A Guide to Lesson Planning: Basic Stages

On our most recent CELTA course in Munich, some of the trainees seemed to have a problem with the stages a lesson should include so I’ve tried to break down the basic stages for different lesson types.

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In order to decide which stages our lesson should have, we first need to look at the focus of the lesson. Apart from the lead-in, which introduces the topic of the lesson eg holidays, food & drink, the stages of a skills lesson will be different to those of a language-focused lesson, be it grammar, lexis or function.

Skills Lesson

If you have a skills lesson your basic lesson structure after the lead-in will be pre-, in- and post-, so in a reading skills lesson, you would have a lead-in followed by pre-reading, in-reading and post-reading.

The above-mentioned pre- stages might focus on:

a) prediction skills to arouse students’ interest in the text they are about to read,

b) pre-teaching of key words to help them understand the text,

c) activating students’ schemata ie what they already know about a particular topic so that they transfer their pre-existing knowledge.

The in- stages are when the students focus on the skill in question. These can focus on different sub-skills and more details about these can be found in our blog posts on reading skills or listening skills. In a productive skills lesson (writing or speaking), this would be when the students write their text or carry out the fluency activity.

Finally, in a skills lesson, there would be a post- stage. This is when students would normally practice a further skill eg after reading a text about someone’s holiday, the students might go on to talk or write about their own most recent holiday.

Language-focused lessons

In a lesson which focuses on language, the structure differs slightly. Assuming the language is being introduced in context eg through a reading or listening text, this, as well as the actual focus on the language make up the presentation stage. Just because students are meeting the new language through a listening text, does not mean the stages follow that of a listening skills lesson! So, the presentation stage is made up of meeting the language (in context) and focusing on the meaning, form and phonology of the target language.

Following this will normally be the controlled practice stage where the language output is limited (controlled) by the teacher. Typical controlled practice activities would include gap-fill activities, making sentences using prompts or correcting the errors.

Next up would be a freer practice activity, in which the teacher lets go of the reins a little and lets the students try the language out. This could take the form of a discussion, a role play or a puzzle-solving activity, for example.

Please note, these stages are appropriate if you are following PPP, if you decide to use, for example, test-teach-test you would have a different order of stages in that you would test the students’ knowledge first through controlled or freer practice, then “teach” the bits they struggled with (presentation) and then test them again through further practice activities.

To sum up, if you are unsure of the stages your lesson should follow, ask yourself what the focus of the lesson is and build the stages from there.

Author: Amanda Momeni

A CELTA tutor, English language tutor and co-author of The Ultimate Guide to CELTA

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