Lesson Planning in Approximately 500 words
January 6, 2023
Hello, fellow ALTs. As professional improvisers, we aspire to do the best we can to help our JTEs, HRTs, and students in the classroom. Sometimes this goes beyond bringing in a game or activity, but planning an entire lesson.
For ALTs wholly unfamiliar with teaching, lesson planning can be a daunting task. I know; my first teaching job was at a Chinese university for a year where classes were two hours long. Planning for that length of time was difficult, and I was working with adults. It was there I found my method for designing lessons.
It may help to think of your lesson not as an unbroken string of 45 to 60 minutes (depending on where you teach and at what level), but as chunks of time ranging from 5 to 15 minutes. This helps me plan for activities because while I can’t manage a room full of 7 year-olds for 45 minutes, I can manage them for four chunks of 10 minutes each plus five minutes for a simple warm-up activity. If you find yourself making a lesson plan, try thinking in chunks of time and what you can do in them. Here’s an example for an elementary school class practicing words related to food and taste.
Today’s goal: Practice “taste” words and talking about food.
l 5 minutes: Review target vocabulary with students, 2 or 3 times.
l 5 minutes: Play 4 or 5 rounds of the keyword game as a warm-up.
l 2 or 3 minutes: Distribute individual practice worksheet. Introduce 1st part of main practice activity. “I like… It tastes…” and “I don’t like…It tastes…”. Demonstrate on the blackboard, TV. [Focus; writing practice]
l 5 minutes: Let students work individually on worksheet.
l 2 or 3 minutes: Get students’ attention. Demonstrate the 2nd part of the main practice activity with the HRT/JTE. Practice model questions and sentences with students at least twice. [Focus; speaking and listening practice]
l 5 minutes: Let students practice speaking with their classmates.
l 5 minutes: Get students’ attention again. Ask for volunteers to share with the class.
If you add up all of the time, this lesson plan adds up to around 30 minutes of time. While it’s not a full 45 minutes of class, adding in some grade-appropriate, simple warm-up and cool down activities can fill out the rest of class. For my 3rd grade students, we sometimes do a “weather report” using flashcards. For my 6th grade students, we usually do a simple small talk activity after our greeting. Small talk is also great for junior high school and high school students; just be sure to ask age and language-level appropriate questions. Easy questions to ask are; “What is your favorite (movie, music group, book, subject)?” and “When is your birthday?”
If you notice up at the top of the lesson plan, there is a “today’s goal.” This goal helps create a theme around the class that can help you stay on track. It also helps if you let the students know the goal: writing it on the blackboard and saying “We are practicing taste and food words today” can work out just fine.
Being an ALT can be a fun, rewarding, but difficult job at times, especially if you’re completely new to working in education. I hope this primer on lesson planning helps some of you out. As you keep doing, you’ll keep learning. Ganbaremasu, ya’ll!
Big thanks for the staff at ALTopedia for agreeing to host this article.