Verissimo Toste, an Oxford teacher trainer, discusses the ingredients of a successful lesson. Verissimo hosted a webinar on this topic on the 10th May. To view a recording of this webinar, click here.
What makes a lesson successful? Beyond the specific materials and activities, what can teachers focus on in order to deliver consistently successful lessons? These are not easy questions to answer, but there are some key points we, as teachers, can focus on in order to increase the probability of consistently successful lessons.
Consider the students. Too obvious a point, probably. But in the rush of a day’s lessons, it is easy to deliver content without focussing on the individual students we have in front of us. What are their abilities, their interests? How do they feel that day and how could these considerations affect the lesson you are about to deliver? Sometimes it is important to take a deep breath before beginning a lesson and consider these questions. We might be able to make some slight adjustments that will help our lesson flow better.
Although easily taken for granted, it is important to begin and end the lesson well. A good beginning has impact, drawing the students’ attention and engaging them in what they are about to do. It is also clear as to what the students will be doing in the lesson. A clear idea of the outcome of the lesson will help students become more personally involved in the activities, helping them to learn better. A good ending will give students a sense of achievement, of having learned. Students can reflect on what they have learned and what skills they have developed. Equally important, they can also consider what might have been difficult during the lesson, leading them to focus on that aspect of their learning.
Of course, the material you use will greatly contribute to the success of your lesson. But it is important to look at it critically. How does it relate to your students? Is it relevant to them? Almost any topic can be made relevant, but it is important to focus on this in order to make it so. Students may find a topic boring or a language point too difficult to understand. However, making their feelings and opinions part of the lesson will help to involve them. Contributing to the lesson in this way helps them take responsibility for what happens in their lessons. They, too, contribute to the success of the lesson.
Students today learn as much outside the classroom as they do in class, maybe even more in some cases. Successful lessons take this into consideration and don’t end when the class ends. There are many ways to extend the lesson beyond the classroom. Students can find links between the topics in class, maybe from their coursebook, to their world. I discovered in a coursebook lesson based on parkour that the national champion of the sport was from the city where I was teaching. My students knew more about it than I did. Of course, this led to photos of where the sport was practised in the city and some of the people who practised it.
Technology is an integral part of our students’ lives, providing many opportunities for continuing language work outside of class. This could be based on language work integrated with the coursebook, or online work based on researching a topic. Teachers can also consider using students’ digital devices to bring their lives into the classroom. When working on the present simple for daily routine, students can be encouraged to take some photos of what they do every day. Sharing these in class will add a personal context to the language being learned.
My webinar further discussed some of the key points that bring success to the classroom. You can view a recording of the webinar here.