare this with how much focus there is on issues in the classroom that were NOT planned for, it’s unsurprising if trainees leave the course thinking lesson planning is an essential part of teaching. It’s also logical to expect them to leave lacking skills to effectively identify learning opportunities and teach in the moment.
      If, as you say, everyone seems to think there is an obsession with sticking to the plan, maybe it’s because that was their perception when they did the CELTA/DELTA themselves – not because the trainers drummed it into them, but because the course requirements did.
      It’s one thing praising a trainee for appropriately deviating from their plan, and quite another explicitly giving trainees the skills to do this effectively.
      Sorry if this winds you up even more; please understand I’m not having a go at trainers here – that would be hypocritical. I’m just suggesting that training courses, even initial training courses like the CELTA, could maybe include more focus on how to be a bit more responsive during lessons.

      • Rachael Roberts

        I think that’s a very fair point- about helping trainees learn to be more responsive. I used to have a CELTA session called ‘Dealing with difficult questions’, which was about how to respond to things which come up that you’re not prepared for. Ultimately though, it takes experience to be able to do this well.
        There is a lot of emphasis on planning in CELTA, but I think this is more about the learning process that happens when you plan a lesson in detail, and the fact that a detailed plan gives the trainer an insight into the trainee’s thought processes, than it is about suggesting that it would be in any way practical to plan in that way once you’re teaching a full timetable.
        BTW I’m not wound up about anyone having a go at trainers..that’s always fair enough. It’s more that there seem to be some widespread assumptions about CELTA, which, in my experience at least, just aren’t true. It’s a four week course, which is an insanely short period of time to cover a lot of ground and yet, for most people, it’s amazingly effective (as a starting point). I think a lot of this is because of the fact that each short lesson is seen as a microcosm and picked apart, which provides the conditions for a lot of learning.

      • mikecorea

        Nice discussion! Thanks!
        One thing that occurred to me… and not specifically related to anything said here… I wonder if there is a need for trainers to be explicit about things like, ‘This is just the way we are doing this on the course…and results will vary in nature so you need to be prepared to adjust as necessary.” Now this might seem like an obvious point, and perhaps many trainers do this BUT, it seems this point is often lost. Just a thought.
        On a very personal note, this would have made me a much more satisfied customer and would have made me much more accepting/understanding of many things done/said by the trainer.

      • Rachael Roberts

        I think that’s spot on, and certainly something I would do, but then I became a CELTA trainer on the back of working with a staff of 50+ newly qualified teachers, so the real world needs of newly qualified teachers may have been particularly salient for me!

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