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Things I have to have in my lesson: Part 2

In Part 1, I proposed Five Essentials for Ultimate Lessons. To be more alliterative, I could have called them my Five Fundamentals for Fantastic… oh whatever. Anyway, can you remember what they were? Well, if you can’t, you need to study harder, or I need to chat to you, because your five may be better than mine. I had, for my five essential, must have classroom kit: a board pen, pictures, students, a watch and a lesson plan.

Well, this time I’d like to add five more. Now these five aren’t actually ‘essentials’ for a lesson. I think, perhaps, they are more like ‘jolly good ideas’ to have because they help make your lesson much more interesting, lively or enjoyable. Or all three. Here they are: Steve’s Five Ingredients for Spicier Lessons.

  1. Music. Ok, a lesson doesn’t always need music, but if you have some background music on from time to time, it adds a lot to your classroom atmosphere, especially with adults who can get nervous and shy. Teenagers love music too, and will sing along fluently to the fastest Linkin Park song as long as it’s the latest one. Yes, and little children love music too! For kids, you can make music even more effective by getting them to move with the song. Try “Little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his nose”. Do you know that if you put words to a catchy tune they become almost impossible to forget, even in a foreign language? You’ll be amazed at how many English people can sing Frère Jacques in French without knowing what it’s about!

  2. A smile. You may feel this is getting trite, but if you come to teach English in Thailand, for example, you’ll find a smile takes you a long way. It helps relax students, makes you feel more relaxed too, and it elicits lots of smiles from the students! Smile when things start getting too serious, and smile when a student makes eye-contact, and smile when you are having fun. The Thais, love smiles and really appreciate a friendly and approachable language teacher.

  3. A worksheet. Students enjoy working with others on a challenging puzzle, or finding the answers to a series of questions alone. A worksheet breaks the routine of using the coursebook (if you have one) and provides a focus for the students to practice their language (if you don’t have a coursebook). Children love to decorate their worksheets and then show them to their parents. Parents love seeing correctly completed worksheets from their children. Worksheets make everyone a winner!

  4. A backup. Every lesson has the potential to crash and burn like a poor attempt to follow Martha Stewart’s delicious apple pie recipe. We need to bear this in mind when planning and prepare backups for weaker students who can’t understand, for strong students who are getting bored, or perhaps for a change of pace in a long and tiring lesson.

  5. T.L.C. Trite? I don't think so: caring about your students, being concerned that they are learning, and not getting too upset if they are struggling are key elements to a successful lesson. Your attitude towards the students and believing in their ability to succeed is a little like ketchup on the fries: your lesson will work without it, but it is going to be so much better if it’s there.

That’s the essential kit for an English teacher. Award winning stuff! Can you think of any more?

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