In my previous entry, I named the first common mistake: planning too much. The second is just the opposite: planning too little. Perhaps you underestimated your students’ ability to assimilate the material. Perhaps you overestimated the time needed for a communicative activity. In any case, here are some suggestions for dealing with too much time and too little material:
- Raise the bar and add a new but relevant challenge. Let’s say the lesson topic is indirect speech. Students have already demonstrated that they can make the necessary changes in verb tenses, pronouns, and reference words. Why not challenge them to use a variety of reporting verbs since so far they’ve only used the most common ones: say, tell, and ask? Work with them to develop a list of alternatives, and then modify an exercise completed earlier in the lesson. [Examples: state, remark, mention, exclaim, shout, advise, suggest, wonder, inquire…]
- Add in a review. Tie the present topic to a previous one. For example, the lesson topic is gerunds as subjects and objects. Have you covered infinitives as subjects and objects? Compare the two. Are the students familiar with noun complements or appositives? Show how gerunds can serve in these roles. Your review doesn’t have to be limited to the same skill area. You can also review yesterday’s vocabulary lesson by identifying all the verbs in the list, forming their gerunds, and then constructing sentences. Or perhaps you recently had a writing lesson on parallel structure. Show them how gerunds can be used in a series, a compound subject, etc.
Remember that additional planning can always be done in class. You may realize halfway into the lesson that you’ll have about 15 minutes left to spare at the end. If you don’t already have an exercise or activity planned that requires students to work independently of you, then modify one. You need a few minutes to yourself to prepare for those last 15 minutes. A good lesson is a prepared lesson, but not all of it is necessarily prepared before class. A good lesson is a flexible one; it allows the teacher to evaluate and modify as needed.
(To Be Continued)