Course skeletons I love using Dale’s skeleton idea for classes because it lets you create or adapt a basic lesson format which can be used, reused, adapted for different levels, topics, learners etc. This ‘bare bones’ approach also lets you ad on anything in your ‘teacher toolkit’ as it is referred to a lot nowadays.
While, this approach seems great for one-off or general classes, the question of (as with much Dogme-related work) how well will it work in formal/academic situations is another matter. Well, being an ‘all or nothing’ kind of guy I have jumped feet first into this predicament with Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings under one arm, well a copy of their Teaching Unplugged, an assortment of board pens and paper in the other. Trial and error, hit and miss, pass and fail. I’ve probably experienced all of them but now that I’m planning another lengthy uni-level course I am confident that a ‘course skeleton’ works, so here are my ideas on what this involves. It feeds off Luke Meddings’ idea of a ‘back pocket syllabus and aims to reduce course planning to 1/2 pages and with it very minimal lesson planning is needed as you keep an ongoing ‘living syllabus’ from reflections after each lesson which feeds into the next.
The course Plan
1)Clarify what the course is, it’s aims
2)What must be taught/learned
3)How long is it?
4)What would the students like to do?
5)What do you think would be useful?
6)How will it be evaluated?
1 page 3 bubble syllabus in progress
1)Draw a bubble and write possible topics
2)In another language/grammar you think needs covering
3)In the last write a few activities you think would work well Make sure to leave space in the bubbles for later additions+amendments
Write down what sections you would like in each lesson.Such as discussion, writing, language, debate, role-play etc. Try to have about 5 things, So, for me and my new English conversation class I have:
Now, before each class I just arrange/rearrange these as a tentative framework but depending on how the lesson goes I can move them. then I add on my toolkit ideas/activities.
After each lesson add/change your syllabus notes depending on: What works/students like What needs covering more, less What topics/areas would work well in the next class Here’s a sample class:
1)Students watch a video clip (in class or at home)
2)Pairs discuss what it was about and reactions
3)I elicit opinions and then help establish a discussion
4)Groups continue discussion
5)I focus on some areas of weakness on the WB and provide some practice activities
6)I refocus the discussion/topic
7)New groups discuss
8)Pairs write up
As you can see, I used the main elements but extended some of them. In the next class I could choose a topic and actually show a video or give a reading at the end which would help students compare their ideas. In another I could just do a whole class discussion activity or even start with some writing. After this class I would look at my bubbles and add and even change them and then tick of what I’ve done and choose what would be good for the next class. In this way, the syllabus is constantly changing and improving after each class and at the end you have a very concise summary of what has been done, ideal for testing.
Having a basic skeleton helps me keep each lesson similar but different Changing stages helps keep lessons fun and surprising The flexibility lets you choose the next best activity depending how the lesson evolves There is lots of room for personalisation You always feel that you have a plan
You do need to be flexible and let things happen You need to think on your feet A good relationship with your class is important