How to teach an all-day ESL classOnce in a blue moon (or more) you may be tasked to teach the same group of ESL learners all day. It might not happen very often, but it does happen. For example, I taught a daily six-hour program at the Samsung Corporation in South Korea for three years. The class members enrolled for a 10-week English intensive course program. So, each day, we met for class from morning to afternoon. After every cycle, a new batch of ESL learners began another term. It was definitely challenging, but I discovered a way to manage such situations that you might be able to use. I’ll share below some insights I learned for developing a syllabus to manage all-day ESL lessons with the same class members.

1. Have a Plan

With all-day classes, you can’t wing it. It’s just too mentally and even physically exhausting to do that. Trying to conduct lessons for six hours at a time without a plan is a disaster waiting to happen. To avoid the drain, develop a system. In other words, sit down and write out a schedule of what you are going to do each day, and each hour.

It needs to be something you can refer to daily to give you the foundation for what you’ll be doing. By coordinating your activities into a modular-type system, you can package each hour differently. This helps you tremendously and provides something for learners to refer to as well. It eliminates the surprises and inconsistencies associated with not having a plan—for everybody.

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2. Integrate Lessons for All Areas

Instead of thinking about how to teach, for example, a conversation class for six hours, teach six types of lessons for one hour. Don’t attempt to consume the day with one type of ESL learning activity. Create a syllabus that involves the four macroskills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Then, integrate the technical areas such as vocabulary, structure, and pronunciation development.

By providing variety in your all-day classes, you’ll be able to create a kind of multiple vitamin and mineral supplement for learners. I often equate it to my old public high school days in the U.S. where we would change classes every hour (e.g. first period was history class, second period was English class, etc.). In doing this, you’re able to maximize and efficiently use the time you have each day.

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3. Change Gears

It’s not a good idea use the same teaching style or the same methods or approaches. Although the idea of individual learning styles is criticized as being an incorrect hypothesis, we can still learn from the concept. Teachers tend to rely on certain ways of teaching (e.g. a preference for lecture, a preference for activities, a preference for using images). But learners can get tired of learning the same way for extended periods of time. So, it’s always a good idea to mix your all-day class with different delivery methods. By doing that, you can help ensure there’s something each hour and each day for everybody.

Putting It All Together

When all three points above are combined, a sample weekly syllabus might look like this:

Time

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Hour 1

Greetings and  Small Talk or

Weekend Chat [1]

Greetings and Listening Activity

Greetings and Listening Activity

Greetings and Listening Activity

Fun Day [10]

Hour 2

Phonetic / Intonation Drills [2]

IELTS Preparation Activity [7]

IELTS Preparation Activity

IELTS Preparation Activity

|

Hour 3

Grammar Point [3]

Grammar Point

Grammar Point

Grammar Point

|

Hour 4

Vocabulary Building / Pictionary [4]

Vocabulary Building / Pictionary

Vocabulary Building / Pictionary

Vocabulary Building / Pictionary

|

Hour 5

Read Aloud Activity [5]

Read Aloud

Read Aloud

Read Aloud

|

Hour 6

Movie or Series [6]

Topic-Based Discussion [8]

Fun / Group Activity [9]

Fun / Group Activity

|

[1] Assumes you’re teaching week begins after a weekend or other two-day holiday break.

[2] Emphasis on an isolated weak point demonstrated by the class or peculiar to the culture.

[3] Emphasis on an isolated weak point demonstrated by the class or peculiar to the culture.

[4] Matching images or actions with words from select pages of a picture dictionary (in a fun way).

[5] With comprehension checks and discussion from set pages of a select text (e.g. a comic book, a simplified pocket book, etc.). End-of-discussion feedback covers technical areas (e.g. vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar issues).

[6] A clip only with comprehension checks and discussion. End-of-activity feedback covers technical areas (e.g. vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar issues).

[7] Focusing on one of the four sections. This could also be TOEIC, TOEFL, or OPI depending on the particular needs.

[8] Can be alternated between video clips, a discussion textbook, or other topics. End-of-discussion feedback covers technical areas (e.g. vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar issues).

[9] A class activity such as “Which Place,” “Daily News,” “My Timeline,” “Stranded,” or other.

[10] To provide a break from studies, I liked having a fun day each week. This involves anything from a sports day, where English terms are taught and used, to a field trip (if possible). After field trips, I would usually assign a writing activity where class members would talk about their respective experiences. After a sports day, they would be too exhausted to write anything. So, we would just talk about it the next class meeting during small talk time.

As you can see in the example above and in the elaboration, there is variety here. However, at the same time, there is stability. This gives learners a fixed schedule and the ability to prepare for what comes next. You can repeat the cycle each week. But, of course, you’ll need to update the lesson targets or text page numbers. And, as should be our practice, be sure to mix generous amounts of anonymous feedback into each hour.

LESSON PLANNING 101: HOW TO DEVELOP MEANINGFUL ESL LESSONS

Wrap Up

There may come a day when you’re called on to teach the same group of learners for an entire day or period of time. Therefore, these suggestions will help you make it through the day, and will aid you in planning an entire week or weeks’ worth of lessons. The takeaway is to be sure to have a plan, change gears, and put it all together. Of course, it goes without saying (but I must), you’ll want to take breaks between sessions.

Let us know if you ever have this experience and share how it went. Also, if you used the ideas here, you can tell us if it worked for you. As always, feel free to share with us any requests you may have for future blogs.

Recommended Reading:

6 ELEMENTS OF AN AWESOME ESL LESSON PLAN

PLANNING A SERIES OF LESSONS

TESOL: HOW TO TEACH ENGLISH GRAMMAR USING A P-P-P LESSON PLAN

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