Suggested Lesson Plan for Day 1
First a list of the files to be discussed in the article below:
"Spell to a Partner"
"Listening Comprehension: Honesty is the Best Policy" — For files and info consult ESL Lesson Plan "Honesty” LC & (Oral/Written) Worksheets
Advice & suggestions about starting an ESL/ELT/EFL "refresher course" lasting two years (90 hours in all)
The course makes use of one hour in the classroom (presentations & pair work activities) and one hour in an audio language lab (listening comprehension, transformation and free speaking exercises). If there is no lab available, students can easily do the "lab activities" on computers, MP3 players (iPods), smart phones or other mobile devices. If this is not possible, then use the teacher’s computer/CD player with the students all together in class. Of course if no audiovisual equipment is available, you can also use these activities by having the students simply read the scripts to each other and doing pair work with the cloze or grammar exercises. This is far less beneficial than having the learners work on their own on some kind of audio device, but it will at least have everybody "speaking".
The activities below work well even with heterogeneous groups going from weak intermediates (A2) to advanced learners (C1/C2). The emphasis is on "helping each other progress" in the classroom, practicing vital structures and pronunciation in the lab and testing one another with the aim of reinforcing learning. Teachers should use the lab session—when all the learners are busy doing the audio work—to have "tutorials" with their students, i.e. one-to-one sessions; This is far more worthwhile than listening to the students as they are working with their headphones on. Individual time with the teacher is extremely beneficial to all learners whatever their level. Read all about setting up tutorial sessions in QualityTime-ESL: The Digital Resource available on this website (download €14.99/DVD €29). Order the book directly
What I don’t do on the first day!
Many languages teachers in charge of university courses start off the year by asking the students to introduce themselves. I never use this technique based on “spontaneous” introductions. I think it so unfair to ask students on the very first day of class to introduce themselves without any prior preparation. On Day 1 the students are obviously a bit rusty, even how good they may be at English, and on top of it they often feel intimidated by such an exercise. Some may even suffocate on their words, speaking at an almost inaudible level. Others may stutter, since they have had no time to practice beforehand. Consequently, students apprehend the moment when they will be “performing” and do not even listen to the other students’ introductions. In training seminars I always tell teachers of English as a second language to keep in mind what their own reaction would be, if they were asked point blank to speak intelligently about themselves in front of their colleagues in Spanish, Italian, Russian or any other language, which they do not speak perfectly. The key situation to stay away from is one that may cause a feeling of “humiliation”. Moreover, going around the room and having the students speak one after another is a perfect example of a "dead classroom" with very little student talking time (STT) and undoubtedly lots of teacher talking time (TTT). This doesn’t make for a pleasant atmosphere or give a good impression the first day of class, as everyone is either bored or anguished right away.
A week to prepare the introductions
I believe it is far better to give students time (at least a week) to prepare these presentations properly, and I ask them to introduce another member of the class. Students often don’t know each other on the first day. That extra week gives them time to get to know at least one member of the class well enough to speak nicely about him or her. I give them written instructions about how to introduce their partner, and I ask them to learn their texts by heart. This exercise on the second day becomes a most enjoyable activity with a lot of laughing and applauding! It goes quickly, and there is no feeling of humiliation or embarrassment since the exercise has been prepared and practiced. Below is the assignment I give them:
Also avoid asking students what they want to study
Another exercise that I never use the very first day involves asking the class what they would like to study or do during the course. Students are often reluctant to put forward such suggestions. Either they have no opinion or they are almost ready to admit they would welcome an easy course! I believe it is the teacher’s role to present on that first day a complete program and to tell the students how to fulfill the requirements and get a good grade. If there is a core curriculum that several teachers have elaborated together, this gives even greater “importance” to the course. Of course if students volunteer suggestions the teacher should make a note of them and see how they can be incorporated into the program. If the syllabus is fairly detailed there is probably a place available for these suggestions.
Starting a course effectively
So how do I get off to a really good when starting a course. I generally spend 10 minutes at the very beginning explaining the program (that is enough for the first day) and then about 5 minutes signing the students’ up for their first oral presentations usually tutorials (one to one sessions) to be held in the lab or during some kind of "lab/individual oral training session". This is an excellent moment to work on "dates" in an authentic situation. Show them a calendar of coming classes and ask them to choose, put up their hands and tell you when they will do their "private" presentation. If there is no way to organize "lab work", students can at least sign up to do presentations in front of the whole class.
Then I immediately go onto pair-work usually with a spelling exercise. Students will need at least 20 minutes to go through this exercise, which is a great icebreaker and can be used with near beginners, intermediate and even advanced learners.
"Spell to a Partner PDF"
There are two slightly different pages, one for each student to work on spelling aloud. The words to be spelt cannot be modified with the above PDF version, but teachers who purchase the 25-page booklet with (pair work activities) available at the store for only €1.99 will get an MS WORD file that they can personalize—adding words, websites, e-mail addresses that mean something to their students. (The advantage of the pair-work booklet or the book QualityTime-ESL: The Digital Resource Book is that all the files are offered in DOC so teachers can easily personalize them with most any software. The booklet comes as a download (with keys), and the book comes on a DVD for €29 or in a downloadable version for €14.99.)
This leaves the teacher with 20 minutes in a classroom for “Socializing” part 1, an exercise, which students do in groups of three. Normally when the hour is over, each student has worked with at least three other students in the course of the lesson. The first 60 minutes end with much laughter, and students are even surprised that time is up!
"Socializing" in a modifiable DOC WORD format that you can personalize is available in the QualityTime-ESL Book on a DVD or in a downloadable version.
The lab hour: We start with a dialog
Our classes generally last two hours with one hour in lab so obviously half of the groups do the opposite, i.e. they start off in lab and then do the one-hour in the classroom as described above. The first lab hour starts with a short explanation (in English of course!) of how the lab works and what the students are expected to do. If you are using iPod, MP3 players or tablets, there is a program, which is shown either on an overhead projector or directly on the screens of the individual players. The best thing is to start off with a listen & repeat exercise from a book of dialogs that the class will have to purchase. There are many excellent ones, but I prefer those that have listen & repeat parts already recorded—I mean spaces for the student to repeat or answer orally as students and myself find it too tiring to keep putting the recording on pause. It is really not feasible to ask students to stop their players and repeat during the silence! We also choose a self-teaching book where all the dialogs have been translated into the native language of the students.
One or two grammar drills
After the dialog I recommend the use of a drill or two with the first grammar point the students should work on. Usually for Day 1 it is the simple present versus the simple past. Personally I really enjoy "Developing Skills" published by Longman, which I think teachers should purchase. I have simply adopted them to make fill-in exercises so that students will have a trace of the oral work they have done. There is no key since the oral exercise is the key. The teacher can also quickly go round the class to check discreetly that everyone has the right answer.
A narrative with a few essential grammar points
Once the transformation drills have been mastered orally, we move on to a story, which illustrates the use of “the simple present versus the simple past”. My favorite story to start off the year is “Honesty is the Best Policy”. Students listen in lab and then explain to their partners what they have understood. Next they listen again but this time with a "fill in the blanks" sheet. The fill-ins are either on a page or two in a booklet that is given out or is just a worksheet handed out for that particular lesson.
There are two ways to work on this listening comprehension:
- Either over two sessions. In that case see ESL Lesson Plan "Honesty” LC & (Oral/Written) Worksheets
- Or in one session with the files below: "Honesty is the Best Policy"
"Honesty is the Best Policy" Listen&Repeat
"Honesty" LC Fill in exercise
"Honesty" Key to be used with the recording
A ready-to-photocopy booklet of 20 to 100 pages
I must admit I much prefer giving the students a booklet of 20 to 100 pages to handing out separate sheets at each lesson. The students realize immediately that the course has been well planned, but such a booklet requires much preparation—usually by a team of teachers. That is why I have put all the work I did for our course in "QualityTime-ESL: The Digital Resource Book" (DVD or downloadable version at the store. As many of the files are in MS Word, you can personalize them by adding information or modifying parts. You can also change the layout and the lettering.
When the students have finished a fill-in exercise in the lab (or in the classroom), they come up front where we have a binder for each hour in lab and they pick up a key. (The keys to the exercises are of course included with the exercises in the digital book or with the 25-page booklet with pair-work activities.) Of course with the new digital labs students can just click on an icon to get the key to compare with what they have written, but I still feel it is good physical exercise for any learner to get up and walk over to the binders. When students have corrected their work, they again get some exercise by returning to the binders and putting the keys back under the right headings!
The end of the first lab hour
At the end of the first class, we show the students the “assignment” page in their booklets so they know what to do for the next lesson and then we generally end by singing a well known song with our headphones on! The words to the song are to be found in the booklets, and since the students have their headphones on even those who believe they don’t sing well actually participate actively. I have included the lyrics of many well known songs in "QualityTime-ESL: The Digital Resource Book" (on a DVD or in a downloadable version at the store, and you can purchase the songs on i-tunes. After these first two hours the students are pretty exhausted but happy, since they generally leave the lab singing or humming the song they have just listened to!
Good luck to you!
I hope this advice and these suggestions will be of value to teachers starting out in the profession or even professionals with many years behind them. If you have a group of teachers working together on a similar personalized program, you will see that the students look forward to upcoming lessons. More information is to be found in the digital resource book QualityTime-ESL available on this web site (DVD €29). There is also a downloadable lighter version (€14.99). Just go to the store