A perfect lesson

Many moons ago, when I was at teacher’s college, we were taught to write lesson plans, and given the theory of what makes a good lesson. Of course, once I graduated and got into a real classroom, like every teacher I rapidly gave up on writing the lesson plans, partly through lack of time, and partly through having acquired enough experience that I applied many of the principles automatically, without having to sit down and work them out every time.

It’s a long time since I was in a classroom, but now that I’ve been doing this ESOL tutoring, I’m finding those principles are starting to come back, and even when I depart from my lesson plan, they’re sneaking into the lesson.

Tonight was a great example of that. Although I’d worked out a lesson, we ended up doing something completely different as the lesson grew organically out of the conversation N and I were having. We started off playing with some word cards, making simple sentences. N would come up with an idea for a sentence, and we’d work together to find the right words and put them in order. A few of the sentences she managed to do all by herself, so I wrote them into her workbook so she could copy them out. Then we talked about the sentences, and she came up with some more on her own, and (with a bit of help from me with the harder words) she wrote them down. A very simple little lesson, but it kept us occupied for the whole hour.

It wasn’t until I was walking home and was mentally reviewing what we’d done that I realised it was a theoretically perfect lesson. The different parts of the lesson had each built the same basic skill, but between them had covered all the different learning styles: kinaesthetic (arranging cards into sentences), oral/aural (verbally creating sentences), and visual (writing the sentences). Plus because N was creating sentences about her own life, it gave her ownership of the lesson. And best of all, it was a huge boost to her confidence, because she discovered she was able to spell so many of the words all by herself, or with just a little prompting from me.

I’m sure next week I’ll revert to my usual chaotic teaching technique, but isn’t it nice when things all come together nicely, even if it was totally accidental! 🙂


Oh, and another nice thing about tonight’s lesson. One of the sentences she came up with was “My husband talked to his sister.” Not very exciting, until you hear the back-story to that sentence. MrPloppy has been helping N’s son with his computer, and at the weekend went round there and installed some software he needed to get his webcam working. After N came up with the “My husband talked to his sister.” sentence, she told me the sister was in Afghanistan, and they’d used the computer to talk to her. And because the webcam was finally working, her husband and his sister had seen each other for the first time in 27 years. Isn’t that cool? I was able to come home and tell MrPloppy that his tiny favour helping get the software installed led to such an incredibly important moment for a brother and sister separated for all those years.

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