By Kasia Piotrowska

30 October 2017 - 12:13

English language learner at desk with book pencil and ruler
'Draw learners’ attention to the first and last objective of your lesson.' Photo ©

StockSnap, licensed under CC0 1.0 and adapted from the original 

Are you looking for ways to get learners actively involved in the classroom? Teaching English blog award winner Kasia Piotrowska has practical ideas for teachers.

Give learners clear lesson aims and refer to them at each stage

I used to neglect to explain lesson aims at the beginning of the class. When I developed the habit of displaying aims on the board, I noticed that students were more focused on the learning process. Consequently, their participation improved.

Marking the steps of the lesson and referring to them as the class progresses helps learners:

  • keep track of the lesson stages
  • clearly see the connection between what they are doing in class and what they are supposed to learn
  • know exactly what is expected of them, reducing anxiety
  • self-monitor their progress
  • play a more active part in the lesson flow
  • Help learners visualise lesson aims with an image

Instead of writing my lesson aims on the board, I sometimes use an image. This can be a road, mountain or ladder as a metaphor for the flow of the lesson. An image instead of a list can help learners visualise their path. It also makes a lesson more memorable and engaging.

Give learners tools to follow the lesson aims

I use lesson aims templates at the beginning of some classes. It requires extra preparation time on the teacher´s part, but is worth it. You can also involve learners in the process and ask them to design their own.

As an alternative, you can hand out the templates as learners arrive. Ask them to check the items off their lists as the lesson progresses, or have them summarise the main ideas of each stage in pairs.

Make room for learners to reflect on the lesson

At the end of the lesson, give a post-it note or small piece of paper with adhesive to each learner. Ask them to draw a picture connected with the lesson´s topic or aims, and stick their notes next to your lesson aims template on the wall.

You can also ask the learners to work in small groups and look at their drawings. Can they identify all the things they have learnt today?

Teachers don’t have to stick to their plan

If your lesson is not going as well as planned, change something. It is better to improvise and adjust to the group rather than see your lesson fail completely.

What if you do have the procedure displayed on the board and your plan is going sideways? No problem. Draw learners’ attention to the first and last objective of your lesson, and ask them to tell you how they reached the last objective. This has the benefit of being more memorable for learners.

Have a secret lesson aim – and encourage learners to do the same

I don´t make my secret aim visible for the learners. It’s usually related to my weaknesses as a teacher – for example, giving clear instructions or reducing ‘echoing’.

You can ask learners to do the same. It might be working on their group interaction, using only English in the classroom or finding ways to pay more attention in class. Ask them to write their secret lesson aim at the beginning of the class and reflect on it at home. This helps learners become more active in the learning process.

Kasia Piotrowska teaches English as a second language (ESL) and blogs at Get creative

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