One of the things I love when I teach is improvising. Don't get me wrong; I always prepare a lesson plan. But most of the times I don't stick to it. Maybe it's because my students need more explanations or more practice, maybe because sometimes students like the subjects so much and they ask questions or start discussion. I have never considered this lost time.

Today, I will share with you an incident in class (upper-intermediate level), some years ago. We were reading a text about the movie "The Wizard of Oz" which was in the course book. Of course my students got really curious and asked what happens in the end and all these questions that a kid might have when they see a picture of a film! So I quickly did a small research on the Internet and showed them some trailers of the film, answered their questions about the characters, who is who, why things happened and also asked them questions about the witch and the Wizard and Doris and her friends (eliciting adjectives).

We then listened to the soundtrack of the film "somewhere over the rainbow" and I asked them to write as many words of the song as they could and try to make sentences about the film. Students had a lot of fun, working together and producing language. When they had all read their texts, I continued improvising. I remembered about a song (La la la - Naughty By ft Sam Smith) whose video clip was based on the "Wizard of OZ" story, So I played the video and asked them what this video clip had in common with the story of "Wizard of Oz". Students were very enthusiastic about it and started comparing the characters using the adjectives we elicited in the previous phase.

As homework, they had to find the story behind the video (the Bolivian legend and what this had to do with the film) I have to say that students enjoyed this very much. First of all, they didn't have to go "by the book", doing exercises and learning vocabulary. Secondly, they produced language without thinking that this was actually a lesson and the results were awesome. And last but not least, they realised how important it is to understand and use the English language if they want to learn about the world.

As I teacher I can say that I could have planned all this beforehand, but sometimes good ideas come while you are in the classroom. I don't believe that we should always be improvising, but sometimes the language you get from your students in a lesson like this is more language than if you stick to the plan. Looking forward to hear about your time when you ditched the plan.

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Submitted by Theodora Papap… on Mon, 01/28/2019 - 09:48

Thank you all for your comments!!

Submitted by Irene Sushko on Thu, 01/24/2019 - 17:10

I'd say that good ideas OFTEN come while you're in the classroom. You can get inspired by something you've seen on your way to the classroom or something comes up during a small talk or a warm-up activity with your students. And as teachers we better ditch the lesson plan than ignore our students. I once observed a lesson where students watched a video and then the teacher asked if they liked it. She expected a 'yes' answer and instead she got a 'no' answer. She never bothered to ask students what they didn't like about the video but I have a feeling that question could have led to an interesting discussion with a lot of useful language. I shared my own experience teaching completely unplugged in my blog post which you can read here.

I agree that often the best parts of a class are the unplanned ones, and often the ones that students engage with most. Thanks for sharing your experiences of teaching unplugged with us! Best wishes, Cath TE Team

Submitted by Nicola Harrison on Wed, 01/23/2019 - 12:27

I once arrived in my classroom to see all the 14-15 year olds glued to the window, watching a big tent being erected in the adjacent park. It was a small, travelling circus. We ditched the plan and wrote a story 'The Day I Ran Away to the Circus'.

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