Six lists that can greatly improve lesson planning

Right! We continue work here at Six Things by, erm, not continuing work but getting others to do it for us! Actually, I’m happy to have another repeat offender here, none other than Hall Houston a fellow teacher, blogger and author. Please check out his website and especially his book Provoking Thought, a collection of thinking activities for ELT (with some really nice ones on critical thinking). Here he shares some lesson planning ideas.

In a previous guest post by Vladimira Michalkova on the Six Things blog, the author suggested keeping multiple intelligences theory in mind when designing homework assignments in order to appeal to students with different needs and interests. As Vladimira put it, “Keep changing the style!”
This gave me the idea of assembling six lists for a similar purpose.

These lists could serve as…

* a reminder of the many things a lesson can contain
* a challenge to be more creative
* a gentle nudge to use a broader range of activities

There is some overlap between the lists, and there are probably many other lists that could be included here.

1. Four skills and Five systems
2. Three macrofunctions
3. Stimulus based teaching
4. Five senses
5. Seven (or maybe eleven) Multiple Intelligences
6. Higher order thinking skills

1. Focus on the basics – the four skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening) and the five systems (structure, lexis, phonology, function, discourse). A good place to start.

2. Focus on macrofunctions – Michael Halliday’s list of three macrofunctions. These are social (for example, exchanging thoughts, opinions, feelings), service (for example, getting information from television, public announcements, or a newspaper and using it), and aesthetic (for example,  reading a poem or creating a webpage) This list can remind teachers to involve students in a wide range of functions to maximize language use.

3. Focus on adapting stimuli – Tessa Woodward’s unbeatable list of five steps for stimulus based learning. This list is recommended for teachers who want to put a little creativity into their lesson planning. Woodward describes five ways of adapting a stimulus (an object, a text, a podcast, a picture) to encourage language practice in class. These are: meeting the stimulus (introducing the stimulus to students), analysis (breaking the stimuli down to its basic elements), personalization (asking students to relate the stimulus to themselves in some way), alteration and transfer (making a change such as reducing, expanding, creating parallels or opposites), and creation (students make something such as a poster or recording). See Woodward’s Planning Lessons and Courses (P. 56-58) for more about stimulus-based learning including some examples.

4. Focus on the senses – vision, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. The first two relate directly to language through reading and listening, and indirectly through use of images and music. The other three provide more of a challenge to incorporate into a lesson. You can bring in realia, food and beverages for students to describe, but a more economical alternative would be to get students to use their imaginations to recall things appealing or unappealing to the senses.

5. Focus on intelligences – Howard Gardner’s Multiple intelligences theory –  The seven intelligences are visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, musical- rhythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. In addition, there are four more intelligences that are not widely accepted , but might make for some interesting lesson ideas – naturalist intelligence, spiritual intelligence, moral intelligence and existential intelligence.

6. Focus on thinking skills – Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation) can help with guiding students through different levels of thinking. The website has an easy to follow chart for ways to exploit Bloom’s Taxonomy in the classroom. (Bloom’s Taxonomy Wheel)

So what’s missing? What lists would you recommend for other teachers? Post them here.

Published in: on April 30, 2010 at 3:25 pm  Comments (15)  
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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I would add the 7 comprehension strategies as written about by Zimmerman and Keene! After learning about them for reading strategies with my faculty, but find I use them all the time.

  2. I love your lists. My favourite on this one is #4. I always give English learners this tip.

    Here’s a list English teachers may be interested in (especially those who stayed up too late reading the debate about the recent conference in Turkey): 10 Tips for Keeping it Simple Online

  3. what about medium as well? e.g. good old fashioned pen on paper, email (in message or with attached word doc), sms, tweets, photo or video, drawing – cartoons, stick figures, pictures, maps, diagrams… comments on blogs 😉 …, voice mail – I?m sure there’s loads more too

  4. Love the idea of the four skills and the five systems. Terms like “macro skills” can confuse teachers when they try to figure out how grammar and lexis fit it.

    I also liked Penny Ur’s take on it on one of her teacher training books I recall using with teachers on an INSET program:

    The two WHATs: Grammar and Vocabulary
    The four HOWs: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking

    Once teachers get a grip on Ur’s categorization here, it would be good to then take it to another level and look at this four skills and five systems interpretation (plus all the other great factors you mention in this post).

    Excellent, thought-provoking stuff – thanks!

    ~ Jason

    • No problem, Jason.

      Ur’s categories definitely belong on this list of lists.

      Some great posts on your blog, by the way.

      • Wow – nice to hear someone actually reads them! Just checked out your site and blog as well – and will be returning to them in future.

        Just out of curiosity, did you self-publish your most recent book and distribute it through Amazon? Looks great, shall look into purchasing it!

    • Yes, Jason, it’s a self-published book.

      • Excellent!

      • Excellent – want to see more people self-publish!

  5. A fabulous and thought provoking post. Thanks Hall.

  6. Thanks Hall. This is excellent. It’s the first time I’ve ever taken notes from a blog!
    Keep up the great work, Lindsay… ahem! 🙂

    • Of course, no problem Eoin. Tough job, but someone’s gotta… 😉

    • Thank you, Eoin! I really liked your articles in It’s for Teachers.

  7. Hi Hall, Lindsay

    Another list of criterea for planning lessons comes from a book I’ve recently discovered called Made to Stick.

    Here Chip and Dan Heath list six ways to make what we present memorable. They are namely


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