Lesson planning is one of the key skills that any English teacher has to master to improve. You might even remember your first few lessons—trying to stick to the plan as time slipped away, unmotivated students or even complete chaos because you weren’t confident yet. Thankfully, you’ll only get better the more you teach.
But what can be a struggle, even for experienced teachers, is finding the right balance between educational and enjoyable lessons. A lesson packed with grammar and vocabulary may be useful, but students probably won’t have it stick if the class doesn’t capture their interest. But it’s very easy to slide the other way as well—focusing so much on the fun that the actual content of the lessons is forgotten.
Here, we’ll look at some tips for striking that balance for teachers who need more engagement from English students.
Variety is The Spice of Lessons
One of the things you might be doing, even unconsciously, is relying on a lesson formula when you make your lessons. You know the type—five minutes for an intro, 10 minutes introducing the grammar or vocabulary and then drills. You might not even notice it, but soon, the formula turns into monotony.
To avoid this, mix things up! If you can, mix up your lesson order—maybe let the students have a period of independent discussion at the start or save the drills until the very end as a cool down; even if you can’t, try to change the format of your activities. Drills can become team challenges, for instance, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your lessons feel fresh and engaging again.
Head to The Middle!
The front of the room might be the spot for you. After all, it’s where you spend most of your time teaching. But if all of your time is spent up there, you might need to be more distancing yourself from your students for them to get engaged.
If this describes you, try and make space in your activities to really get in the middle of all of your students. Talk to them, help them out and let them interact with you! Not only will you get a much better idea of the vibe in the class, but you’ll also have the students engaging directly with you rather than across the room. This will help them create rapport and feel like they’re in the midst of your class, not just watching from afar.
Utilize Empty Time
In most lessons, there’s usually a bunch of dead time, such as the introduction, transitioning between activities and handing out materials. That’s time you can use to bring the class alive!
Rather than just having the students sit silently, go off topic and talk to them about something relevant. Are they into anime? Manga? A new movie? Just start speaking in English and let them express themselves. Likewise, if you’re busy handing things out, encourage the students to talk in English about things that interest them. You’ll find that they open up and get engaged in no time!
But what if you have the opposite problem? Are your lessons fun and full of energy, but do you feel like your students don’t learn much? No worries, we have a few tips to moderate the enthusiasm and make sure some actual learning gets done:
Reroute Your Activities
Are your lessons fun and energetic, but do you feel like your students don’t learn much? If you find that your students have all had a great time at the end of your activities but not much has stuck, a post-activity review is a great way to reinforce the content.
Rather than simply moving on to the next activity, dedicate a few minutes to a pop-quiz-style review of the main grammar points. Especially if you provide an incentive (bonus points in the next game, for example) and make it routine, it shouldn’t take long for the students to temper their enthusiasm and focus on the grammar.
More Comprehensive Materials
You might also find that the worksheets and materials you hand out in your most exciting lessons are game-based or have a few keywords. This is a double issue, as it also means that the students aren’t stopping to engage with them in lessons and probably can’t outside of lessons because there isn’t enough information.
And while nobody likes the worksheets where you fill in the blanks or write long sentences in silence, peppering one or two in the middle of a fun lesson will help temper the unrestrained enthusiasm and create spots where students can learn in silence. Also, those worksheets will work much better as study aids outside the classroom, ensuring the vocabulary and grammar can be revised come test time.
Slow Down The Tempo
It can be very easy, especially when the class is having a lot of fun, to get carried away in the pace of things. Fun activities get extended by a few more minutes because the students are having fun. Then, oops, a worksheet isn’t completed at the end.
To control this, it’s worth creating and setting stricter timelines in your lessons and slowing lessons down when they’re running away from you. Even though a particular activity might be fun, it will only help if the students complete the key grammar worksheet they need to do, so be strict with yourself.
Set a timetable for the lesson and stick to it. You might get a few complaints when the fun ends, but you’ll also find your students remembering the lesson content much more consistently.
So those are our best tips for balancing educational lessons and engaging ones. Is there a tip you think we’ve missed that you swear by? Or do you already use one of these when your lessons go a little off-course? Let us know in the comments!