A teacher's pet peeve
The unenviable task of having to plan lessons
I have talked to several Filipino English teachers working in Nonthaburi and have gathered information about what they dislike most about teaching. They said monthly visits from the inspector, doing school gate duty in the mornings and afternoons, selling at the canteen, checking test papers and notebooks, lesson planning, faculty meetings, handling extra-curricular activities, training students for competitions and reviewing students for the O-net are all among the many things they dislike about being a teacher.
Many of the things they said I also dislike, but lesson planning is the one I don't like most. Why is this so?
You see, when I do my lesson plans, I always spend a lot of time preparing them. I don't only plan for the lessons but also prepare teaching materials. Many years ago, back in my country, I prepared lessons for several levels in various subjects. I also prepared English lessons from Kindergarten to Grade 6. During a Teacher's Day celebration in my country I was asked, "Sir, what do you hate doing as a teacher?" I replied without hesitation - "lesson planning!" The other teachers' eyes turned wide in amazement.
There was another instance in a seminar at Chulalongkorn University when a speaker, after assigning the task, made her rounds while we, the participants, wrote parts of a lesson plan and an explanation of each part. I didn't realise she had noticed my uneasiness and she checked whether I had been listening to her by examining my work. Then she asked me to make a presentation to all the other participants. I was hesitant at first but I thought that I could win her over and overcome my nerves and embarrassment. After I presented, a lady approached me, "Sir, were you a supervisor before?" she asked. I just smiled back.
I had a negative attitude towards lesson planning before but when I won a grand prize in a national lesson plan writing contest in the Philippines, sponsored by one of the country's leading publishing house, I had a sudden change of heart. I bagged 50,000 pesos (more than a thousand dollars) for the first prize. It also gave me the privilege of writing a textbook. Because of that I was hired by a school to work as a consultant in lesson planning.
Lesson planning is a routine task that has now got into my system, yet if I had my choice, I would get rid of it. But how? So several times I tried teaching without a lesson plan? Do you want to know how it turned out? I think they were better than my planned lessons. The lessons were so smooth, so natural, so much fun and more exciting. The students enjoyed my unplanned lessons more too. What if there was no lesson planning at all?
Over the past years, I have dreamt of simple lesson plans like what we used to do in one result - oriented private school I once worked at. With a simple plan, we did an outline of the things we would do each day. It was all then written down in a memo pad. The teachers who didn't plan were every bit as effective as the teachers who spent hours and hours on lesson prep.
In my experience as an English supervisor, consultant, and English coordinator, lesson planning is a must. Planning the lessons before coming to class gives the teacher confidence to teach but lesson plans serve only as a guide. They can be adjusted, modified, added to or improved to meet students' needs.
Do I still make lesson plans? At present, no. Last month, I was privileged to be part of a 15-man committee who made lesson plans for more than a hundred teachers in our project to be used for the whole year. Isn't it wonderful? Everybody's most hated task became a thing of the past. Now the only thing to look forward to is the execution of these plans, which I'm certain all the teachers are keen in doing.
I hope that schools in Thailand will follow suit. Having ready-made plans accessible to EFL teachers makes English teaching in Thailand easy, more fun and very enriching.
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Most teachers would state that lesson planning is one of the least favorite tasks (Next to gate duty) but for accreditation and for teacher personal and professional really not so bad. I look at the teaching with each semester or quarter as a way to organize what I will teach the next year. I have a suggestion you may wish to look into. The first is Learnboost: https://www.learnboost.com/ I use this one for my private teaching and also used it at my previous school. The next one is Engrade: https://www.engrade.com/ both Learning Management Systems (LMS) are free for teachers where Learnboost is also available in the Google Edu platform. Either way you might give them a look. Both LMS have good features for ease of use (Integrated lesson plan templates) and can archive your lesson plans. Once you have all your lesson plans imputed, then you can review your lesson plans to fine tune or update as necessary the next time you teach. If you would like to use a current model of lesson plans you may wish to look at UbD (Understand by Design) Dr. Wiggins has developed a backward design lesson plan that starts with the learner outcomes first.
I hope this helps. Ajaan Rob
By Ajaan Rob, Thailand (25th December 2012)
More power to the Chulalonkorn side of the Nonthaburi Project for this achievement (write lesson plans for everybody for the whole year). Certainly, that is something that needs to be done at a national scale if grades and assessments are to have any meaning. This is a rather belated step, but in the right direction.
Next on my list of priorities: classroom management plans and procedures for everybody!
By Mike, Thailand (23rd December 2012)
Interesting article Ben and very thought provoking. However, I am not sure on the outcome of your analysis on lesson planning and whether you come out in favour or against them. I personally believe lesson plans to be the most important component of any lesson. I have to agree with Lee if one teachers with no lesson plan how can any teacher measure whether they have achieved the aims set for the lesson. I also believe that you can 'over' lesson plan and what is required is a straight forward, easy to follow, outcome driven lesson plan. When I say 'outcome driven' I am not suggesting that outcomes come before process there needs to be a balance . In my view outcomes need to be appropriate and set at the right level for the students.
If lesson planning is seen as a chore and something that has to be done because the director has asked for them. The teacher obviously does not understand the need for having a plan. What needs to be addressed here is how useful a 'straight to the point' simple lesson plan can be and more important how it can help the lesson to run smoothly. In 23 years of working with young people I have never failed to have an easy to follow well structured plan to guide me through my lesson.
By Andy, Thailand (11th December 2012)
The purpose of a lesson plan is to guide the teacher on how to effectively teach a topic to the students. I wonder how a teacher begins his class without an objective in mind which is a must component.
By Lee Li, Chachoengsao (5th December 2012)
Hi Ben. I have to confess that after reading the blog, I'm still not sure whether you come out in favor of lesson planning or not. It seems to send out mixed messages.
I think 'over-planning lessons' is something that an inexperienced or nervous teacher will always do. It's born out of a fear of making yourself look foolish so you over compensate by planning how every single minute of a lesson will pan out. Unfortunately things rarely go to plan and a good teacher knows how to change things 'on the fly'
I was never a great lesson planner during my teaching days. That's not to say that I ever walked into a lesson and winged it but some of my best lessons were prepared in my head while I was making the short walk from the teachers room to the classroom. Suddenly an idea would hit me and I was always a risk-taker, so why not see if the idea would sink or swim in class? And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
By philip, (5th December 2012)