How I Structure A Lesson – Receptive Skills Lesson Part 1

There is a basic structure to these lessons, whether reading or listening, and I have to say I haven’t modified it much since finishing DELTA in 2002, so it must have some value, if only to me. My action research project this year has been to look at how I structure lessons over the full length of a 2.5 hour lesson block, and this is quite interesting – in a training course, you work on a structure of a one hour lesson covering the stages, in real life this is rarely the case. That said, on DTE(E)LLS I look at the section of lesson observed as a section alone, rather than as a standalone chunk of lesson (as long as there is a lesson plan for the whole thing, enabling me to see how the teacher has planned the whole sequence). I seem to take two approaches here – one where I stretch the stages with more in them, the other where I string two or three “lessons” together to make a coherent whole.

Anyway, the structure is roughly this.

  1. Warmer/Intro
  2. Pre-Teach &/or Focussing Activity
  3. Read/Listen for Gist
  4. Read/Listen for Detail
  5. Follow up activity

It’s not much more complex than that, really, it works well, and has some degree of success. It is borne out by most of the literature on this, (I’ve never read anything which is dramatically different to this). I do feel that if any of the early stages are missed (meaningful, topic related warmer & pre-teaching/focussing task) then the learners are really disadvantaged. The theory behind this is that of schema ( – that we should activate schemata – the general knowledge and awareness behind and around a given topic  – to enable learners to better able to understand what it is they are reading or listening to. The other point here is the concept of top-down knowledge and bottom-up knowledge – we need to activate the top down knowledge (i.e. the wider knowledge, the knowledge of how the world works and the topic in question) as well as support understanding from the bottom up (processing sounds, symbols and words, and being aware of the structural rules that link them together).  But what is really interesting s what goes into these stages and how they are mixed around. There was no big jump from one stage to the next, and instead they all blurred and morphed into one another, much more organically than a cold plan would suggest.


To help illustrate this I’ll refer to two real lessons I taught last term. The first was with a group of beginner-E1 students, doing a listening lesson on going to the doctor and making an appointment, the second lesson was with Level 1 students, doing a reading on and offline about the snow which had recently closed college for a week.


To be continued!



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