A whole alphabet of plan Bs

When you prepare a lesson at home, everything seems wonderful, but then you enter your classroom it can be a different story.

Perhaps there is no WIFI, the computers don't work, the photocopier is broken, there is a power cut, the number of students in the classroom is unexpected, the activity you had prepared for the whole hour finishes in just thirty minutes or the other way around, the activity you had prepared for twenty minutes goes on for the whole hour…and so on.

So yes, we do need a whole alphabet of backup plans for our lessons:

A for adaptation. This is the most important of all. Every activity should be able to be adapted on the go.

B for the BBC and British Council Teaching English web page, full of resources and ideas for and from other teachers.

C for creativity, yours and theirs.  Sometimes your students will be the ones giving you ideas to save an activity or to develop it in a way you couldn't have imagined on your own.

D for digital tools. There are many free tools that can give you different ideas for your classes (questionnaires, games, and so on).

E for extra activities and exercises. Ready to go, both for extension and reinforcement needs.

F for FlipGrid. Ask them to upload a video. Always have a Flipgrid lesson open with questions for them to answer. Therefore, you will be able to direct them there when needed.

G for groups. Changing an individual activity into a group activity, even when in the middle of it, will provide new possibilities, cooperative learning is powerful and resourceful.

H for hypothesis. Try to guess a grammatical rule out of some examples or try to understand the meaning of a word from its context.

I for the internet. Our best friend in order to have an ace up your sleeve.

J for jokes. A positive environment, relaxing and fun, is a great way of improving and promoting learning.

K for karaoke. It is always a good moment for singing along and practising pronunciation, rhythm and intonation.

L for lexicon. Word clouds or conceptual maps, both analogical or using some digital tools, are always a great plan B and an excellent way of improving vocabulary knowledge.

M for metacognition. Students have to reflect on their own learning process and their strategies in order to become autonomous and critical learners.

N for negotiating. Empower your students, let them decide what to do, give them some choices and let them choose. They will feel part of their own learning and subsequently they will become more motivated.

O for observation. Observing is one of the most important actions you can do during a lesson. By observing you will be able to take decisions in order to improve the development of a lesson.

P for peer evaluation. This is a very relevant point. By using grids or checklist or any other evaluation instrument they can correct each other. Correcting and evaluating each other is a great opportunity for learning by teaching. It´s not only peer evaluation that should be developed, self-assessment should also be included in order to develop the previously mentioned metacognition.

Q for questions.  Ask them open questions so that they have to do some research or google it. Start a project based on their interests.

R for role playing and reading. These are always great options, for early finishers of for the whole class. In pairs or in groups, they can prepare a role play, with or without instructions, while the rest of the students are still working on other issues. They can also read aloud, in pairs, in groups or to the whole class. Or they can just sit and do some silent reading.

S for summaries and schematic diagrams. Whether your students prefer drawings, flowcharts or traditional written abstracts, summing up and reviewing are always a must.

T for teaching. Empower your students, you know that when we teach, we learn a lot. If they are able to explain something to their classmates, it is because they really understand it.

U for u-learning. Ubiquitous learning gives them the possibility of learning anywhere, anytime. Use mobile devices if possible. There are many wonderful apps available to support language learning that are fun and enjoyable to use.

V for visual thinking. This is a current and fashionable trend. If you can draw it, you really know it (that's what they say).

W for writing. Try to keep a list of writing activities ideas handy so you can refer to them when needed.

X for Xmas or any other special date during the year. You can prepare projects, or a play for any special date of the year.

Y for YouTube. Either by watching a documentary or a specific video or channel or even recording their own videos. Your students could become Youtubers!

Z for zero students without a personalised and fun task to do.

Now you know your ABC, next time come and teach with me.


Ingrid Mosquera, PhD.


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