Say you write a lesson plan, you do it in class, and it goes great. To what do you attribute this success? Say you write a lesson plan that completely bombs. What was the cause? In either case, how will you decide whether to use that plan again or not? Evaluating an ESL lesson plan is the process of answering these questions.
Evaluating an ESL lesson plan is easy if you take just a little time after each class to sit and think about these factors of lesson plan development:
- What went well
- What were the challenges
- Where students engaged
- How did it feel to teach this lesson
- What went really well? Why?
- What did the students enjoy? Why?
- How can I add more enjoyable elements to my lesson plans in the future? (If they enjoyed conversing with their classmates, how can you incorporate more conversation in class? If a particular game was a huge hit, how can it be adapted for use in other lessons?)
- What took more explanation than I anticipated? Why? How can I better prepare students for this activity in the future? If I use this lesson again in the future, is there another lesson I should teach first?
- What was very difficult for the students? Why? How much assistance did they require to succeed? Could extra time to work on it have helped? Did they need more practice before being required to produce? Were their difficulties academic in nature, or were they social, cultural, etc.?
- What did the students dislike? Why? Was it too difficult/easy? Were they uninterested in the topic?
- At which point(s) did I feel like I was losing the students’ interest? Was it related to the material or the time of day (right before a break time, around a meal time, etc.)?
- Why were the students distracted? Could they be having some personal problems, do I need to change my seating arrangement, or was my lesson really that boring?
- How can I better engage students?
- How did I feel, professionally, while teaching this lesson? Was I comfortable with all of the material, or did I feel like I should have done more research/preparation? Was I confident about my answers to the students’ questions? How can I better anticipate students' questions and prepare more adequately for next time?
- How did I feel, physically, while teaching this lesson? Was I hot, cold, gassy, ill, tired, etc.? All of these things can affect your teaching, so if a lesson doesn't go so well, consider how you were feeling that day before tossing it or changing it completely.
Keep in mind that you have never had this exact class dynamic before, and you will never have the same class dynamic again. Every semester, every week, even every day is different, and just because a lesson goes very well or very badly once doesn’t mean it will work the same way next time. Each time you consider teaching a certain lesson, you have to take into account your students’ personalities, the size of the class, the size of the classroom, the time of day and duration of the class meeting, and your available materials, among other things. If it sounds like there are a lot of factors affecting your lessons, there are.
That is just to say that the success of your lessons does not hinge entirely on your lesson plans. If you spent your weekend slaving away on the perfect lesson plan only to have it tank on Monday morning, that does not mean you need to scrap the whole thing. And if you throw "The Best Lesson Ever!" together last-minute, that doesn’t mean you’ve finally found your perfect planning process (though who am I to say?). In both cases, you still have work to do.
Think through the day, answer the questions above, and make your lessons even better for next time.