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Planning in the SL/FL Classroom

How do teachers plan?

Teachers plan in many ways ranging from micro to macro levels:

Micro planning includes planning a daily lesson or, if trying a new activity or strategy, planning using extensive detail about a part of a lesson.  It serves to clarify a teacher´s goal, acts as a record, and focuses attention on assessment for and of learning.

A lesson sequence requires the teacher to think about the flow or linkage between several lessons.  This may entail foreshadowing some factors and reviewing others.

Unit planning consists of planning a sequence of lessons about a related topic that usually culminates in a special project.  A unit can focus on preparation for a field trip, reading a novel, conducting research, writing a creative composition, preparing a play or presenting a representation of one´s learning in oral and written form.

Teachers should look at what they expect from students over several units or a half semester in order to best scaffold tasks and insure recycling or review of content from previous units between units.  This some times called mid-term planning.

Full semester or year planning requires attention to the fit between the activities of the year and  end of term assessment of learning often through a final oral examination (conducted individually) and written exam.  Planning backwards or backwards by design helps teachers guide students to their destination.

The teacher´s goal is always to build a strong program and this does not happen by accident, especially if the SL is not a compulsory subject.  Even if it is, everyone benefits from the excitement generated when students look forward to attending a course over several years.  Such program planning and promotion entails looking for opportunities for students to:

    • showcase their growing talents (e.g. school concerts, assemblies, meet the teacher evenings),
    • participate in activities unique to the subject area (e.g. field trip to a cultural event, longer term school trip, e-pals or e-twinning),
    • display their work (e.g. posters, a school newsletter, a student newspaper, a student radio program)
    • advocate for the value of learning a SL in the context of building global citizenship
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What types of lesson plans are there?

Lesson planning is a legal requirement for Alberta teachers (and most teachers around the world) and is a primary way that teachers structure student learning in a creative stimulating environment.  A good lesson plan also contributes to effective classroom management and discipline. Two models that are popular in many subject areas are those of Madeline Hunter and Ted Aoki.  Hunter´s lesson plan model was based on several decades of classroom research and consists of eight elements:

  1. Anticipatory set: short activity that focuses students´ attention before the lesson begins (a review question, issues that students need to address such as homework or announcements)
  2. Purpose: the purpose or objective of the day´s lesson
  3. Input: the vocabulary, skills and concepts that will be learned
  4. Modeling: the teacher demonstrates what the finished product looks like
  5. Guided practice: teacher leads students through steps needed to perform the task or acquire the skill
  6. Check for Understanding: teacher uses questioning strategies to determine what students know
  7. Independent Practice: teacher releases students to practice on their own - seat work, group or individual work or homework
  8. Closure: teacher reviews or wraps up the lesson

Aoki´s model has four key elements and is less prescriptive than the Hunter model.

  1. Intents: what the purpose or objective of the lesson is
  2. Displays: what the teacher plans to use (blackboard, overhead projector, power point, etc) to direct the lesson
  3. Activities: what kind of activities the students will be engaged in
  4. Evaluation: what method the teacher will use for evaluating the lesson (homework, quiz, student discussion, project etc.)
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Why use B-SLIM?

While both of these well known lesson plans have merit and offer experienced teachers quick formats to cover many important elements of a lesson, neither integrates the stages of learning that learners go through in learning concepts, nor the need to differentiate for the various rates of learning in a classroom.  Further, neither offers the idea that lessons are distinctly different in structure when they come at different points in a unit plan.  They also do not teach the student teacher all of the things that are considered by the experienced teacher when the 4- or 8- element approach is used.   In short, these models are too unidimensional for the 21st century.  A better approach would help the developing teacher appreciate the many additional factors that must be considered in good lessons such as timing, pacing, sequencing; what students will be doing while the teacher is circulating, monitoring, presenting, setting up equipment, etc.

Furthermore, there is an inherent understanding that each model would be applicable to any subject area.  In teaching second language teachers to teach, a much more complex model of lesson planning is needed at the early stages of learning to plan and hence B-SLIM was born.  Student teachers need to think through how to maximize their and their students' use of the target language, how to integrate authentic resources and culture,  how to communicate with students at an appropriate level, how to offer sufficient and appropriate examples, contexts, and situations and WHY they do what they choose to do.

Watch the video to see how this teacher uses the B-SLIM method for planning.

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How can I set objectives for my students?

While it is important for the teacher to know what will be covered in a lesson, it is more important to know what the student should achieve by the end of a lesson.  Such granularity in thinking helps the teacher prepare resources and set the stage for more complex activities. 

Note the examples in the table below and then add to them.



What the student will be able to do


To listen to a dialogue

Understand a conversation about shopping


To learn/memorize the structure  ‘be going to’

Talk about their future plans


To read an article about designer clothes

Understand the main idea of an article about designer cloths and make a list of pros and cons of buying designer clothes


To learn new vocabulary about sports



To learn to express their own opinion about food sold in the school



To learn to write a friendly letter





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Copyright © Olenka Bilash May 2009 ~ Last Modified January 2011