The Basics of Course Planning

As the new academic year comes closer, many of you will be starting to plan your upcoming courses. Educational courses are usually governed by the basic principles of Curriculum Design and language courses are no exception. These principles included, among other things, the following:startup-593327_1280

  • Course goals
  • Course objectives
  • Course materials

However, for many in the English Language Teaching world course design isn’t an integral part of planning and preparation, though it probably should be. Most language teachers simply receive a coursebook from the school and are told to teach it over the course of the year.

The teacher who takes the coursebook and divides it up according to each month of the academic year has already taken a significant step in the right direction. However, this can be taken a little further.

How should a simple language course be laid out? What are course aims? Where does a coursebook fit into a course syllabus? These are some of the questions this post will try to address, so keep reading…  Continue reading

Lesson Aims in Dogme ELT

I was first introduced to the concept of Dogme ELT a few years ago. It was a very foreign concept to me at the time, but its attractive promise of an Materials Light approach was invigorating. This was at a time when I wanted to make lessons more Learner Centred and I wanted to spend less time on Lesson Planning in order to spend more time on the learners and on my Professional Development.

Source: Scott Thornbury’s blog

As you can probably imagine, Dogme seemed to offer all of that and more. Its only requirement was a group of learners and a knowledgeable teacher. Although since then I have learnt far more about the English language then I could have ever thought possible, at the time I felt confident in my understanding of the mechanics of English linguistics.

After purchasing the seminal piece on the topic, Teaching Unplugged by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings, I immersed myself into the world of dogme-esque ideas, activities and approaches.

Since then I have completed further training, including a course in Advanced Methodology, a Teacher Training certificate, and the Cambridge Delta, all of which has led me to re-evaluate my beliefs and principles about teaching and learning.

As a result, I have found myself coming back to Dogme, with varying results. However, I think this time I have come to a principled conclusion about going materials light. Continue reading

Whiteboard Aims & Objectives: Why Lesson Menus don’t Work

Over the last few weeks, the topic of sharing lesson aims and objectives with learners has cropped up several times. I was recently having dinner with my brother, who is a member of the senior faculty at a British secondary school, when we got on to the topic of lesson aims and objectives. It is an understatement to say he was surprised and shocked to learn that some ELT teachers don’t share aims and objectives with learners at the start of the lesson.

The topic has cropped up several times since and I have come to notice there are two schools of thought: those who believe in sharing lesson aims and objectives with the learners, and those who don’t.

There are arguments for and against sharing lesson aims. This post will consider both sides of the coin. Continue reading

A Day in the Life of a Coursebook: lesson aims

Currently, I am doing the International House Certificate in Advance Methodology (short: IH CAM). It’s generally seen as a stepping-stone towards Delta Module 1.

It’s one of the heavier modules and it looks at the learners in terms of their ‘needs’ and ‘learning styles’. In short, it’s about how to establish what the learners need to learn and which approaches would best achieve this. What should follow would logically be a curriculum personalised to the group in question.


For the vast majority of ELT workers, the situation above is a beautiful dream that isn’t going to happen any time soon, as curricula are very often provided by schools. Although you may be allowed to diverge from the curriculum here and there, generally speaking you need to follow it.

So, by following the prescribed curriculum, which more often than not is the contents page of a course book, that should mean you’re doing your job correctly, possibly even well.

However, unfortunately in most cases, looking at a double-page spread of a course book and ‘figuring out’ how you will deliver it does not equate to a successful lesson.

Continue reading