Lesson plan: hindrance or help?

Published on 22nd July, 2010 in Teaching Tips by Frances Watkins

Is the lesson plan like having a ball and chain around your ankles? Some would argue that it limits a teacher’s ability to respond to students. In focusing on getting through the plan from A–D, any deviation off the pre-determined route is viewed negatively by the teacher. Thus, any sort of natural spontaneity or colour is lost, as well as potentially useful treasure chests of linguistic activity to delve into.

On the other hand, lessons without lesson plans might run the risk of feeling lightweight and directionless. A teacher with a clear aim for her lesson, is surely more likely to come across as focused, informed and linguistically able?

My stance, predictably, is one of balance. I have taught for many years and know several experienced colleagues who can walk into a class with either no plan or a very skeletal one. This is in some ways enviable, but the fact is that people are different; teachers have different styles and different levels of comfort. Personally I like to go in to my classes with a plan which tends to be skinny in parts and fat in others, for example, it may have more detail at the clarification stages or at the setting-up stages, to motivate. Having this plan, however, is like a comfort blanket. It frees up my mind to then be receptive and responsive to students, rather than worrying about what I am going to do next. Often I do end up going ‘off plan’ for at least a part of the lesson, in response to students ideas, whims or needs. In this way I like to think that my plans are liberating rather than suffocating!