This is a sample video from the course 'Lesson Planning Made Easy'. The full course will take you through how to write aims, fill in a lesson plan, analyse language and use lesson frameworks and a coursebook to advantage. Invaluable on a CELTA or TEFL course!
Question 1– what’s the difference between aims and objectives?
You have probably come across the terms ‘aims’ and ‘objectives’. Now, these are often thought of as different – usually, the difference is that aims are broader and objectives are more fine-grained, so you might have an overall aim and 3 or 4 objectives to get you there. Other people will tell you that an aim is to do with ‘purpose’ whereas an objective is to do with ‘achievement’. To be honest, I’d say that if you find it helpful to differentiate (or if your institution says you must), then do so, but otherwise, I tend to stick with aims and then have stage aims for each of the different parts of my lesson. This is what I’ve always found most helpful.
Question 2 – Should my aims be SMART?
You might also have heard of the term SMART aims. SMART stands for an aim that is: Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic, and Time referenced. These things are all good, of course and useful to keep in mind. The danger, I think, of having SMART targets is that they atomise learning – and it’s easy to get the impression that the process can be broken down into small parts that can be ticked off until you finish – like building a wall. It’s worth keeping in mind what we know about learning a language. It’s not a ‘learn it once and never need to learn it again’ ‘wall’ kind of model. Teaching someone a language is more like planting and tending a garden – it’s an organic process. You plant some seeds over here and they start growing… you then have to deal with some weeds over here and cut back some undergrowth there… then you go back to your seeds and find that some of them need watering and some of them have already died and you have to plant them again… you get the picture. So making your aim SMART is a good idea but remember that it doesn’t mean that your learners have ‘done’ that and won’t need revision, cos they will!
Question 3 – should my aims say what I’m going to TEACH or what my learners are going to LEARN?
This is a really good question and there’s no right answer. Teaching and learning are not always the same thing at all – you know what you are trying to teach, but are they taking it in? Learning it? Are they learning something else? Because of this, some people say you should write aims as ‘The learners will learn and practise vocabulary associated with driving’ rather than ‘to teach and give practice of vocabulary associated with driving’. I think this is probably not very important either way and mostly it’s personal preference, but personally, I feel that I’ll never be able to prove what they’ve all learnt or how well they’ve learnt it, especially in a bigger class, so I prefer to write aims in terms of what I’ll teach. You can make your own choice, though.
Question 4- Should you always tell learners your aims?
A lot of teaching organisations like the idea of telling learners the aims of a lesson. So should you do it? YOU know what your aims are- doesn’t it make sense for the learners to know where they’re going, too? As with many things, I think, the answer with this is ‘it depends’. Learners, especially adult learners, often feel more comfortable in a learning environment if they know what’s coming. It gives them confidence in you as a teacher, too. BUT if you start off every lesson by writing your aims on the board, especially if it’s in language that teachers use (‘to give controlled oral practice of the present perfect for experience’ for example), it’s likely to be meaningless and turn people off. It’s probably enough to just say – ‘today we’re going to practice how to talk about your experiences’. Also, variety is a good thing – sometimes I might want to know where the road is taking me and sometimes, as a learner, I might find it more interesting to go on a magical mystery tour as long as I trust that my teacher knows where we are heading.