Cathy’s Challenge: Planning a Lesson the DTE(E)LLS Way

The course I teach on (the Cambridge DTE(E)LLS) uses a form for teachers to give a rationale for what they are doing. @cathywint dared/challenged me to use it for the next post as structure, so here it is. I’ve pulled the headings from the proforma, and written comments, some more formal than others, although that was one interesting reflection: having the clear, specific headings made me (at least at first) write much more formally here.

I would like to dedicate this post to every teacher I have trained in the past, and those who will train in the future, with an apology for putting you through this!


Class Profile

Without too much detail, for privacy reasons, but just to give an idea: mixed nationality beginners group, many on the cusp of E1, but one proper beginner, and several with post beginner literacy levels. They are enrolled on an ILG which means that we are using a RARPA process to assess their learning rather than a formal exam/ assessment. That will do for a public blog, I think.

Lesson Aims

To present and practice a number of different uses of simple sentences starting “I am…”

Lesson Objectives

(I keep meaning to change this to Learning Outcomes, but never mind)

  • Learners will be able to write at least three sentences of at least three words beginning with the words “I am…”
  • Be able to say (obviously) at least three sentences of at least three words beginning with the words “I am…”
  • Be able to read a short text and extract key details

The observant among you will note the lack of core curriculum references. I could find them quickly enough, I could make them  up (more likely), but what does it demonstrate? That I know there is a core curriculum? That I can type the hopelessly difficult to type codes? I can see the value of the core curriculum but sticking the codes on everything is not it.

How objectives will be assessed

The first objective will be assessed primarily through teacher feedback on the appropriate work produced, as although peer feedback would be ideal, it can be challenging for a beginner group. I will attempt to do this, but the is a distinct possibility it won’t happen very well.

The second will be assessed through the activities designed in the session. The learners will be required to say the sentences in order to complete one of the tasks in the session, and therefore successful completion of that task,and the eicdence produced therein, will stand as assessments information.

The final learning outcome will also be assessed through task design: learner will match images to appropriate sections of the text, peer assess this with teacher support, and successful completion of this will enable me to identify whether or not learners have, on this occasion, been able to do this. Of course, it would take a much more complex series of activities over several weeks of lessons, then checked later in the course to indicate whether or not they could consistently do that, but there you go. It does tick the box of “achievement” and at this late stage of the course, all we have time to be interested in is success rates, not producing reliable or valid assessments.

In assessing these outcomes, the principles of assessment for learning will be applied: integral to the task is the understanding of the language involved, and therefore the role of feedback from either peers or teacher is to consolidate learning and move that learning on.

There will be no formal assessment in this lesson.

Course fit

The session fits into a sequence of lessons developing a “Facebook” page showing personal details and other personal information in that sort of layout. See scheme of work for more details.

Anticipated problems/solutions

I will be relying on learners being able to come up with their own ideas for some of this lesson, but I am very aware that there are one or two learners who may not have sufficient English to do this. I will have to ensure that I spend extra time with those learners. I will probably use a version of the language experience approach and try to extract the relevant language, then scribe it for them to copy.

The initial activity will require learners to “have a go” with the language. I can see this not working, but I want to give the learners the opportunity. Due to the different levels, I will keep this as a whole class activity: so as not to put too much pressure on the very beginners in the group: let them hide a little and just listen to the language. I’ll definitely encourage the group to make a note of their ideas at this stage, by writing on the board and letting them copy. If it does somehow take off into small group discussions, as I would like, then that, of course, will be brilliant.

Techniques / Methods

The whole lesson is broadly organised along the structure of task based learning: there is an opportunity to try the task (i.e. the main LO) , before being exposed to and analysing the language as produced by a native speaker, and then going on to do the task again. In a normal TBL structure the language produced while doing the task should be analysed, and this language would be ungraded, but I have decided to adapt this so that the text also works as a model for this very low language level class to use where necessary.

The final tasks will represent the task itself: writing and creating the sentences which will form a complete task. I have already outlined where the language experience approach will be used here, but by creating the texts and taking part in a follow up speaking activity, the learners will have demonstrated understanding and management of the language.

Although the learning outcomes suggest some rigidity to the structure of the texts to be created, I will also be encouraging learners to create their own language based on their own ideas. A central aspect of this lesson is the learner driven language: any and every opportunity for learners to create and demonstrate a wider range and breadth of language than that expressed as a learning outcome will be utilised if possible. Therefore I can see that some learners may wish to produce a present continuous structure, for example, in which case I will present this as a “chunk” rather than focussing on breaking down the structure. This is owing to limited time available for this kind of work, and it would also be inappropriate for all learners in the group to analyse language of this level: drawing on the concept of chunking and the idea of grammar as lexis suggested by the Lexical Approach. The overall thinking behind this is to take advantage of affordances (John Sutter, Second language acquisition and the contexts of UK ESOL, in Paton & Wilkins, 2009) rather than purely centring the lesson on simplistic outcomes. This would in turn help develop the learners abilities in noticing (ibid) to make them better able to learn in the environment outside of the college.

Materials / resources

There will only be two resources:

The first is to support the activity as the learners as they come in and to form them up into groups: a series of collocations from the previous week with the pictures of the language: learners will be matching the collocations with the images, reusing images and language from last week so as to enable learners to recap in their folders on what they covered.

The second is a simple text about me printed in the middle of an A3 sheet and images to match the sentences on the text. This will enable learners to have a clear text, but also the use of images rather than comprehension questions is more appropriate for a group of this level: reading comprehension questions for a text would be as hard as reading the text itself, and therefore would detract from the main reading activity. I don’t want the learners to need the questions explaining, I want them to be able to understand and read the text.

The lack of other resources should encourage learners to draw on their own reserves of understanding and to give wider opportunity to create their own language. There will be dictionaries in the room, and I have been encouraging and developing dictionary use for the group as a study skill for their progression into an Entry level context.


Paton, A &Wilkins, M. 2009. Teaching Adult ESOL: Principles and Practice. London, Open University Press
Hedge, T. 2000. Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom. Oxford: OUP
Lewis, M. & Hill, J. The Lexical Approach. Brighton: LTP

And here, for your delectation, is the plan. It’s an outline rather than a full on plan, but with only half an hour to go and (now) on the fourth revision, I figure I better leave it be.


Warmer: adjectives: today it is … Discuss. Think of a word, add opposites. Etc.

Warmer 2: distribute small pictures (clip art). Learners have to find partner with the same picture. They then get a full set of pictures, and work on identifying the vocabulary associated with the picture (“What can you see?”)

Try to complete the sentences for themselves using the prompt “I am…” on the board.
At this point the lesson could go in a number of directions. If learners are successfully completing, it might be worth exploring use of present tenses continuous to describe people (using individuals in the class)

If not, then look at an example text, and, using the pictures, match them to the text in the appropriate places.

Elicit onto the board what can follow “I am…” to centre on nouns (I am a teacher…) and adjectives (I am tired…) plus I am from.

Then a little light analysis: what can we say after “I am…” elicit ideas from the class, and classify on the whiteboard: adjectives, nouns and “other”. Don’t include headings at this point, but rather elicit what the words / phrases have in common (like the nouns will probably all have articles.)

Then move on to practice: set task: write three things abt self starting I am… Get stronger learners and early finishers to add further sentences until all have at least three. One or two learners especially will benefit from doing some proper error correction.

Then fold papers in half and hand in (no names on)?

Review question form: using my text, elicit structure of questions, include wh- questions if necessary / appropriate.

Redistribute papers. Check ss understand what their new sheet says, then mingle and find whose paper you have by asking questions. I’ll definitely need to support some ss with this with some supportive pairings.

Then extend to he/she is. Come back to normal seat and find out what your partner knows. Discuss ideas, check what people have found out, and ensure stronger pairs are encouraged to discuss in detail.

Finally write up texts formally with stronger learners writing more.

Self Evaluation to follow!



  1. Your descriptions and rationale seems quite, can’t think of the right word, angry? defensive? ridiculing of having to explain yourself? Lots of “of course” and slightly sarcastic explanations?! Maybe that’s just how I read it. Anyway….. I would to see a reflection or evaluation of you using the paperwork.

    I don’t think I ever went into as much detail as you just have…. oops!

    1. I think ridicule with a touch of defensiveness would be about right. What’s interesting there is that the first draft which I started on the way home was pretty straight. It was only when I came back to it today when what I could probably describe as my natural cynicism kicked back in. I think I get defensive as soon as I start to put boundaries around things, like using a proforma, and I reckon a third draft would be a more nicely balanced piece. But I also wanted to make it clear from the style that I wasn’t writing it as an exemplar. Of course I could have just said that at the start!

      I did just look back through it and take out a couple of the spikier bits, so if anyone is looking and thinking debzif is being a bit harsh that’s why

  2. Very comprehensive, though I got a bit lost in the detail in your techniques and methods.

    Like Debbie, I’d be really interested to see your evaluation. Did your beginner learners really manage to all write a sentence and read someone else’s? In my beginner classes there’s be at least two who wouldn’t be able to.

    Thanks for sharing this – really good to see it from the trainer’s side.Now if you could just write an exemplar for each of the assignments….

  3. bit upset that my inital reply got deleted, so apologies for a delayed reply and here is a very quick summary of what I said (much more eloquently I must say) earlier

    Why the inital ridicule/defensiveness? You have undertaken the overall project as a challenge for yourself, so you see this as part of a learning journey for yourself. The rationale for the DTELLS has a dual role in the course I think – initally it is about the process of learning and the feedback we provide supports the trainees with this. However, at the end of the course it is evidence of the product of learning (which is why the last 2 lesson obs have to be to standard) Does the defensiveness come because this wasn’t a challenge at all for you? Or you don’t want it to be viewed as if it was a challenge – ‘cos of course you can do this stuff easily?!

    You are very open and honest about how you view yourself as a ‘teacher-as-learner’, and this blog is evidence of that – so why the reaction to this challenge?

  4. A lot of the original comments (it’s now a little tamer) are if anything a reaction to the way in which courses reflect wider systems: things like “have you included all the curriculum references”, for example,
    I was also pretty spiky about timings, and again, that is a question that I have about timing, and the role of timing in a lesson plan. I’m definitely not perfect, but then for me of more importance is pace over timing and being over-prescriptive about timings these days just gets on nerves.

    And I have to say that if you had seen some of my assignments for the CELTA Module 2 (back in 2006/7) you would not be at all surprised by some of the spikiness! In fact they are still in a folder in C226, so you could have a look and see.

    In some respects I was putting myself back into the shoes of being a learner on the course, and so perhaps a lot of the memories I have of being in the position of being quite knowledgeable about a lot of the content and largely going through the motions (I was quite an obnoxious learner at times I remember), and a particularly arrogant version of me – amazing what having children can do to you. I remember doing and having to be serially reminded to ensure that the last session’s development points were included in my “personal objectives” box.

    And there is a little of me questioning the value of the exercise, as such. I kind of go into that in the evaluation post that followed. Not questioning the doing of the exercise – it was quite illuminating, not least in noting that in several respects I am still the arrogant toad I was very capable of being in 2007. And also that I am a bad reflector, perhaps.

    Plus there is also the sense of playing to a crowd here – it’s a public blog post not a formal observation record. And mostly it is pretty straight and sincere, and there is something about that process which makes me want to undo this straightness. I need to (metaphorically) scowl and snipe. Please feel free to apply whatever psychological analysis there you prefer. (see there I go again.)

  5. Hi Sam,
    We think that you should use Brookfield’s model of reflection principally because it encourages you to put yourself in the varied shoes of your students, colleagues, and of educational theorists.

    The model tries to make you aware of the different perspectives that a variety of people have on the lesson you teach and, as equality and diversity is so important, it helps you tick that box too!

    As it is so important to make sure classes are ‘learner centred’, this approach makes you ask yourself how profitable or useful the lesson has been for each learner.

    It may be a fairly complex model in that you need to have a good imagination but it also helps to guarantee objectivity, mainly so that you don’t only think about your own personal opinion of lessons.

  6. Because this model uses a description of the activity or the incident and you can think about you feelings and thoughts at that time.
    The evaluation tells you what was good and bad about the experience

    After the evaluation you analyse the incident and see what sense you can make of the situation..
    Conclusion makes you think of other methods to make them work well.
    You then include this into you action plan.

    Use this to inform your teaching. And reflect again. This is a never ending cycle.

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