I read somewhere that the future begins when you start thinking about it. What I mean is if you have a date next week and can’t shake it off as of today, you’re already living the date, even though it hasn’t happened yet. Makes sense to me.
Teachers do the same with their classes. Well, most teachers I know, at least. Some friends of mine plan their lessons one week before, others the day before and a few unplugged fellows check their lesson plan a bit before the actual lesson begins. The fact is they all live their lessons before they teach them, that is, they work with anticipation.
When we plan a lesson, we don’t just plan what will happen. Top priority is to anticipate what may or may not happen! What if you don’t have electricity and planned to have a video? What if students haven’t done the homework and your lesson depends on that? Or in a class of 10 students only 2 showed up and you had a debate in mind??? Yes, s*** happens, and we must be prepared! Not only for the wrong turns our class may take but also for the unpredictability of the human beings inhabiting our classrooms.
So, the question remains: “Can you predict the future?”
A well prepared teacher can ‘anticipate problems’, which is in a way, yes, predict the future. We have to have a Plan B and a Plan C. With some groups a Plan D is welcome too.
The first thing to say here is ‘don’t let students anticipate your lesson’. What’s the fun of watching a film if you already know everything you’re about to see? Then my reminder n.1 is this – surprise students. If you always begin by checking the homework, try a different route and tackle homework at random moments, bearing in mind you need a backbone for your lesson – otherwise it will look like patchwork and students will get lost.
Reminder n.2 is ‘think out of the box’. Do you really need that video? What can you do if you can’t have it? Will a story sub for that well? When you stop and think, you many times realize that you can do without a lot of material and there are alternative ideas to get to the same destination. The savvy teacher will always know two very different ways to teach the same topic.
Have you heard the saying “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”? This is reminder n.3. Never plan believing your students will learn after the first explanation. I’m sure it is possible, but what if…??? Have a second and a third way of explaining ready just in case and every time you explain, do it in a slightly different way. Use visuals, gestures, write on the board, point, mime, provide examples using students’ lives, likes and dislikes – they will certainly understand better if it involves them.
‘Always test-drive’ is reminder n.4. Check if the pieces of a game are all there, if instructions are understandable, if the video quality is good or if the CD player is working properly. Needless to say, you must listen to the pieces and do the exercises yourself, to know if our dear learners will be able to perform the task. What if they find it too difficult/easy? Better safe than sorry. Make notes of important information to be passed on to students. Can’t memorise? There’s nothing wrong with reading. Truth is, don’t leave it to chance, because a badly planned lesson may completely disorganize your teaching for the whole term.
A last reminder: learn a few jokes. When none of the above helps, a good laugh can work miracles.