Lesson Plans: Who Needs?em? I suspect that most of us know that

I suspect that most of us know that having a plan when we walk into a classroom is better than not having a plan. However, we may need to be reminded just how much having a plan can contribute to the quality of the class experience for the students, as well as the learning goals we have set for ourselves.

In fact, the lesson plan acts as a framework for the time spent together. It helps us be clear about what we hope to accomplish with this particular class, or a series of classes, and outline how we are going to achieve that learning goal, step by step.

Sometimes the plan will get tossed out the window, (figuratively speaking), when an urgent reason to deviate from the plan arises during class. Special situations may make it inappropriate to insist on sticking to a plan, and it may have to be shortened or modified by leaving out parts, and then covered at a later date. However, this is far better than arriving with only a plan in your head, getting distracted or upset by some classroom situation, and forgetting entirely how you had planned to conduct the session and what needed to be covered, and in what order.

Students can tell if the teacher has arrived prepared and whether he/she has put some prior thought into how they will share the lesson, organize the tasks, collect and handout materials, etc. A prepared instructor demonstrates respect for the students' time and effort in attending the class.

A good plan will have a balance of 'internal coherence and variety' (Harmer, 1998). That is, the lesson itself should hang together, be focused on specific topics and goals, but allow variations in format and activities in carrying out the plan.

Some teachers make very brief plans, just a few scribbled notes. Others may prefer an extremely detailed plan. A good lesson plan addresses the following aspects:

'CLASS DESCRIPTION: Who is being taught in THIS class' Novices, intermediates' Children, teens, or business students' What is the motivation level, the daily barriers or environment that may contribute to their learning readiness for today's class' Are they generally cooperative and willing to help you accomplish your plan'

'AIMS: What is the particular thing that the class will study tonight' A certain piece of grammar' Social conversation practice' Read a particular piece of work' Why is it important for them to study this particular material' What will it allow them to do or achieve' Write down for yourself what it is you wish them to be able to do after taking this class. 'About how much time will be spent on each type of activity that you'd like to include' Be sure to think about the time you need to spend setting up equipment while the class is waiting (or give them something to do during this time). How much time will be needed to review the activity once they have completed it' Handing out materials, writing instructions on the board, all these things take up time, and you need to try to cover the material and complete the class on time.

'How exactly will this goal be accomplished' Will the group break into pairs' Who will start, and how will each student be involved' Will you be using the board, or an audiotape, or other materials and equipment' Will instructions be prepared ahead and handed out, discussed orally, or written on the board' Will you review together in class the major points of the lesson following the activities' If the students are preparing short presentations or skits, estimate the time needed for preparation, presentation, and discussion points.

'Include a back-up plan in the event that some sort of disruption occurs that throws off the time schedule; perhaps it turns out to be an especially difficult lesson and progress is not made quickly and more repetition is necessary. Or, they whiz right through the material and you have nothing else for them to work on! Think about what might go wrong with this group and how you will address that situation.

'How does tonight's lesson fit in with lessons which have come before and are coming after' Remind yourself and the students of the over-arching plan of the session and what is being covered, and with what goals.

'When planning a sequence of several lessons, the above note is especially important. Maintain coherence between the lessons, refer back to previous lessons, and be sure the overall aims and goals are kept in mind.

In the real world, this translates to having one or more major TOPICS that will be used for a series of classes. Particular SKILLS will be practiced or learned that relate or are modeled around the TOPIC mentioned. Several formats and ACTIVITIES will be used to demonstrate and enhance the material. If you remember to use the three important components of TESL methodology - Engage, Study, and Activate - as a guide to implementing your well-prepared lesson plan, you and your students will find the experience more fun than work.

Bibliography: 1. Harmer, Jeremy, 1998. How to Teach English, p.121-26, 170-72. 2. Swan, M. and Walter, C., 1997. How English Works: A Grammar Practice Book with Answers, Oxford University Press.