How to Structure an EFL Lesson
In our last post, we examined the idea that the CELTA can be very prescriptive in its approach to lesson planning, and took a quick look at the possibility of eclectic, or anarchic, lesson planning (see Bruce Lee). We ended with the age-old dictum which says that before you throw away the rule book, you must know the rule book.
So in this post, we’ll take a quick glance through the rule book by summarizing the frameworks we mentioned in the last post. If you’ll recall, these are patterns that we use to structure our lessons. These can be likened to molds, into which we can fit a variety of different lesson aims and materials.
The overview below details the stages of the lesson that correspond to each lesson framework. These stages serve as a guide in the lesson planning process.
The Constant Lead-in
You will notice that the one thing that all of these frameworks have in common is that they start with a lead-in. The aim of the lead-in is to set the context of the lesson and to raise students’ interest. They typically include a speaking task, a game, or a kinesthetic activity (even if the lesson is taking place on line).
To be successful, a lead-in should meet two criteria:
It should be interactive, i.e., there should be some sort of student-student interaction.
It should be personalized. This means, in most instances, that it leads to students expressing themselves by talking about something they know—or else, if the lead-in features a game, expressing their competitive spirit.
The Framework Way or the Highway?
Candidates on a CELTA course are usually introduced to these frameworks early on in the course; the framework are referred to explicitly when planning lessons with their tutor, and often form the implicit basis for the assessment of their lesson plans.
Candidates are therefore expected to know these frameworks well, and understand the logic behind them. But does that mean that it's impossible to teach a good lesson without using them?
Certainly not--as we established in last week's post, at least some of the people who start the CELTA, having never heard of these framework, are practicing teachers who had already been teaching effectively in the classroom. Many years ago, I would have counted myself among them.
A certain number of these teachers--again, myself included--were practicing, without knowing it, the anarchic approach to lesson planning. Like Dr. Frankenstein, they were taking bits and pieces from the various frameworks and fitting them into one body. And like Frankenstein's monster, the lessons weren't necessarily beautiful or graceful--but they were powerful and effective at getting the job done.
So in our next post, we'll be taking a closer look at one of these monsters (I mean anarchic lesson plans), to see what sets them apart, how they are structured, and why--and how--they work.