Whether you are teaching a 1:1 writing class or a group conversation class, you have come to class with a plan, also known as a “lesson plan,” a guide for what you will teach your students and how you will teach them.
Although the rigidity of your lesson plan’s structure may depend on a host of factors, such as the number of students you have (1:1 classes might have a less structural approach than group classes, especially classes with ten or more students) and the nature of the class (English conversation classes may incorporate a less structural approach than, say, a class on academic writing and literary criticism), your class must have at least some semblance of a lesson plan.
Even if you do not follow your lesson to a T, having a lesson plan at hand will improve your teaching confidence, ability to deliver, and reliability as a teacher. Although this piece is not about making lesson plans per se, its topic, teaching methodologies, serves (or, at least, should serve) as a prerequisite to lesson planning in the ESL world.
The two go-to teaching methodologies for many ESL and EFL teachers all over the world are the Presentation, Practice, and Production (PPP) approach and the Engage, Study, and Activate (ESA) approach. Although they both have their merits and limitations, it is the latter that we will go over in depth in this piece.
After the teacher extends her greetings and gives her opening remarks, the class begins with an engaging activity, one that fires the students’ interest in the concept or topic that they are about to study and put to practice. Engaging activities, depending on the focus of the study, can range from a short video clip to a thought-provoking question to a mind-boggling game. But, whatever the activity, it should pique the students’ interest in the topic and set the tone for the rest of the class.
This is when the actual teaching takes place. Although, generally speaking, it is highly advised that teachers minimize teacher talking time (TTT) and maximize student talking time (STT), if there is a time that teachers must talk, this is the ideal time.
That being said, the teacher should encourage the students to ask questions, share their opinions, contribute to discussions, etc. After all, the more actively students are involved in the learning process, the more likely they are to retain their newly acquired knowledge.
In addition to encouraging student participation, the teacher should use props and materials to aid their teaching, such as PowerPoint slides, handouts, and even the old-fashioned whiteboard and markers (or chalk if that is what you are used to). And, for teachers who do not have a Pandora’s box of resources and amenities, it is essential that they be creative–a whiteboard and markers can go quite a long way if used wisely and creatively.
Now that the students have learned something new, it is time for them to put it to practice. This is the opportunity for students to put their new knowledge to use in a communicative way. Activities in this segment may include role playing, interviewing, or simply conversing with one or two partners. In either case, the students are using a newly learned concept or topic communicatively, allowing the teacher to evaluate how much (and how well) the students have learned and then adjust the lesson accordingly.
Compared to the PPP approach, the ESA methodology is, in general, more flexible and adaptable. For example, a teacher can opt to follow an Engage-Study-Activate-Study-Activate format, rather than the simpler Engage-Study-Activate, if, for instance, there is more than one concept to cover or if the topic in question is a bit too complex for just one go-around.
Whatever teaching methodology you decide to employ–and whatever way you decide to use it–be sure to tailor the lesson plan to your students’ unique interests and learning styles, as well as your own individual style of teaching.