An EPIK teacher wrote me recently with some questions about how to deal with lesson planning. Here is her letter and my advice, perhaps it will help others will similar planning issues.
My name is Paula Kelleher. I attended one of your lectures at the
EPIK orientation in Jeonju University in February. I’m now based in
Gwangju. You said it would be okay to contact you if we had any
questions. I’m looking for a bit of advice if you could please.
I’m based in two elementary schools with average class sizes of 8
students. I see each class 3 times a week often consecutively so I am
planning 80 minutes lessons. Therefore I am doing 22 lesson plans a
week, 20 hours of Grade 3 – 6 and 2 hours of kindergarten. I have 5
different co teachers and 3 of them have never taught English before.
I am feeling very overwhelmed with the situation.
I have to plan all the lessons and because I have so many to do I’m not able to plan them well or give enough time to come up with fun activities. I have
experience teaching so I know I can do it but so far all my lessons
have been terrible because I don’t have the time to plan them all. I
also use different textbooks for each school.
Can you please offer me some advice as to how I can deal with this and what I could do to make my lessons better with the time I have. I am the only one I know who has a situation like this, do you think this is normal? I really do appreciate anything you can tell me.
Sounds pretty overwhelming.
As I was reading one thing jumped out at me right away, you say you are planning 22 lessons a week. More than anything else this is going to cause you a lot of stress. Honestly it takes anywhere from an hour to two hours to construct a really solid lesson plan, and that would mean you are going to spend as much time planning as teaching. Sadly that is just not humanly possible.
Okay, let’s break the situation down a bit.
You said you are teaching elementary, working with three grades and kindergarten. You also are torn between two schools, which means travel, and multiple books. That’s a lot to work with.
I’m not sure if you are using the PPP method I presented in lesson planning but I strongly encourage it as it can really save you a lot of time and trouble. Since you see your classes three times a week I would plan as follow:
Day 1: Presentation and Small Practice
Day 2: Review Practice, Practice
Day 3: Review Practice, Production
Over the three days plan to build towards a final production activity on your last day. This way you are planning only one lesson plan that you will complete over 3 days.
Next, for the grades you are teaching I would recommend the following:
1 Lesson Plan a week for Grade 3 and 4
1 Lesson Plan a week for Grade 5 and 6
1 Lesson Plan a week for Kindergarten
The lessons you plan you repeat to each class of the corresponding grade. So you will teach it between 5 and 7 times depending on how often you see your students.
To do this you will need to look at your books and find common elements that you can blend into one plan for the two grades. Then plan additional challenge activities for the older grades. This will reduce your overall lesson planning to three lesson plans a week (each LP being three days worth of content).
With the multiple books it is inadvisable to try to plan individual lessons for the different books. In order to manage this situation you have to take control of it. Incorporate elements and themes from the book so you cover the necessarily content. The good news is that all of the books used in schools are required to cover the same content, so as long as you cover major elements it doesn’t really matter what order you teach them in.
By doing this you will drastically reduce the number of lesson you are planning, increase the time to get to your objective with your lesson, and have more time for making the materials and activities that will be interesting for you and your students.
In general for the three day format I would advise planning something as follows:
Day 1: 10 mins to present new vocab
10 min Practice game with vocab words to review meaning
10 min Activity with drawing or writing to help Ss with meaning, use and form
10 min Practice simple speaking with the words
Back up challenge activity for the older class
Day 2: 15 minute Review meaning game (You could also introduce more words around the theme on this day to give more to practice and develop)
15 min practice activity with vocabulary and content
15 minute practice activity 2 with vocabulary or content
10 minutes of personal use in a writing activity
Back up challenge activity for the older classes
Day 3: 10 Practice activity to review words/theme introduction of any new material
15 Brainstorming activity to prepare for production
15 Productive use activity with multiple exchanges
5 minute journal writing or wrap up activity
Back up challenge activity for older classes
Hopefully this will help you. I really believe that the problem here is the sheer volume of planning. Reduce the number of plans, consolidate things and I think you will start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Paula followed up with a note that the level of ability between the grades would not make it easy to blend grade 5 and 6. I responded as follows:
For combining the grades, I agree, it can be tricky and since I don’t know your exact situation it may well be better to have separate plans for the fifth and sixth grade. Even if you do separate plans for all the grades, it would reduce the overall planning load to five a week (K, 3, 4, 5, 6) from 22. Much more manageable.