Plan B

One of those days …

You know the kind, where nothing really works!  I had planned to use an infographic in class with my high school students. We’re coming towards the end of the course and I wanted to do something that’d give the students more writing practice (that’s what the course is all about) but also get them thinking about learning English in general and hopefully motivate them to continue studying after they leave high school (the end is very close!).

Brad Patterson had tweeted a great link to an infographic about why it’s important to learn English. I was about to print it off when I realised I’d lost the link 😦 . My browser was playing up and I couldn’t find it in my history.  But no worries there, a quick message to Brad and back it came (thank you Brad!).  I was about to print it off (our classroom is no-tech, all chalk dust and paper) when I remembered that our printer had given up the ghost the night before. Again, no worries, I’d print it off in the staffroom.  But as it seemed to be turning into “one of those days” as I walked the 15 minutes from home to my class, I started casting around for a plan B … something on the same theme … something that could come from the students … just in case…

And, of course, sod’s law, the computers were down!  Time for Plan B to take shape.  I sat in the classroom, waiting for the students to arrive, and quickly jotted this down on a piece of scrap paper.

If you click on the image you’ll go to a walkthrough on voicethread where I try to retrace the planning process. But if you don’t want to stop and listen (and I understand, sometimes reading is just that much quicker!) I’m going to paste in an email plan below as well. But first a few words about how the lesson went in class …

Basically, it didn’t!  I waited ten minutes, fifteen minutes, no students. I went in search of them. They were doing an exam.  Oh well, there was always the second class – same year, same exam, same lesson.  But again I waited. Five minutes. Ten minutes. No students. Again I went in search. This time I found empty classrooms.  I asked in the staffroom. They’d all been called to a meeting.  So, no classes.  No Plan B after all.

Use it the next lesson, I hear you say. The only problem being that the next lesson is the last lesson and we’ve got something a bit different planned for then.  So, it looked like Plan B might go to waste.  Never one for throwing a (potentially) good lesson plan, I emailed it to the other teachers teaching the same level. They might be able to use it.  Here’s what I wrote:

Here’s the lesson plan that I didn’t get to use!

1 brainstorm school subjects in pairs/groups

2 write these three categories on the board:

1 would like more of    2 would like less of    3 new subjects  (ie ones they’d like to add to the curriculum)

get Ss to board answers under the three categories (my idea was to  do the usual everybody to the board with chalk in hand scrum)

3 on strips of paper students explain why they wrote their word  where
they wrote it (ie why they want more/less/new subject) –  correct and collect in strips as they write – give fast finishers a  second strip to write about a second subject if necessary.

4 read out some of the sentences without giving the subject – Ss  guess  the subject and then discuss if they agree/disagree

5 Write this composition title on the board:

Our current school system does not prepare students for the real  world.


Allow for a brief discussion of the question in pairs if you want –  or
delay till after the next step.

Analyse the question.  Ask them to underline the nouns/noun phrases.  I
was then going to ask them to discuss these questions:

1 the real world : what is the real world today?
2 students:   what preparation do the students need?
3 school system: is it true that is doesn’t prepare students?  what  needs
to change?

6 After whole class feedback on each question ask them to write a
sentence summarising their answers to each one.  I think I’d do this
after each question to break it up.

7 on the board elicit this shape for the composition:

1 intro: the real world and the prep students need
2 school systems at the moment, why and how they’re failing students
3 what changes need to be made
4 conclusion

Of course this is assuming that all ss agree with the statement!  If  they don’t then they can offer an alternative essay structure.

8 using the summary sentences from stage 6 ss work in groups to  complete the composition.

with the slower group I think I’d have skipped stages 3 and 4  – not  sure
though – might have skipped second part of 5 and 6 – obviously  it’s all
very pick and choose!

If you use it, let me know how it goes!

I don’t know if anyone else has used it yet, so, in response to a request from Alan Tait for more ideas for writing lessons, I decided to post it here as well, and as I said in the email, if you ever get to use it, let me know how it goes!

This entry was posted in lesson ideas, thoughts on teaching and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Plan B

  1. Every teacher has one of these experiences!
    But you are so creative – this lesson won’t be wasted!

  2. Ceri says:

    Thank you, Naomi 🙂

  3. Alan Tait says:

    Thank you Ceri! 🙂

    This is a lovely plan which I will definitely use, and soon.

    If you think of how many students:

    a) need to learn how to write essays
    b) are in school
    c) are going to work in the education system, or
    d) have an opinion about education,

    it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll be able to use it again.

    And you had a couple of paid hours free, so look on the bright side.

  4. Ceri says:

    Hi Alan!
    Thank you 🙂
    I guess I just didn’t want to lose it in a mountain of scrap paper.
    Love the way you see the bright side of things!

  5. Sandy Millin says:

    Hi Ceri,
    Great lesson idea. Seems like a good lesson for summer school – many of our projects involved talking about school and education. I’ll bookmark it for then, and let you know how it goes when I get round to it.

  6. Ceri says:

    Thanks, Sandy, look forward to hearing how it goes. Maybe even see a couple of student scripts?
    Hope your bus trip goes well this weekend 🙂

  7. Linda Impastato says:

    Hi Ceri: I’m a friend of Sharon Hartle. I read about the critical thinking session on her blog today and followed the link from there to here. I teach conversation in high schools and so I am always looking for new ideas to compare my own to, but also if I’m in a pinch; have no time (or more likely and additionally) am having a dark moment when no energy or ideas are forthcoming. I am going to try your lesson plan on Wednesday with a group of students in their last year of high school who are preparing for the TOEFL exam. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for sharing.
    Linda Impastato

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