Visual Plans:Lesson Plans of the Future

Last year I began teaching in our 100 hours online TESOL training course using Blackboard Collaborate. I have tutored before using skype, zoom, and google hangouts, but running a full class (15-18 students) with an active whiteboard, PPT, polling, videos, breakout rooms and full student participation left me feeling like the man behind the curtain in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ My only savior during this time was the visual plans that the coordinator created for the course. A visual plan is like a lesson plan except that is has an extra column for a screenshot of what the WB should look like by the end of that topic. Dual coding is key for ESOL students, especially in content-based instruction, but aside from the obvious elements, t can be difficult to know ‘what else to put up there’ while submerged in the radio silence that can be online teaching. Having that extra visual helped me to know exactly what to scaffold and how; I t also gave me some ideas for cueing, polling, and other interactive techniques to check comprehension, push output and keep them from falling asleep. I was having so much success with the visual plans in the online world that I decided to take the idea onto dry land. This semester, I incorporated a few tidbits of visuals in to my lesson plans and next semester I plan to do it a lot more. The major difference is that in the online classroom I can quickly and conveniently take a screenshot of the WB, while in a live classroom I have to stop the class and take a picture. I have found myself mumbling everything from “It’s just so nice! I want to remember it forever,” to “I am going to use this on my blog.” One bonus about the modern times that we live in is that students often take pictures of the WB themselves, and then I can just ask them to send it to me. Since the WB is often a mixture of student as well as teacher work, it has been nice to have the visual record to refer back to and next semester I am going to create a shared google drive folder and ask student to drop all WB snapshots into it. One particular lesson that really needs a lot of WB mark-up is our lesson in week 5 about Lexis. In this week we introduce to students the idea that words are much more than isolated parts of speech, definitions and pronunciations. Using the word ‘dog’ I build a brainstorming web around it and ask students to think of every word, phrase, place, things, situation, etc. that they think of when the think about the word dog. What results a is a massive(it can cover the board if time allows) cluster of all the ways that dog is actually used, including idioms and collocations, which supports the concept that we have to teach words in use and not just words as forms. Since I didn’t yet have a picture of the WB I decided to draw up a mock WB and then take a picture of it with my smart phone. All of our lesson plans are created using google docs so it was easy to drop the photo into the current LP.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 1.18.59 PM

The new SLA instructor really appreciated it-as I did my first time-and I have been building a nice collection of visuals all semester so that I can continue to transition from ‘lesson plans’ to ‘visual plans’ going forward.

Here is an example of the online visual plan that inspired me. The creator of this was Stafford Lumsden of Sookmyung Women’s University TESOL.


Online Course Visual Plan

Scaffolding… is it just for the students?

As one of the content coordinator at Sookmyung TESOL, my job is to choose the content that the students have access to in two of their five courses, while also making sure that it aligns with their other five courses. Arguably one of my most important jobs is to make sure that the aligned, and currently relevant content is also comprehensible to the students who have a linguistic range of B1-C2. Additionally, almost all of them have little to no background in linguistics.As our students have both content and linguistic needs, they require a modified version of Sheltered Instruction. Our program is intensive and the students are spread across multiple sections. For this reason, it needs to be clear exactly how the instructor should be delivering content and scaffolding the material so that it is delivered consistently across all  sections of the course.We also follow an 80/20 model in which the students are communicating with each other most of the time, rather than listening to lectures from the instructor.Keeping in line with the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) method, this requires a highly ‘task based’ environment in which the instructors have to take the content and make it as real-world as possible through personalizing, negotiation of meaning, and various group/partner assignments. Since most of our new instructors are coming from a background in which only language or content objectives were required, but not both,I want to be sure that all current and future instructors are fully supported.So despite the fact that my position as a coordinator is unpaid, I am still spending lots of extra hours creating very detailed lesson (and visual) plans and thoroughly noted powerpoints and other materials.

It has taken me around 2 semesters to get the course to a place where I feel anyone with a background in the material and topic could come in and lead the class,straight-away, in a non-lecture style. This whole process, however, has gotten me very interested in how other programs, that serve mostly non-native speaking students- scaffold their own instructors to deliver content and language objectives? Is someone with just a language (objectives) teaching background prepared for this kind of environment or is more training required?As my own MS ED TESOL at Duquesne University was designed for delivering content-based instruction to ELLs in the K-12 environment, this was a challenge I felt prepared to accept, however I know that not all MS TESOL programs follow this path. Also, what is the job of a content coordinator? Should I just be monitoring the curriculum and assessment or do I need to worry about supporting the instructor’s needs as well as the student’s? In academia, where hard work is usually not rewarded monetarily, one often has to wonder if they are doing ‘too much’. What do you think? Should the coordinator be not only qualified to scaffold the students but the instructors as well? Should this be considered ‘above and beyond’ work that is compensated for?