In this lesson we are going to learn ….
Aims of lessons and why we should identify them
What we want students to learn or be able to do by the end of a lesson, a series of lessons or the whole course?
Aims concentrate on different things. For example, they can focus on a function or a grammatical structure, on the vocabulary of a certain topic or even on developing a language skill. Sometimes aims do not always focus on certain areas of language especially in the case of young students. For example, the aim of a lesson could be listening to a story for fun or encouraging more positive behaviour towards the foreign language.
To recognize and choose the most suitable aims, it is necessary for us to ask two questions of ourselves. They are:
What do my students know already?
What more do they need to know?
Finding the answers to the above questions will aid us in ensuring that the aims are the correct ones for a certain group of students at a specific time.
Main aim, subsidiary aims and personal aims
Have a look at the table below. Can you find out the differences between the following three types of aims?
To practise making polite requests in the context of making holiday arrangements. Example: exponent: Could you give me some information about hotels?
Grammar: to revise modal auxillary verbs.
Functional exponents: Could/Would you…?
Vocabulary: to consolidate lexis for travel, accommodation.
Phonology: to focus on intonation.
Speaking: to give controlled oral practice.
To improve my organisation of the whiteboard; to give clearer examples.
The first steps when planning a lesson are identifying aims and selecting them. Once this is done and the teacher has decided on the aims of the lesson, she can choose the most suitable activities for the lesson and put them in the order which is best for the students’ learning.
She can also select the most appropriate teaching aids to carry out the lesson (teaching aids are the materials and things we use to support our teaching). Once the lesson is done, the teacher can look back to check whether the aims have been achieved or not and whether the lesson was successful or not. This aids the teacher in choosing the most suitable aims for the lessons that she will be teaching in the future as well.
Main aims (like the ones given in the table above) are used to describe the most crucial thing that we want to accomplish in a lesson or a series of lessons (sequence) e.g. sometimes, we might want students to gain full understanding of the new language and practice using it.
We may also want them to reinforce or consolidate. This means to make stronger the use of the language that they already know and to do this by practicing further or revising what they have already learned. When drawing up a lesson plan, the main aim should include an example of the language we are targeting and planning to teach.
A lesson may sometimes have a main aim and subsidiary aims.
These convey the language or skills that the students must be able to use properly to achieve the main aim of the lesson. Having subsidiary and main aims in the lesson is a good method of ensuring that the lesson plan we have made concentrates on what we need to teach our students; what we want them to learn or what we want them to be able to do.
It helps us to see how the lesson should go, how it should develop from one part to the next, building up the student’s skills or knowledge in the most appropriate order.
As teachers, we would also find it useful to think about our own personal aims. Personal aims convey what we would like to build up on or concentrate on in our own teaching. Here are some examples of personal aims:
To encourage and get quieter students to answer questions and be more forward in class.
To get the students to work with different partners.
To write more legibly on the black/whiteboard.
To remember to check and recheck instructions.
To use the phonemic chart more (the phonemic chart is a poster with phonemic symbols on it)
The nerd baby says ....
The syllabus (which is the course programme) and or otherwise the coursebook gives teachers a general guideline for planning their teaching. It is necessary to consider students’ needs and the point they have reached in their learning when deciding on particular aims for a lesson.
Personal aims can be identified and chosen in a similar way. This means by looking at previous lessons that teachers have taught and taking into account the things that worked well and the things that they want to further improve.
Teachers must not mix up aims and procedures. Aims show what the students’will learn or what they will be learning to do with the language whereas procedures are what both teacher and student do at each stage of each lesson. An example of a procedure is listening to an audio recording and answering questions about it.
Aims should be general but not TOO general. Aims that are more specific might be for example ‘to introduce and practice the past simple for talking about ones’personal experiences’or ‘to give students further practice in predicting content, scanning for specific information and/or guessing meaning from context.
It is not a good thing to plan to do as much as possible in one lesson. The lesson plan and the amount of work the teacher plans to cover depends on the lesson of the lesson and the level of the student’s learning.
It is important for the students to know what exactly the lesson is going to be about, otherwise they may find it boring. Its helpful if the teacher announces her aims or writes them down on the board at the start of the lesson. It would be useful if she repeats them at the end of the lesson as well.
All students like to know why they are doing certain things. Nobody likes to do something without knowing why they are doing it or what the purpose of their doing it is. To explain the aims of the lesson to younger students, the teacher should use very simple language and pay special attention to explaining the things they will do in the lesson and the language knowledge they will gain from it e.g. “Today we are going read a story and learn how to describe things in English”.
Test your knowledge
The table below contains procedures and subsidiary aims. The procedures show a series of activities for a lesson. The main aim if developing intermediate students’confidence and skill in informal conversation. The subsidiary aims have been given in the wrong order. You are required to arrange them in the correct order so that they match with the right procedures.
1. Students move around the classroom to find students with matching halves of sentences.
A. to give students fluency practice
To practise using target language in a meaningful context
2. They talk in pairs about what they find difficult in listening to informal conversation.
B. To develop peer correction skills
3. They hear an informal conversation and identify speakers, place and situation.
C. To listen for detailed information
To focus students’ attention on target language
4. They listen again and fill in missing phrases in the transcript.
D. To practise gist listening
To create a context
5. Repetition drill: students practise key phrases. Pairs practise simple two-line exchanges using key phrases.
E. To get students actively involved
To put students into pairs
6. Pairs write and practise their own conversation from role cards, using key phrases where possible. Several pairs perform and record conversations.
F. To give students confidence in speaking through controlled practice
7. Class comment and suggest improvements to grammar and vocabulary.
G. To review the whole lesson
To give the teacer feedback
8. Students discuss what they have learnt.
H. To raise awarenemess of what the lesson aim will be
To encourage personal involvement
Here are some comments from teachers. Read through them carefully. Which of them would you agree with and why?
I usually find out my aims while teaching the lesson. At times, I find out only when the lesson is done.
My course tells me exactly what my aims should be and I follow it exactly.
Students are not interested in knowing about aims. They just want to go through the lesson and get it over with.
To answer questions 1-7 (lesson summaries), match them with the lesson aims (A-H). There is an extra one which does not need to be used.
Students take mixed up parts of text and arrange them in the correct order. The teacher concentrates on conjunctions, time expressions, pronouns, etc. Students are to make notes on a topic which is similar and then they have to provide similar text.
Students are given a town map to look at. They have to discuss what the best route is to get from the station to a certain hotel. After this, they listen to a dialogue on a cassette and compare their route with the one in the dialogue on the cassette.
Students get into pairs and read dissimilar texts about the duties of soldiers. Then, they swap the information about it. Each pair works together to make lists of rules for soldiers. They use must, should, doesn’t/don’t have to.
Students have to come up with vocabulary and ideas on the given topic. Then, they have to get into groups and draft the text for a leaflet. The leaflet is to advertise their town to tourists. Then, the groups of students exchange the texts to make corrections or make suggestions as to what improvements can be made.
The students are given a dialogue to listen to. They listen and identify the tense that the speakers are using to talk about some future arrangements. The teacher checks the understanding of the students. Students then do repetition drills. They practise using the structure in a role-play which is guided by the teacher.
Students get into large groups to come up with ideas on dissimilar roles. Then, they form new groups to have a discussion which is role-based. This discussion is monitored by the teacher.
Students are given some pictures to which they have to match words and build up word maps. They then compare and develop these. Then, all the students work as one to come up with entries for a class dictionary.
A. To practise listening closely for detail
B. To practise writing for a communicative purpose
C. To train students to learn in an autonomous way
D. To give the students a chance to practise their oral fluency
E. To revise and consolidate vocabulary
F. To present and provide controlled practice of the present progressive
G. To revise and practise modal auxiliary verbs
H. To raise awareness of how to join sentences and paragraphs
Meet the Author
Noel has helped thousands of English learners, online and offline, during his 12+ years of coaching. His coaching includes a wide variety of English language courses for young adults, adults, teachers and business professionals. He is a former IT student, whose IT career was crushed with a passion for English. Finding a new career path as an English language coach was destiny.
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