by Alistair Dickinson
article is in three parts:
1. Organisational ideas
2. Activities that use the student, the teacher & the
3. Ideas on using one object of realia as the focus for a
of the following statements refer to you?
1. I spend minimal
time on preparing classes as you never know how the class
is going to go. I like to make it up as I go along. That way
I can cater for the needs of my students more accurately.
2. I spend ages
on preparation. I think of an idea but inevitably change it
as I work on the class. I enjoy the time spent on preparation
sometimes even more than actually giving the class.
3. I don't spend
too long on preparing classes i.e. lesson planning. I like
to do a fortnightly timetable over which I might spend a couple
of hours and then I use each class timetabled as my lesson
plan on the day.
4. I can't really
quantify the amount of time I spend preparing. I might be
thinking about a class on the bus or while I'm eating.
5. I spend a sufficient
time preparing, I think. When I run out of ideas I tend to
give up and revert to the boring stuff I've been doing all
along. I suppose it might have something to do with the awful
coursebooks I have to use. There's not much you can do with
6. I really can't
spend too long on preparing classes as I teach 35 hours a
week. If I gave adequate attention to each class then I probably
wouldn't have time to teach them. I have to make do and rely
on my wits a lot.
7. I spend much
less time preparing now than I used to when I first started
teaching. Nowadays it's a question of pulling out the same
old lesson plans.
A few reasons why
preparation time might take a long time.
Time - too
many classes. How much time do you devote to each class
if you're doing 25hrs/wk, 30hrs/wk or even 35hrs/wk?
environment - not conducive to preparation and spending
time in the school due to interpersonal problems, management/staff
- class doesn't 'gel' & time taken up with hunting for
of the teacher - the class has to be just right and
then takes longer than necessary.
Lack of space
in the school to prepare.
Lack of experience
Lack of interesting
ideas - teacher not into the job, tired etc.
to use as a syllabus.
Lack of materials
in the school to provide ideas.
are not very interesting and it takes time to think
of different ways of using them.
up with getting materials together.
the school to help out and provide ideas.
to decide on stds' needs - what to teach & then trying
to decide how to teach it while creating balance and
variety of activities, recycling language etc.
- too much time spent on the classes.
personal life interfering e.g. too many late nights.
Ideas on cutting
down on preparation time
- using the stds
- using yourself
- using the classroom
- a few obvious suggestions
Plan your month, weeks in the month, your days and your hours.
Teaching can be an exhausting business so the more you are
personally organised the less wasted energy you will expend.
Planning and timing the activities in your day/week in advance
can be very useful. Make yourself up a chart, a more detailed
diary really, and give yourself strict time limits on activities.
Afterwards compare your estimate with the reality and you
should see how much time you actually waste in the day.
You might also like to try filling in the motivation graph
(see end of this section) taken from 'Learning To Learn' by
Ellis & Sinclair (CUP). Each column could be for a day. At
the end of the week analyse the results and draw conclusions.
Another way of monitoring your progress/daily performance
is to keep a diary and keep reviewing it.
Do it for the coming month/two weeks. By timetabling you can
ensure that there is balance, variety, continuity and a sense
of progress for both the student and the teacher. Just because
you have a timetable doesn't mean you have to stick to it
- change it on the way.
It also doesn't have to be very detailed either, just a basic
outline to show you (& the stds if you give it to them) where
you are going. Sunday afternoon/evening is a good time to
spend a couple of hours getting everything together to start
confidently on Monday morning knowing that all you really
have to do is get the materials together.
At the beginning it does take longer but it certainly does
help cut down on preparation time in the end.
A procedure for approaching timetabling might be as
1. Analyse the needs of your students.
2. See if what is coming up in the coursebook corresponds
with their needs.
3. Decide what you're going to use of the coursebook.
4. Decide what else you're going to add. re.input
5. Get an idea of the supplementary materials you're going
6. Draw up a grid.
7. Fill in things like progress tests & tutorials, if you
plan on doing them.
8. Fill in the boxes. They don't have to be too detailed &
make them into lesson plans & leave a couple of blanks which
help you to catch up.
Know the materials
Put in a fair amount of time getting to know the materials
that are available to you. It will be time well spent as you
will always have them to draw on and you will be providing
your students (and yourself) with interesting and varied materials.
& materials & ideas
Keep your old timetables and lesson plans. Create an organised
file according to levels and do the same with your stock of
materials that are lying around in a pile. Try and get your
colleagues to donate copies of their timetables and materials
to the school and create organised easy to find files for
all to use. Write out role cards carefully and make sure the
stds don't write on them , chew them or eat them and get them
back after the activity to use again next time - it's a good
idea to plastify them.
Not quite but it's worth suggesting that someone (you?) sort
out the materials into easy to find sections. Start up a well-planned
filing system for homemade materials. All that the teachers
do is put a copy in the relevant file for others to copy.
a copy of 'Use Your Head' by Tony Buzan (BBC 1989 new
revised edition). Lots of ideas on becoming more efficient
with your study skills in areas such as reading skills, increasing
memory ability & note taking. Very thought provoking and useful
information to pass on to your students.
page 2 of 3
To the Articles