Saturday, 2 March 2013

Classroom Notes: Structuring the Lesson

After a particularly hectic week of teaching, I was inspired to write a series on Classroom Management which may help other teachers and those who work with children generally. My hope is that I'll also be able to pick up tips from others, from people leaving comments or links to others useful posts and articles. Drawing from experiences throughout the week, I came up with three main areas that I want to focus on:
  1. Structuring the Lesson
  2. How to avoid Shouting and Shushing
  3. Dealing with Behavioral Problems (Coming soon)

Why Should You Structure The Lesson? 

When you have a lot of children in the classroom (or even two in some cases), it's very difficult to maintain silence and keep everyone working at the same speed. One simple way of keeping everyone together is by writing a lesson plan on the whiteboard so that the children can see it as soon as they come in. When I started doing writing up the plan on the board I was really surprised by the children's positive response. Now, as soon as they arrive they immediately check out the board to see what we're doing and usually comment on it. 

Having a structure means that the children know where the lesson is going and if, for example, they are getting a bit bored of doing one activity, you can always point to the board and let them know that another activity or game is coming. This is also good for keeping you on track with the lesson because the whiteboard (and the children) remind you of where you should be. 

In fact, my children take great delight in telling me that the next activity is quickly approaching and that we're running a bit late. Incidentally this is a great opportunity for them to practice telling the time in real life situations as opposed to written exercises which tend to be off putting.

How Can You Organize The Board? 

I tend scrawl all over the whiteboard in a haphazard way when I'm teaching adults and so I've had to really discipline myself to organize the board better when I teach children.Thankfully, it only takes a minute or two to divide up the board so it isn't particularly time-consuming. 

My board usually looks something like this:

Ideas For Organizing The Whiteboard

In the top corner I write a simple timetable for the lesson. Ideally I like to get the 'serious' bits out of the way while the children are fresh and then having fun activities at the end when the children are usually more tired.

5:00 - 5:15  Game (I Spy)
5:15 - 5:45  Reading
5:45 - 6:00  Listening
6:00 - 6:15  Write new words & homework in mini book
6:15 - 6: 30 Game (Word Jumble)

Doing lots of quick activities tends to keep young children engaged better than a long activity which children might find draining (or boring). When the learners are very very young, it's a good idea to have lots of activities prepared or quick games if you run out of things to do. Young children often rush through activities (they have no regard for a plan, no matter how carefully crafted it was) and there's nothing worse than having a group of six year olds and no idea of what you're going to do them!

What Else Can You Do With The Board? 

As the children ask questions, I write the new words in a separate column on the board so that at the end of the lesson they can write them into their vocabulary book and refer to it in future lessons. I give this activity its own time slot so that the children know it's an important part of the lesson too.

I've also started writing key phrases that I know children will need during the lesson such as, 'Can I go to the bathroom please?' or 'Can I get some water please?' so that when they ask me questions in Italian, I can point to the phrases on the board so that they can ask me in English. In my experience, children (and adults) tend to use their own language when referring to things outside the classroom such as getting water or going to the toilet so you'll probably need to spend a bit more time and energy encouraging them to learn and use the correct phrases in English. 

How Can You Involve The Children? 

Children love writing things on the board. In fact, most of your time will probably be spent keeping children away from the board. But having an interactive board can be a very useful way of involving children. My children often ask if they can draw the lines on the board, write vocabulary up for the benefit of the other students or spell difficult words when they've finished their work. 

★  ★  

As a side note, I often leave a random note at the bottom of the plan which uses target vocabulary and makes the children ask questions. For example, one week I wrote '6:30 Sarah goes to IKEA' which meant the children were curious and asked questions like 'why are you going to IKEA?' and 'Do you like IKEA?' In fact, the next week I could here them commenting, 'today teacher isn't going to IKEA' to each other as they came in. For me anyway, putting something silly on the plan means that the children are more likely to read it and it invites them to ask more questions and use every day vocabulary in an authentic way. 

Finally, remember that you should be flexible. Be willing to change the lesson schedule if you see that the children are finding something particularly challenging or if one activity leads naturally into another. Sometimes you'll have lessons where the children are exhausted and genuinely find it hard to do certain things, in which case, bring out the games or vocabulary exercises. If the children are particularly boisterous, choose a listening exercise that means they have to be quiet in order to listen. The plan is there to guide you, but listen to the children too. You'll get better results when you work together as a class. 

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I'd love to hear your comments below or read any posts that you might have found useful on the topic. 

Next post: How to Avoid Shouting and Shushing in the Classroom


  1. Hey, new follower from the Aloha Friday Blog hop. Great info! I'm not a teacher myself, however I have a couple friends who are and I think this would be helpful. Thanks for sharing! :)


    1. Hi, glad you liked it & think it might be useful for your friends. I've started following your blog too. Have a lovely weekend! x


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