Planning

Lesson Planning

The ULAT’s Table of Contents presents the lessons and topics dealt with each year. In order to complete the study of all the lessons for a particular year, it is assumed that the teacher has 180 class periods per year with the students and that those classes last at least 45 minutes. By looking at the quantity of yearly lessons found in the Table of Contents, teachers can get a good idea of where they should be in their work with students at any point of the school year.

As for the creation of specific lesson plans for a particular week or month, since the duration of class periods varies from school to school and since student comprehension and mastery will be different from one classroom to the next and from one school to the next, no single, specific schedule can be provided. However, the ULAT suggests a sequence of activities that takes into consideration the “four pillars” (effective curriculum, first person sharing, storytelling and cross-cultural relationship building) of the successful world language program and ensures that all of these elements are present on a regular basis.

The 5-Day Lesson Plan Sequence

When a new grammatical or vocabulary topic is introduced in the ULAT, there is a sequence of activities a teacher does well to respect. For a detailed explanation of each of these steps, see “Detailed Explanation” below. Otherwise, here is a simple explanation of one week’s routine:

Day 1: Use a “hook” to introduce the new vocabulary or structure, relating it to your own life, and then show the lesson’s instructional video (or make your own presentation).

Day 2: Drill the students on the lesson’s gestures and exercises for oral participation credit.

Day 3: Continue drilling the gestures and content, then move into open-ended discussion, for oral participation credit, which enables the students to connect the content with their own personal lives.

Day 4: Testing and preparation for storytelling or cross-cultural relationship building activity.

Day 5: Storytelling or cross-cultural relationship building activity.

Detailed Explanation

Day 1: Hook and Presentation

A “hook” refers to an activity that captures the students’ attention and into which the new topic of study has been interwoven. Ideally, teachers will engage in first person sharing in creating this hook. Teachers select an aspect of their lives to reveal to the students, possibly in the format of pictures built into a PowerPoint presentation, for which the use of the structural element or vocabulary topic will be repeatedly required. For example, when presenting elementary vocabulary and present simple verb conjugation, teachers can reveal general information about themselves in the form of a PowerPoint presentation touching on where they live, the composition of their family, activities in the home, likes and dislikes, hobbies, preferred forms of entertainment, etc. When presenting daily routine vocabulary and expressing time, teachers can show pictures of themselves going through their daily activities, at home and at school, with the time of day inscribed on the image.

Click below to download the sample presentations:

SELF-PRESENTATION

DAILY ROUTINE

Once the “hook” has caught the students’ attention, and the students have the idea as to the sense of the vocabulary or structure they have been hearing repeatedly, teachers can then move into the particular ULAT lesson presenting that topic. Either by means of the lesson’s introductory video or with their own presentation, teachers then expose their students to the specific set of vocabulary words highlighted in that lesson or to the composition of the grammatical structure. If dealing with a grammatical topic, while referring to the sample sentences within the ULAT lesson, teachers may want to help students’ visualize the syntactical element by means of a kinesthetic representation of structure (KRS). Accompanied by the teacher, the students silently “sign” the sentences, combining both the gestures they have learned with the KRS to represent each sentence’s meaning. Next, the teacher and students return to the beginning of the section and this time verbalize the sentences while still performing the KRS. Finally, without using their hands to form either the gestures or the KRS, the students then return once more to the beginning of the section and verbalize the same statements.

Click HERE to see a sample lesson plan from a “Hook and Presentation” day.

Day 2: Drilling

Now that the sense of the vocabulary or sentence structure has been conveyed on Day 1 of the sequence, it is time to develop the students’ ability to use the new elements to express themselves in a guided fashion. They are not yet ready to engage in first person sharing, but rather will be led to develop their linguistic reflexes today before beginning to apply their new knowledge to self-revealing statements on Day 3.

On a “drilling day”, the keys are time on task, repetition, acceleration and accountability. To maximize time on task and the repetition of new skills, half of the class is immediately sent to their workstations. Their computer’s browser has the class home page as its default home page and thereby, once the browser is opened, the students immediately see their assignments for their time of independent study and are provided a link taking them directly to the ULAT activity.

The other half of the class works directly with the instructor, who reviews vocabulary, gestures and any appropriate KRS and practices the section(s) of the lesson that will be the focus of the oral participation session during the final portion of the class period. While practicing the section with the students, a good technique is for the teacher to verbalize aloud the thought process of a typical student trying to come up with the proper sentence structure. Teachers can even temporarily feign errors in thinking, and then correct them in order to help students visualize the proper thought process.

After the two groups exchange positions and perform the identical activities on the computers and with the instructor, the teacher brings both groups back together for an extended oral participation session.

Click HERE to see a sample lesson plan from a “Drilling” day.

Day 3: First Person Sharing

Up to this point, with the exception of the teacher’s personal sharing about his or her life on Day 1, the only element of the four pillars that has been come into play is that of “effective curriculum”. Thus far, the focus of Day 1 was to convey meaning to the students in a visual fashion, with no recourse to the learners’ native language nor to the written word, in order to facilitate a thought process consistent with that of the native speaker. On Day 2, the goal was to begin cultivating “linguistic reflexes” in the students. Now, on Day 3, the teacher seeks to personalize the curriculum, leading the students to employ their new skills to engage in “first person sharing”. In this way, the teacher enables them to see the language as a valuable real world tool of personal significance to the students.

While half of the students practice the online tests found at the end of the lesson in question, teachers formulate a question or set a task that leads the students to use the new vocabulary or sentence structure in sharing information about their lives. Teachers do this by first setting the example and sharing information about themselves. Then, in the context of an oral participation session, teachers ask the students a leading question about themselves or they show the students a picture or series of pictures that suggest topics of personal application on which the students can speak. Here are some examples taken from ULAT lessons:

  1. Teachers show their students the images in lesson 1.50 and, after sharing about their own life, ask their students questions such as “Where do you live?”, “Do you have brothers and sisters?” “What do you do to help out at home?” “Do you play/like sports?” “Do you watch television (a lot or a little)?” “What kind of music do you like?” “Do you play an instrument?” “What languages do you speak?” “Do you like animals and do you have any pets?” “What general likes and dislikes do you have?” “What do you like to read?” “How do you get to school?” “Do you have a lot of homework?” (Unit 1)
  2. How is your family like or unlike the Richardson family (fictional family presented in readings starting in Unit 2)?
  3. What makes a good father or mother? (Unit 2)
  4. What is your daily routine and what would you change if you could? (Unit 2)
  5. What do you imagine that the other members of your family are doing at this very moment? (Unit 2)
  6. What is a (minor) problem you face in your life and how might you resolve it? (Unit 2)
  7. What things (occupation, family, location, etc.) do you anticipate about your future? (Unit 2)
  8. What makes a good boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife? (Unit 2)
  9. Describe a person who has had an important impact on your life. (Unit 3)
  10. How are you feeling at this moment? (Unit 3)
  11. Describe the people in this photo from some significant moment in your life. (Unit 3)
  12. Describe the appearance of the outside of your home. (Unit 4)
  13. Using a PowerPoint of images taken within your house or apartment, give us a guided tour of your home. (Unit 4)
  14. What chores do you do at home and what do other family members do?
  15. What are things that you never/rarely/sometimes/often/always do after school, on weekends, with friends, etc.? (Unit 4)
  16. What are commands, orders and instructions you hear from your parents on a regular basis? (Unit 6)
  17. What did you do last night? (Unit 6)
  18. Tell us about significant events (birth, moving from one home to another, changing schools, achievements, obtaining a driver’s license, starting to play a sport, learning a new skill, etc.) from your life story. (Unit 6)
  19. Tell us about one of the most exciting/scary/funniest things that ever happened to you. (Unit 6)
  20. What places do you visit when you go to town and what things do you do there? (Unit 6)
  21. What you do like and don’t like about your town? (Unit 6)
  22. What is it that you appreciate about your parents and friends? (For example, What kind of things do they do for you?) (Unit 6)
  23. Have you ever…(fill in the blank)? When? Where? Why? (Unit 7)
  24. Describe the most beautiful natural setting you have ever seen. (Unit 7)
  25. What kinds of things did you do when you were young that you don’t do anymore? (Unit 7)
  26. When you went to bed last night or got up this morning, what were the other members of your family doing? (Unit 7)
  27. What is best vacation trip you have ever taken? Explain why. (Unit 7)
  28. Make predictions regarding the future of each of your classmates. (Unit 8)
  29. What things do your parents/friends do that make you happy or angry? (Unit 8)
  30. What would you do if you had a million dollars? (Unit 8)
  31. What would you change about your life if you could? (Unit 8)

In anticipation of the next day’s transition toward storytelling or relationship building, teachers either show their students the next 10-minute excerpt of the movie they are watching in the target language or present them with an assignment they will be performing as part of their cross-cultural exchange with a school located overseas.

Click HERE to see a sample lesson plan from a “First Person Sharing” day.

Day 4: Testing

In addition to performing one-on-one testing with their students, teachers now begin to involve them in the final two pillars of a sound foreign language program: storytelling and cross-cultural relationship building. As the 5-day lesson plan sequence repeats each week, generally speaking, the ratio between these two pillars should be about 3:1, with Days 4 and 5 being devoted to storytelling for three weeks per month and cross-cultural communication taking place every fourth week.

Teachers face two great challenges in classroom management when it comes to Day 4. First, if teachers orally test students one-on-one, what do they do with all of the other students in the class to ensure that they are gainfully occupied? Secondly, if one has 20 to 30 students in the classroom, how can the teacher possibly test each one individually in a class period of, say, less than 60 minutes’ duration?

As for the first challenge, the key is holding students accountable for their use of time before and after tests. Actually, this is easier than one might think. Prior to being tested, students are intensely focused on preparing themselves for the testing situation, particularly if they know it is going to be carried out in the presence of observing classmates. Following the testing situation, if given an assignment on the computers about which they will be interrogated immediately upon the last test having been completed, and if class participation is heavily weighed, their focus on the task at hand is enhanced and the chance for distracting behavior is diminished. The second challenge, that of completing one-on-one testing in a single day, is handled by means of the well-organized rotation described below.

In random fashion, it is determined which student will be tested first and half of the class following him or her, automatically determined by their order in the seating chart, is seated in order in chairs in the front of the classroom. The other half of the students are sent to the computers where they are given time to study a lesson on the story viewed at the end of the previous class or to prepare a task for their cross-cultural exchange.

Four of those students, including the first to be tested, sit in the first row. While the first student is being tested, within earshot of the half of his or her classmates waiting to be tested, the test is being projected on the classroom screen. In this way, those waiting to be tested are watching the test, mentally practicing the skill being tested and hearing the brief feedback their classmate is receiving from the instructor.

The green circle above represents the teacher who, sitting next to the students in the first row, evaluates their performance in order, one at a time, while the students in the back two rows watch the test and listen to their classmate’s performance and to their teacher’s brief feedback to each one. Those at the computers work on their storytelling or cross-cultural assignment.

When all 4 of the students in the first row have been tested, they rotate to the computers in the back of the room. Four of the ones, who had been on the computers, move forward to observe the testing process, and those who had been watching rotate forward to be tested. Having a chime to ring, one that quietly indicates that students are to rotate, facilitates a rapid, peaceful, seamless transition.

The red arrows show the rotation that occurs after a group of four students has been tested. Once the first four students have been tested, they rotate to the independent study area and begin their storytelling or cross-cultural exchange assignment on the computers. Students nos. 13-16 rotate to the last row in the instructional area and the two rows in front of them rotate forward.

The image above shows the new positions of each student after the first rotation. (Note the numbers to see their new positions.) After the next four students have been tested, the same rotation occurs, except with students nos. 17-20 coming forward and then, finally, after the next rotation, students nos. 21-24.

Another key to the speedy processing of tests is for teachers to immediately begin the timed test for the next student as soon as the previous student has finished being tested. In this way the next student is not allowed to delay the transition in any way, thereby increasing the chance that all of the tests can be completed in a single class period. Optionally, teachers can also terminate a test early if they see that a student has clearly mastered the material, thus saving time and accelerating the process of test-taking.

As soon as the last student in the class has been tested, the teacher rings the chime calling all of the students back to the front of the room and immediately opens the oral participation session regarding the content of the story or displays student work on the cross-cultural exchange activity* that students were ostensibly carrying out on the computers in the back of the room during the testing session.

*To be able to rapidly display student work on the classroom screen, each student needs to have a folder on the school’s server which only that student and the world language teacher can access.

Click HERE to see a sample lesson plan from a “Testing” day.

Day 5: Storytelling or Cross-Cultural Relationship Building

The fifth day of the lesson plan sequence is devoted entirely either to a storytelling activity (probably 3 times a month) or to a cross-cultural project (once a month). If the focus is on storytelling, on Day 3, an excerpt from a video was shown. On Day 4, the students saw a lesson leading them to recall the content and work with the new vocabulary from that excerpt. On Day 5, their task is to retell the story to their instructor and, in the process, to respond to his or her questions. The teacher displays the video to the class, cued to the start of the particular excerpt the students have seen, and show them its key scenes. The teacher can simply ask them questions about the scene, however a richer activity is to have the students try to retell the story to their teacher. This can reveal some rather hilarious misunderstandings on their part about the story’s plot, especially if the teacher strings the students along and goes along with their misunderstanding, but their inaccuracy is of little consequence. The story, after all, is just a pretense to get the students to speak while doing so in an entertaining fashion. In time, the teacher can reel the students back in and explain to them the reality of the plot.

If the focus of Day 5 is on cross-cultural relationship building, the teachers use their students’ projects (PowerPoint presentations, e-mail, voice recording, etc.), or those received from their exchange classroom, as the topic of discussion for class that day, again treating all discussion as an oral participation session. For example, click here to listen to an average first year American student of Spanish recounting his daily routine for his Mexican cultural exchange partner. Once the teacher has played the student’s recording for his classmates, the teacher directs questions to the students regarding their classmate’s daily routine and how it differs from or resembles their own. Even richer is to play the corresponding recording of the student’s counterpart in Mexico because it allows the students not only to discuss the Mexican young person’s daily routine, but also to hear a more authentic accent, to note how he drops the subject pronoun, in contrast to the American student, and to learn how the life of a Mexican student differs from their own. Even if the Mexican student records his routine in English, the students can still benefit as they again learn cultural facts, empathize with his challenges in learning English and then can discuss in Spanish what they have heard.

Click HERE to see a sample lesson plan from a “Storytelling or Cross-Cultural Relationship Building” day.