I just came back from a surprisingly interesting workshop about using the whiteboard effectively. While I never did learn how to write in a straight line while facing the class, there was an interesting discussion about whether or not teachers should write up the aims of their lessons on the board.
I have to say, I’m pretty vehemently against it for a number of reasons but maybe I’m overstating the case and should just relax. Anyways, here are my reasons against pre-boarding lesson aims and stages, and I’d love to know what other teachers think, especially those who find the practice useful.
- Breathing space – I think most teachers would agree that lessons should be dynamic, have some degree of freedom/learner autonomy, and that lesson plans should be flexible (for many teachers this is putting it mildly!). If this is the case, then why needlessly constrain yourself? What happens if it’s more useful to spend longer on something at the start of class or to change the language focus?
- Student reactions at the start – The other day I walked into my Spanish class and saw that we were going to be looking at Part 2 of the Reading Paper for my DELE exam. Great. This definitely dampened my enthusiasm right off the bat, even though I know that it’s necessary practice. Would it have hurt to have led into it gradually? A little mystery isn’t such a bad thing after all…
- Student reactions at the end – Assuming you’re not a militant with a stopwatch and don’t quite make it to where you had expected, how are the students meant to feel? They can see that there was something else planned and might well feel like they’re missing some crucial course content that never got covered (one of their grammar mcnuggets is missing from the box!). I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to avoid that scenario if at all possible.
I suppose the argument is that some students like to know in advance what’s being covered in class as it helps to organize their own notes and study habits. Fair enough, but isn’t it possible instead of writing up the lesson contents and aims at the start to write them after having completed the stages? This way whatever you decide to focus on is fine and the learners still end up with a written record of what went on.
So teachers, what do you do and why? And what should I tell my trainees?