“Laptops, SOLSTICE Centre, CETL, Edge Hill University” flickr photo by jisc_infonet https://flickr.com/photos/jiscinfonet/405736696 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license


It’s been a while since I did my Diploma in English language teaching (around 18 years!), but then, as now, the book ‘More than a Native Speaker”, is an excellent resource for people starting out in this business, and the second edition published in 2006 is up to date and includes chapters on teaching with technology. In terms of lesson planning, the chapter is actually available as a free online pdf here.

As with all areas of teaching, Snow (2006) talks about the basic elements of a lesson, techniques for classroom set up and monitoring, good teacher habits like eyes contact, a low level of teacher talk and a high level of student-centred, collaborative work (arguably? especially critical in language learning classes since communication is actually of key learning goal).

In terms of advice for newer teachers (and for myself, when I ‘m having a lazy day- we all do!) is to at least have minimal plan. If you go in with nothing except an idea of the material you want to cover, and no ideas of when and how you should be moving between tasks , you will find that each task will blow out of all proportion, teacher talk will become excessive and, in the end you’ll get half (or less) of what you wanted done. Students can tell too – they know when you’re winging it and they recognize, and appreciate the ability to reach targets in a timely fashion (especially older students). In my experience planning timing is critical to a successful delivery, although you have to be lexible when you run into bad weather (your students take longer than expected to ‘get it’). In that case, abandon one of your tasks for another day – best to do less well than slavishly follow the plan and have the students hopelessly confused.

Also, on a more personal level, if there was one piece of advice I could give to any teacher starting out with kids of any age, or with adults, it’s ‘don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know’. It’s amazing how often, when confronted with a ‘curly’ question, many teachers will bluff or disemble- but again, the kids will know. Much better to openly admit that you don’t know, thereby treating the student as an equal, and invite the student to help you find out. Students (of all ages) love that stuff. For example, despite all my years of English teaching and multiple qualifications, I still can’t spell for toffee. I know exactly how and why each tense works and how to teach them, – I crush with grammar, but spelling – terrible! So I put that to work for me and start courses by explaining my stupidity and inviting students to spot my mistakes – its amazing the motivation it creates! I even sometimes deliberately spell an tricky word wrong and then stand back and ask the students ‘is that right?’ with a doubtful tone of voice – everyone leaps for phones and checks the spelling – and bingo -everyone has an extra bit of learning and processing with that word.

Snow, D. (2006). More than a native speaker. Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. 700 South Washington Street Suite 200, Alexandria, VA 22314.