Knowing and implementing the basic stages of a good foreign language lesson can make the difference between a lesson that is fun and rewarding, and one that you’ll quickly want to forget. Of course, not every lesson will run as perfectly as you hoped but by planning it around these five basic stages you give your students the maximum opportunity to learn. In addition, you’ll find that both you and your students enjoy the time you spend in class.
A warmer is simply a five minute game or fun activity to begin the lesson. It relaxes the class and prepares them for the lesson to come as well as giving latecomers a chance to take their seats! “Categories” is a simple, fun warmer that should be in every language teacher’s repertoire.
To conduct this warmer divide the class into three or four groups and tell everyone the category, for example, “Animals.” Each group has to, in turn, tell you the name of an animal. Any group that cannot think of an animal within 5 seconds, is out and the game continues without them. Continue until only one group, the winners, remain. Give this group one point and move on to another category.
Your presentation of a new language point is one of the most important stages of the lesson. It is here that you introduce the students to a language point by presenting it to them in an appropriate context. For example, if you are teaching the present perfect continuous tense, you may present this language by showing the class a picture of an unhappy man who has very red, peeling skin.
You can now ask the class a series of questions such as, “What can you see?” “Is he happy?” “Why isn’t he happy?” You are trying to prompt the students, or more likely one student, to produce the sentence, “He has been sunbathing.” Be encouraging and positive throughout this process. When a student eventually produces the correct sentence ask him or her to repeat it aloud for the class.
Produce a new picture highlighting the same structure and start the process once again. Continue until you are confident that most of the class can produce this language reasonably well. You might choose at this point to highlight the grammar involved on a whiteboard.
It is now time to consolidate the language you presented. One oft-used practice exercise is the gap-fill. Put the students into pairs and issue them a number of pictures illustrating the language point you are teaching and accompanied by appropriate sentences but with one or more words missing. If you are teaching the present continuous tense, for example, a picture of a dog barking might be accompanied by the sentence, “A dog is barking loudly,” but with one word omitted. Students work in their pairs to complete their sentences. Circulate as the groups work, giving help and encouragement where it is necessary. When most of the groups have finished stop the activity and ask each group to read some of their sentences to the class.
This is an opportunity for your students to use the language they have been learning, in a less controlled situation. Just one example of a production activity that you can use for the past simple tense is to divide the class into groups of three or four. Issue each group with a set of index cards. On each card should be a prompt, appropriate to the language level of your students, that encourages past simple usage.
For example, “Tell the group about a time you were really scared.” Encourage other members of each group to ask questions of the student who is speaking. Note mistakes, as well as examples of good sentences, to write on the board once the activity is finished. You can then encourage the class to correct grammatically incorrect sentences themselves and correctly identify good sentences.
The cooler is very similar to the warmer – a five or ten minute activity to relax everyone after a hard lesson’s work. It also ensures that everyone leaves the class with a smile on his or her face looking forwards to the next class. “Twenty Questions” is a fun game which practices question forms. One student thinks of a famous person and the class have twenty Yes/ No questions to find out who it is. For example, “Is this person a man?” “Is this person over 40 years old?” and so on.
While not every lesson need follow the stages outlined above exactly, they are an extremely valuable default. Knowing these basic stages of a foreign language lesson, and implementing these stages on a regular basis, is essential to effectively teach a foreign language class.
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