Ch6. The Structure of a language lesson
A lesson is an event which is recognizable with ease due to its setting, participants, activities, and structure etc. Especially, structure is what makes a lesson identifiable from other events. Each lesson has a certain structure based on several factors such as goals, objectives, student’ cognitive and proficient level. The act of organizing lessons into sequences is referred to as structuring, and it is usually comprised of four stages: opening, sequencing, pacing, and closure.
The opening of a lesson includes all the procedures employed in order to draw attention from students, usually the very first five minutes, and thus carries significance in terms of how much students get interested in and learn from the lesson. Depending on lesson purposes, beginnings vary: lesson beginning can include a time to review what was learned in the previous lesson so that a smooth link can be formed between the two consecutive lessons. It can also start with giving out a short quiz over the topic soon to be covered in the lesson. It is certain that beginning reflects what a teacher thinks about the lesson. In addition, the purpose of lesson decides what activities and strategies will be employed. It seems safe to say that the main function of lesson openings is to let students guess what is going to happen in the lesson, and thus prepare for it
The next stage of structuring to consider is sequencing. Sequence is referred to as a format of a lesson which includes all the activities to be conducted in the lesson in order to attain the main lesson objective(s). Teachers usually develop their own formats of lessons, and the more experienced they are, the more consistent their structuring is. Transition is another important factor to consider. In order for learning to be effective, teachers need to clearly demarcate activities, and make smooth transitions from an activity to another so that the momentum of the lesson will not be stopped or lost in the middle of a class.
Pacing is the extent to which a lesson moves forward with its momentum intact. Teachers need to plan and decide how much time should be assigned to each activity, and those decisions have a lot to do with interaction since students’ engagement and attention need to be kept undamaged throughout the lesson. That is why there is usually variation in activities in a lesson so that students can stay active and positive. Pacing is usually under the teacher’s control, but sometimes it should be negotiable and controlled by students in times of need.
Closure literally means concluding parts that bring a lesson to completion. This state usually serves three purposes; to reinforce what has been covered in a lesson, to review the key content, and to prepare students for further learning in the near future.
Overall, creating a lesson is not an on-the-spot, improvisatory event, but a well thought-out
Therefore, teachers ought to take the four stages in consideration in a comprehensive way to achieve a well balanced-out lesson.
The structure of a language lesson
All language lessons run in a specific way. First they start with a short review of previous learning. Next they present a short statement of goals and new material is introduced in small steps while students are practicing after each step. Then there should be clear and detailed instructions with explanations. Students should be given a large number of questions to check their understanding. Also teachers give systematic feedback and corrections if needed and lastly, all students should do some exercises and obtain responses from them. The term structuring is presented in this chapter. There are four dimensions of structuring: opening, sequencing, pacing and closure.
Opening means how a lesson begins. Lesson beginnings serve a lot of purposes. They can help students cognitively such as to help learners to use their previously learnt knowledge. Also lesson beginnings can establish an appropriate set in students or they can work as pragmatic contribution such as for students arriving late. The purpose of a lesson beginning will decide the kind of activity that the teacher would use in a lesson.
Sequencing means how a lesson is divided into segments and how they relate to each other. The sequence of small activities makes the format of the lesson. Teachers should remember that simple activities (receptive skills) should be placed before complex activities (productive skills). In situational language teaching, the lesson should follow the format of: 1) presentation, 2) Controlled practice, 3) free practice, 4) checking and 5)further practice. In communicative language teaching, the following should be used: 1) pre-communicative activities and 2) communicative activities.
Pacing means how a sense of movement is achieved within a lesson. Teachers should monitor students’ involvement in activities and decide when to stop and move on to another activity before students loose their attention.
Closure means how a lesson is brought to an end. The lesson should end with summarizing, reviewing key points, relating the lesson to goals, pointing out links between the lesson and previous ones, showing how the lesson relates to students’ real life needs, making links to a forthcoming lesson and praising students for what they have achieved during the lesson.
Week7: Richards and Lockhart(1996), Chapter6
The structure of a language lesson
I reflected on the structure of my own lesson. According to the book, there are four parts of the structure: opening, sequencing, pacing, and closure. I evaluated my structure of English through 9 questions on page 113 to 114. I could answer 6 questions positively. On the contrary, I found that need to improve giving clear and detailed instructions and explanations, and providing a high level of active practice for all students. However, I’d like to give myself credit for designing the lesson including reviewing the previous lesson, stating a goal, developing new material, checking time for students’ understanding, and providing systematic feedback.
First, as for opening, I strongly agree with the idea of Wong-Frillmore (p 116) about the formulaic starters. I choose the formulaic starters because when students know the procedure of the lesson, students can guess what is next even though the teacher explains the lesson in English only. The formulaic starters reduce students’ anxiety.
Next, I got some useful tips from this chapter about sequencing: simple activities before complex ones, receptive skills before productive skills, accuracy-focused activities before fluency-focused ones, and mechanical activities before meaningful-based activities. However, I am not sure I agree with his opinion that students should study a grammar rule before trying to use it.
About pacing, the most useful information is how to reduce the transition time between activities. It’s very important to maximize time for activities. In elementary school, I spend much time getting students’ attention. During transition time, I feel pity when high level students finish their work quickly and wait for others with doing nothing. It is very meaningless time. I am thinking of letting high level students review their lexical notes between activities.
Lastly, in the stage of closure, there are seven components for effective closure: summarizing, reviewing, relating, pointing, showing, making, and praising. However, I think two check-ups, linking between the lesson and previous lessons in closure and showing the relationship between the lesson and students’ real-world needs, are better for opening. After checking the seven strategies, I found that I am weak at making links to the following lesson.
As a result, this chapter makes me reflect upon my strong points and weak points and on how to improve upon my weakness.
In chapter 6 of Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms, Richards and Lockhart (1996) give insight to the readers about the structure of a language lesson and put emphasis on the four dimensions of structuring a lesson.
The first dimension is opening of a lesson. According to Richards and Lockhart (1996), how to begin a lesson is very important in that lesson beginnings can help learners to relate what they learned in previous lessons to the new lesson, assess relevant knowledge, establish an appropriate “set” in learners, allow “tuning-in” time, and reduce the disruption caused by late-arriving students. These can be the different purposes of that a teacher sets in opening a lesson and these different kinds of purposes will determine which kind of activity or strategy the teacher uses to begin the lesson. For example, if my purpose, as a teacher, of the opening of a lesson was to relate what they have learned in previous lesson to the new lesson, then I could use the strategy.
The second dimension of structuring is sequencing. A language lesson is usually consisted of more than one activity and the activities are put into sequence in order to achieve the overall goals of a lesson. This chapter provided me with good principles that I could reflect on my teaching practices. I learned that simple, accuracy-focused, and receptive skills involving activities should precede the more complex, fluency-focused, and productive skills involving activities. Another important thing that I learned was the importance of transitions between the activities. According to Doyle (1986), skilled teachers mark the onset of translations clearly, orchestrate translations actively, and minimize the loss of momentum during these changes in activities.
The third dimension of structuring in lessons is pacing. Pacing refers to the time a teacher allocates for certain activity. This is one of the interactive decision making since it depends on different situations during the class. It is important that the activity is not too long to bore the students or too short for students to not feel any satisfaction on the activity.
The last one is closure. When closing a lecture, a teacher can reinforce, integrate, and review the things learned in the lesson and prepare the students for further learning. Richards and Lockhart (1996) introduce some of the strategies which help teachers achieve closure: summarizing, reviewing key points, relating the lesson to the lesson goals, linking present and previous lessons, relating to students’ real-world needs, linking to next lesson, and praising students for accomplishing the lesson.
This chapter gave a chance to reflect myself as a language teacher and ask some questions to myself such as: How do I open my lessons? How do I have the activities sequenced? How is pacing achieved in my classes? How do I close my lesson? How effective am I in structuring my lessons?
The structure of a lanaguage lesson
The chapter 6 gave me a chance to reflect on my lesson based on four dimensions structuring.
The first dimension is openings. Richards and Lockhard illustrated a few ways to open a lesson. Among them what I liked was to describe the goals of a lesson, point out links between this lesson and previous lessons, review learning from a previous lesson, and preview the lesson. As Richards pointed out, the purpose of a lesson beginning determines the kind of activity. Thus, I usually start off my lesson with asking questions about concepts and key points of previous lesson. And then I try to activate their schema for the day’s lesson. After that, I try to make a connection between the previous and this lesson if possible. However, for the GEP class, each week deals with different task based activities so it is not always possible to make a link one another.
The second phase is about sequencing, which requires delicate planning for effective learning. If a teacher fails sequencing, students may suffer to solve the problem. According to different types of teaching methods, the sequencing could vary. However, it is most important to be reminded that in any case of teaching approach, more controlled, accuracy-based activities and things that require receptive skills should precede the more free, fluency-based, productive activities. As Jooyeon, one of our classmates mentioned about the significance of transition through the reflective journal, this chapter once again reminded me of the importance due to its influence to the students’ attitude and concentration. As Doyle (1986) pointed out, skilled teachers mark the onset of transitions clearly, orchestrate transitions actively, and minimize the loss of momentum during these changes in activities. Also he said cuing and interactional negotiation can play as signals the beginning of a change, the reorientation of focus or the beginning of a new segment. From the next lesson, I should keep this in mind when planning the lesson.
The third dimension is about pacing, which allows teachers to make many interactive decisions during the class. Richards explained that pacing is the extent to which a lesson maintains its momentum and communicates a sense of development. In my private teaching practice, I tend to push my students to finish up the tasks or exercises that I provide since young learners’ concentration doesn’t last long and they get easily distracted. This rapid pacing seems to work well so far but for the higher level or more aged group who can maintain their focus for a fairly long time, I think adjusting pacing according to the activities is needed.
The last dimension, closure, refers to those concluding parts of a lesson which serves to 1) reinforce what has been learned 2) integrate and review the content of a lesson (1996). I always try to work with summarization of the day’s lesson with my students before assigning homework. Thus, I try to repeat as many times as possible what we learned through main lesson, closure and the next openings.
To sum up, this chapter taught me the importance of structuring a lesson based on each dimention, which at the same time asks myself to check on my own teaching practice for an improvement.
This chapter deals with what elements compose a lesson. It proceeds through a series of teaching and learning activities and they reach a conclusion. This pattern of structure or organization is a result of the teacher's attempts to manage the instructional process in a way which will optimize the amount of learning that can take place in the time available (Richards and Lockhart, 1996).
The first part of a lesson or the opening of a lesson consists of the procedures the teacher uses to focus the students' attention on the learning aims of the lesson. It lasts only about 5 minutes, but it seriously influences on how much the students learn from a lesson. Lesson openings are necessary to help learners to relate the content of the new lesson to that of the last or previous lessons, assess relevant knowledge, or to establish an appropriate set in learners. It is great to start the lesson with a short review to provide additional opportunities to learn previously taught material and allow the teacher to provide correction or reteach areas that students are having difficulty with.
Another dimension of structuring in lessons is how each activity is sequenced to attain the goals. The structure or sequencing is different according to the underlying methodologies of the teacher’s or what type of lesson it is. In dividing a lesson into sub-activities, the teacher also needs to consider the transitions between one sub-activity and another within a lesson. Effective transitions help maintain students’ attention during transition times and establish a link between one activity and the next.
Deciding how much time to allocate to each sub-activity of a lesson is another important issue to consider. Pacing is the extent to which a lesson maintains its momentum and communicates a sense of development. I speculate that it is closed related the issue of time management. Decisions related to pacing are important aspects of interactive decision making, since teaching involves monitoring students’ engagement in learning tasks and deciding when it is time to bring a task to completion and move on to another activity. Teachers should avoid needless or over-lengthy explanations and instructions and select activities of an appropriate level of difficulty. It is better to set a goal and time limit when planning a lesson.
The final phase of a lesson serves to reinforce what has been learned in a lesson, integrate and review the content of a lesson and prepare the students for further learning. I used to skip this part running out of time, but whenever I used certain closing strategy, the next time when I meet the students, they have better retention or understanding of the previous content.
In conclusion, a lesson should be carefully structured to facilitate the student’s learning.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.