How to make your lessons a WOW for your students

How long have you been teaching? A year? Five? Ten? How long have you been teaching the same topics? Aren’t you fed up with them? Do you change your lessons or do you follow the same template every time you are to teach Present Simple or Reported Speech?

Do not be taken aback. You are not the only one who is lazy from time to time to come up with new tricks for students. However, there are some ways to motivate yourself.

Are you a PIRATE?

Recently I’ve come across a book by Dave Burgess “Teach like a PIRATE”. In his book, he gives a number of questions a teacher should ask themselves before planning a lesson to make it a WOW for your student. A WOW lesson is not a usual lesson, it is supposed to be entertaining and energizing, instantly grabbing their attention and leaving them excited. It could be a reward for your student or a way to encourage them. To make such a lesson you should be a PIRATE. Why a pirate? Easy.

P – passion. You can be passionate about your students’ achievements (professional passion), about teaching a particular grammar topic, eg. teaching Conditionals (content passion) or a particular sphere of interests (personal passion). When you are passionate, your students feel it. It energizes them. If you are to teach insipid grammar, sprinkle it with some delectable context.

I – immersion. You need to BE with your students. You must NOT do anything else. If you do, they feel it and become distracted. It’s like talking to a friend who is texting somebody else. Forget about everything while you are with your students. They will definitely feel your presence.

R – rapport. The best way to build a good rapport with your students is to engage them and treat them as individuals with their feelings and emotions, strengths and weaknesses.

A – ask and analyze. WOW lessons don’t happen all the time. Whether your lesson was a success or a failure, after a lesson has been taught, sit down and analyze it – what went well and what needs improving. Creativity is not a born character trait. It is something that needs to be fostered. It’s a way of trial and error.

T – transformation. Make your lessons as outstanding as a purple cow. Are your lessons so engaging that students would come to you even if they could go to a concert of their favourite singer instead? Could you transform your lesson in such a way students forgot that it was a lesson but, nonetheless, learnt a lot?

E – enthusiasm. It is what makes a teacher great, not just good. It cannot be taught. You can start acting “as if” you were enthusiastic. As you start, the feeling will come to you.

How to be a pirate?

  • First of all, it is still a lesson, so don’t forget to set clear lesson aims. You can read more about it here.
  • When students enter the classroom, ask them to move desks away and get ready for a creativity lesson. We have already given some tips on how to make your students think creatively, which can enthuse your students enormously.
  • Step away from a coursebook. This can help you personalize your lessons according to your students’ needs as much as possible. If they have an important appointment or negotiations, help them by finding some materials that can help them in their situation. When working with teenagers, take into consideration their interests. Use photos from Instagram of their favourite singers or actors to teach them the speaking part of an important exam instead of the boring ones from a course book. Speaking about Past Simple, you could use @historyphotographed  on Instagram. Ask your students to explain what is going on in the picture or come up with some creative hashtags and explain their point of view.
  • Make your lesson in a form of a quest. Give your student a code which leads to what you are going to study or revise. Then challenge them to do various tasks in grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation. Award them points or badges for each correct task. If you have a group, do everything at the lesson in a form of competition.
  • Prepare an Upside Down lesson. Start with brainstorming what students expect from the lesson.

How to make your lessons a WOW for your students

Prepare a “flipped classroom” — give students to study new material at home and in the lesson just recycle what they have studied at home.

  • Present everything in an extraordinary way. If you want to teach them reading skills, make the questions or headlines to match with the paragraphs in an unusual way — write them backwards. Give them to listen to some answers and come up with the questions to them. While doing a speaking activity turn on the radio and ask students to imagine that they are at the party, can’t hear the partner but still need to continue a conversation.
  • Teach them writing skills through writing comments on social media (real comments to real social media posts). Make a collaborative story. Give each student a piece of paper. Say the first sentence for the story. Student 1 writes two sentences and folds the paper so that only the second sentence is visible. Student 1 gives then the paper to Student 2 (on their left/write). They read the last line and add two more. Fold. Pass. Repeat. In the end, each student has their own crazy/funny/silly story. Another way is to use Google docs to make your student collaborate on a story.
  • Teach them reading skills by working on a story from the news about their favourite film star. Go on to speaking skills. Ask them to make up their own story to finish what they already know. Ask them to make as unpredictable as they can. Ask students to work in pairs and guess the endings of their partner’s story.
  • Make your lessons super visual or kinesthetic. Surprise your students and teach food without flashcards but with trying real dishes, different flavour candies are great for tastes. Feel different materials. You can even go to a restaurant or an art gallery.
  • Give your students a realization of why they need your lessons. Why do they need Present Simple? Make them communicate with each other in English outside the classroom, say, on Padlet/VK. However, make sure they feel good about that and safe. Teach them to be respectful and kind to each other.
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