I remember earlier this year a trainee saying to me, ‘What? Is that it? Am I a teacher now?’ and I do totally understand how it may feel a little intimidating about who your students might be and getting ready to teach them some lessons. You may be teaching part time or full time, but I thought I’d make some suggestions on what you can do to plan your first week – if you are part time, these ideas might last you a bit longer than your first week!
First of all see if you can gain some insight into the class (if it already exists) perhaps from their last or current teacher who can give you tips on their level, their strengths and weaknesses, where they are in the book or syllabus if this is used, who works well together and who doesn’t plus of course any quirks, traits or habits. This is so valuable as it really is the inside story along with records of what they have learnt already and how they worked together.
Having this information may not actually be possible if it is a new class such as at the start of a new term. So you will need to plan the first week as well as the following weeks which is pretty much a syllabus. If you work for an organisation they may give this to you, along with materials such as a coursebook and audio recordings or similar. Good management will help you plan lessons, guide you, probably observe you in the first few weeks and continue to develop your teaching skills with you.
If you find yourself needing to do all the planning then here are a few things you can do. First find out the class numbers (often about 15 students per class) and find out if they took a placement test with the results of this to establish the level of the class. If you are teaching full time (or part time) you’ll need to split the lessons between language and skills – more or less. For example I would say we probably provide language for about 40% of the total amount of lessons and about 60% is for skills – reading, listening, writing and speaking along with plenty of pronunciation practice throughout the timetable. To give you a better idea:
|9-10||Listening & Speaking||Speaking||Reading & Speaking||Speaking||Listening & Speaking|
|10.15 – 11.15||Language||Language||Language||Language||Language|
|11.30 – 12.30||Reading & Writing||Language||Listening & Writing||Language||Reading & Writing|
There is good weighting for both skills and language, the types of lessons are regularly spaced across the week so students know what to expect and the skills are planned to logically be paired up. This is a plan, a guide and is a good starting point although not necessarily the only way to do it. Giving these details to your class helps them to see what the course includes so becomes a good selling point.
Once you have this general framework you can start to think about contexts and then content. You may want to have a different topic each day, so for example that first day could be about education or sport then a different context for the second day. This brings focus and a process to learn by doing, for example, how to use modals to ask permission (Can I? May I?) Once you have the weighting and the context you can plan the activities. The first day in the table above could include a short video on starting a school term where there is discussion and use of listening sub skills, followed by a language lesson on asking permission. The last lesson of the day would be reading and replying to an email for a course application with some use of permission modals. These are all useful lessons that could produce some meaningful language and communication which all add value to the course.
The last thing to consider is the activities and this may depend on whether you are teaching face to face or online. You may want to photocopy and cut up activity handouts to give out in the classroom or you might add the tasks to a Power Point slide that can be screen shared within a zoom breakout room. You could use a course book for the majority of the classes or you may want to design all the lessons yourself. You’ll need to consider group interactions, aims and outcomes plus correction techniques – all aspects that can be included in a lesson plan for each individual lesson.
The very last thing to remember is that this is a plan – all plans are fluid so this may change from day to day or by the end of the week because we are supporting learners who have varying learning needs, abilities and requirements along with our own multitude of tools and resources to assist them with.