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Anarchic lesson planning 3: Lessons from Frankenstein

Anarchic lesson planning can be likened to Mary Shelley’s Romantic masterpiece, Frankenstein, in which the latter’s monster is pieced together and given life using the bodies of numerous different individuals. The same is done with anarchic lesson planning, except that instead of bodies, we are using disparate pieces of different lesson frameworks.

We looked in some detail at the most commonly used frameworks in our previous blog posts. They include:

  • Receptive skills (reading and listening);

  • Productive skills (speaking and writing);

  • Systems (grammar, functions and vocabulary), of which Test-teach-test Situational Text-based (a.k.a., Language from a text)

An anarchic lesson plan may look something like this:

The Overlap

Given that the above lesson plan, in spite of mixing stages from various lesson frameworks without following any single one, is an entirely viable one, it is certainly justified to wonder what the point is of training our teachers to use frameworks.

This goes back to the binned rule book argument, which basically says that, in order to throw out the rule book, you have to have learned the rules first. Even when planning anarchically, these frameworks are extremely useful: the above lesson plan is in fact much less a hodge-podge of frameworks than the overlapping of several different frameworks within a single lesson. The stages that overlap all have the same stage aims—and so it is essential to understand the logic behind the frameworks in order to mix them together correctly.

Why Trainers Prefer Frameworks

And so trainers will focus their trainees’ attention on these simplified versions of a lesson plan that are frameworks, at least in part, in order to prepare them to eventually accomplish this artful mish-mash. But there is also a far more pragmatic reason for focusing on these frameworks: they are particularly useful when planning short lessons with only one main aim and one sub aim.

These are the types of simple lessons trainers want to see trainees teach, because they

allow the trainer to check that they can plan effectively for specific lesson outcomes, and because they allow the trainee to focus more on the classroom issues that are most challenging for beginner teachers.

The Spark

Of course, when Frankenstein set out to create his monster, it wasn’t enough to assemble the pieces; it was also necessary to provide the spark of life in the form of an electric shock. It isn’t made clear in the novel how electricity is supposed to lead to life, but, thanks to the temporary suspension of disbelief, it does.

That spark is also necessary to bring a lesson to life, what we generally call rapport between students and their teacher. For some trainee teachers (and even some trainers), rapport is as inexplicable and mysterious as electricity was for Shelley, accessible only to people with ineffable personality traits and charisma.

In fact, rapport can be broken down into its component bits and parts, the understanding of which will allow the most misanthropic, foul-minded of teachers to create great rapport with their students. This will be the topic of our next series. See you then!


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