In last week’s tip, we looked at how to choose appropriate practice activities. One of the recommendations mentioned was to select tasks which gave an overall sense of continuity. I thought this planning-related topic could also be the springboard for a related tip.
Fragmented lessons are inevitable from time to time: perhaps different elements need to be finished off as it is the end of the course or students have been away. You end up giving a lesson with three or four distinct and unrelated parts. I think this is unavoidable, yet as a lesson template it should arguably be used sparingly.
A few years ago I attended a talk by Scott Thornbury* in which he discussed the shape of a successful lesson: the fact that it usually has a beginning, middle and end. A good lesson, he argued, is rather like a good story. This struck a chord with my own views. Creating a rounded, developmental lesson is not something that students will consciously be able to recognise or articulate. However, a well-shaped lesson carries with it its own sense of purpose, organisation, even beauty. As human beings we tend to be drawn to well-rounded, symmetrical and conclusive events of this kind. I find that when observing teachers teach, this ability to make lessons feel whole on a subtle, almost intuitive level, is one of the features that distinguishes a very good teacher from a good one.
* Teacher Trainers’ Conference BC Damascus Autumn 1999