There is no one best lesson methodology for teaching English.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any methodology at all. If you leap out from behind the photocopier, grab a teacher and demand they explain their activity selection and sequencing, they usually can’t (but they do sometimes question your sanity for hiding behind photocopiers).
They claim to use an ‘eclectic’ or a ‘post-methods approach’. What rubbish (mostly).
What’s really happening is that these teachers happen to know some fun activities that require minimal planning and that fill time.
Most don’t know that different methodologies are suited to different types of learners, or that they’re different tools for different occasions. Tools that can make your classes smoother, more enjoyable, and more valuable to your students (and easier for you).
Once you do know that, then you can start adapting them – you have to know the rules before you can break them.
Lesson Methodology Example
Same question, two different responses:
“So why have you decided to do these activities here and here?”
Teacher 1: “Er, well, they’re good activities that get them talking a lot.”
Teacher 2: “Well, the activities force the students to use the target lexis in small groups, which gives me time to assess what the students can and can’t use at the beginning and also at the end of the class. It’s basically a Test-Teach-Test approach, as they’re quite a weak class with some discipline issues. Doing it this way allows me to make sure they’re learning, whilst still having a communicative class with fewer classroom management problems. Also, if there is a problem with weaker students not keeping pace, it gets highlighted straight away, not just when we have a formal test at the end of each unit.”
Would you pass the photocopier test?
Different Lesson Methodologies, Different Tools
Now, the following is just from my experience. Your experience may differ (and please tell me in the comments!)
Good for beginning teachers. Gets lots of criticism from ELT authors, but does the job. Good for younger and lower level students that need lots of structure and support.
Engage-Study-Activate (ESA) / Authentic Use-Restrictive Use-Clarification (ARC)
Basically, these are Present-Practice-Produce v2.0. Good general all round approaches, for all levels and ages.
Good for weaker classes that need structure, and classes with classroom management issues. Gets old fast with higher level classes.
Task Based Learning (TBL)
Some academics don’t consider this a ‘method’, but they can get lost. One of the best ways to structure an activity and a class. Harder to do for lower levels and very young learners (but highly rewarding when you do).
Good all-rounder, and good to have context featured up front and explicitly referred to.
Dogme Comes in ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ flavours. Incredible way to build connections and motivation with students. Basically, no materials needed. Burn the coursebook. Experienced teachers only (just an excuse to slack off for newer teachers).
The Lexical Approach
OK, so this one really isn’t a method. But it’s good to use some of the principles for all levels for teaching lexis – basically, remember to teach lovely chunks of language in context, not just individual words.
The Silent Approach
If you need more information about each methodology, ask your peers, academic manager, or just Google it.
So what has this got to do with lesson planning?
OK, all of that was a long way of saying; choose the right method for each class. That simple.
Good luck, and let me know your preferred methodology in the comments.