Lesson Planning

Lesson Planning Tips for Teachers In Japan

I used to work for a big Eikaiwa where I had all my lessons pre-planned for me and all I had to do was crank open a big textbook and I was ready to go.  Now, I’m on my own, making my own lessons for individual students.  When I was first on my own, I was overwhelmed.  It was like having the floor pulled out from under me!  I didn’t know anything about lesson planning.
It’s always a learning experience.  You’ve never got it all figured out.  But, here are some tips for your lessons that might help young teachers, off on their own in the great big world of teaching!

-Prepare well and be prepared to ditch what you prepared.  Sounds like a paradox, right?  Well, it’s not really.  You should always have everything planned out well.  We all know how painful it is to have to kill time and it doesn’t do much for the student either.  I always take tons of stuff with me, stacks of handouts, activities or conversation starters.  For kids especially, I always have a Plan B, C, D, E, F, and so on!  Planning this way will save your life again and again!

-Try to build on what you taught last time.  If you can tie everything you teach together in a relevant way, it’ll help it all “stick.” This is one of the advantages of using a text or set curriculum.  But, if you do use a text or something, be sure to be flexible and to make it interesting.  Chances are, the reason they’re taking English conversation lessons is to get out of textbook learning!

-When planning lessons, try to find a starting point that works for you, and go logically from that.  For example, for some beginner adult students, I usually think of a grammar structure or target language I want to teach, then I figure out what conversational situations it would be useful in, and plan a lesson around that.  For other students, you may want to start with a conversational situation (for example, a certain task like ordering in a restaurant, getting hotel information, etc.) and pull grammar points and vocabulary from that.  That’s how the Eikaiwas made their textbooks!

You should find a way of planning lessons that works for you and the student.  Having a flow like this makes it easier to make good, focused lessons.

-Remember that every student is different.  That’s what makes you different than one of the big Eikaiwas.  This isn’t fast food English.  When I think of my students, who I see every week and know really well, it’s easy to think of where to go with the next lesson.

-Reflect and improve your teaching!  After every lesson, I write a short “review” of the lesson.  I focus on the student, what they could or couldn’t do, what was hard or easy for them, what kinds of questions they asked, what kinds of other vocab or grammar came up during the lesson, and ideas of what to do next time.  If you have a lesson that goes badly for you, take some time and figure out what went wrong and how you can change it in the future.  This is especially important if you’re working with kids.

-Students come first!  I know, I know, you know that already.  But keep it in mind.  If you do a good job and your students improve their English, it will all come back to you, and it will be its own reward!

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