Well, that is not entirely true because sometimes I used text books as a loose guide to help and shape my own short and long term plans, ideas and activities.
Now I am a teacher trainer, but previously to that, I taught subjects such as English, Art and Science (preschool and primary stages) in bilingual schools. My last few years in a classroom also focused on preparation for English external exams, which my students were expected to take at the end of each year.
In my English classes, I followed formal literacy programme, which was based on a multi-sensory approach to teaching children how to read, write and spell using stories, songs and hands-on activities to reinforce the student´s comprehension and language acquisition. I took the main ideas from those lesson plans and used them as a guideline, which would form the most structured part of my lessons and adapted other areas such as the way the spelling or grammar concepts were introduced where necessary.
I also combined Art and English, making changes here are there to best suit all my classes to the different levels of the students´ level (the literacy programme I followed was developed for native-English speakers), maximizing their “literary experiences” by bringing language learning to life.
I also studied the grammar structures and vocabulary lists covered in the external exams, attempting to match and fit target words or terminology into my corresponding lessons. I would then have a bit of fun and search around (on the internet or in books) for fun, creative activities such as drama, art or music in order to reinforce whatever concept we were covering.
My lesson plans might look something like this:
Spelling pattern: teaching <wh> as an “alternative” way of spelling /w/, as in whip.
- Possible word bank: whip, when, white, whisper, whale, wheel and which.
Grammar Concept: Question words such as what, why, when, where and who.
Story: The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson.
- Introduce the story, main characters and any key vocabulary that the students might find challenging.
- Read the story.
- Ask the children questions about the content of the story, for example, what was the snail sitting on? Why was he sad? Where did he want to go? Who helped him?
- What words could we use to describe the snail and the whale (big, blue, huge, slow, small, etc)?
- Are there any words that rhyme such as snail, whale and tail, crashed and splashed or waves and caves.
Independent writing: Create visual word banks using a picture of a whale as a template which the students could then fill in with words corresponding to the spelling pattern and acrostic poems using the word “whale” written down the page:
Art: Design one-box comic strips where a whale is talking to a snail. Draw speech bubbles next to each character and think of (and write) what they may be saying.
Role-play: Take it in turns to act out the comic strips. One student is the whale and the other is the snail then swap over. Make a classroom display or a booklet of the students´ work.
Science: Learn about whales, for example: What type of animals are they? What do they eat? Where do they live? (I used the non-fiction book to help answer these questions.) The students could also label the different body parts of whale using templates that I found online, in order to construct a big group display that they would add to over the duration of the topic.
Music: I looked for different videos of whales singing that the students could listen to in class which would then be discussed with questions such as did you like the way whales talk? Do they have voices like us? How did songs make you feel? What might they be saying to each other?
These lesson plans could be carried out over the course of 2-3 weeks and would depend on the number of hours of English and Art available. Evaluating my planning was never a strict science and I could generally tell during a session if the children were responding to the lesson in a positive manner and if they understood the main concept, or not.
Although I would gauge lessons plans to last for approximately 45-60 minutes, the amount of time I allocated may have been sufficient enough to carry out each task, or maybe not enough. As I had two classes per year group, I would then make slight adjustments where necessary for the next group until I managed to refine the lesson and iron out any kinks.
Sometimes, there would be moments of spontaneous learning opportunities, which I could then also try with the next group and sometimes there were activities that worked really well for one group of students but did not have such success with others. If anything, teaching young children for the past 20 years has taught me that you can never have a perfectly planned lesson and that each group of children is different and will respond in different ways to any given activity.
I have always found that I learn alongside my students and believe that, whether we like it or not, experience is gained not when things are going according to plan, but when things go less than perfectly?
Do you adapt formal text books lesson plans in order to create different learning opportunities? Would you use different resources and materials in your classes such as children´s literature or songs and music to reinforce target vocabulary or topic areas? What advice would you give teachers looking to make their own resources in class? Please feel free to leave a comment below.