Don’t fall into the trap of always choosing a realistic context.
Yes, it’s easier to pick (you just think about a situation from real life), but it gets boring for you and your students.
I have a friend who describes this as the ‘tyranny of context’, and he’s not wrong.
I would argue that there are four kinds of context. Imaginary, implied, realistic and real.
For basic teaching purposes, there are four layers to the language that we use in the classroom: topic, context, function and form.
These give your learners the essential ‘what, where, why and how’ of your lesson. A lesson needs all four to make your lesson (and the language used) clear and engaging.
One area that often gets left out of planning is task design. With everything else that we need to focus on when we plan, designing a task is almost an afterthought. Often we look for any activity or game that’s loosely related to the lesson aim, and go with that.
Tasks are often overlooked when planning, but creating effective tasks is essential.
Presentation - Practice - Production (PPP) is a lesson structure, a way to order activities in your lessons.
Whilst pretty old, and heavily criticised over the years, PPP is the probably the most commonly used lesson structure in TEFL today. It’s also still taught on initial teacher training courses like the CELTA and CertTESOL.
Most course books that you’re likely to use will structure their chapters in ways similar or the same as PPP, meaning that you’ll get a lot of exposure to this method.
As the name suggests, there are three stages to this lesson structure, which we’ll look at now.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut using the same activities every lesson. The activities you’re using are familiar to you (you know that they work) and familiar to the students (less explaining to do).
However, you’re bored, the students are bored, but you’re too busy to create or find new activities.
What can you do?
Coursebooks suck. Most teachers I know don’t like the coursebook they use. Some actively hate it, and blame it for making their lives worse. They say it’s irrelevant to their students. Linguistically it’s too easy or too difficult for 80% of the class. Culturally there’s no point of connection for students (they’re not middle class American kids).
Also, it’s just ‘plain boring’.
I have wasted thousands of hours lesson planning.
I’m not saying that lesson planning is a waste of time, but that I’ve lost days of my life typing the same phrases and language chunks over and over again.
Repeating the same activities with the same class over and over again sucks. Stealing lesson ideas is the answer. Just because you don’t have the time and energy to think of any new ideas doesn’t mean you have to condemn your learners (and you!) to the same mind-numbing activities every class.
If a lesson is a journey, then a lesson plan is a map.
Creating maps takes some skill. You need to take certain steps to make sure the journey is productive and the destination is reached.