“Is it good-to-go?”
“Can you make something that’s ‘pick-up-and-go’?”
“It has to be a lesson a teacher can pick up and teach”
“I don’t have time, I need something that’s’pick-up-and-use?”
If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard these phrases I’d have, well, a few pounds.
The situation where they are said usually involves an element of urgency and lack of planning/preparation. This ranges from teachers with no time between classes, ones who arrived late to people who’ve just been given a cover. However, I’ve noticed that these kinds of materials are often the norm in some places. Worksheets have been around since the dawn of the photocopier and even before that they were hand copied by priests, or so I have heard. The alternative is ‘lesson ideas’ which are also spreading fast. These don’t always include handouts but rather a string of stages and exercises that need little or no preparation.
I used to love a book called The Minimax Teacher and at the time of its release it caused a stir. My DOS believed it was the future of teaching and encouraged teachers to follow. Why? Well, it wasn’t just altruistic. At that time contract teachers were sometimes believed to “have time to waste” when they weren’t teaching so any way to reduce their planning time meant more wasteful time which could be filled with delegated tasks. Not too long after our hours got increased and a bank of Minimax style ‘good to go’ lessons appeared and grew.
Anyone who’s read my Dogme posts here, on the excellent language moments or elsewhere will know my ideas about low material use, or rather maximised usage and post-planning. However, post and pre-planning tend to be similar as one leads to the next. As time goes on I’ve come to see my lessons as continuous and a course as a whole flowing entity where you refer back and things also move forward.
Where the ‘good-to-go’ idea fits in is that after a class has finished I’m already thinking about what to improve and work on next lesson because it’s natural. In fact, give me 5 minutes and I’ll be ready. The next week may allow for more reflection but it may also detract from my memory.
I’ve always been against ‘good-to-go-one-off-lessons’ probably because I’ve mainly taught courses. I am in favour of teachers having their own favourite lessons or types of lessons but I don’t like this ‘one size fits all’ lesson worksheet that’s delivered to anyone regardless of their level, age etc because the teacher is just making some money. This also involves the “doing the __ lesson” approach as though the students are just dazed puppies sat lapping it up.
To take the idea to the extreme, I interviewed at one place where everything was ‘good to go’ and “only needs 5 mins to read”, normally at break before the class or on the walk to it. They even had laminated cards ready. My first thought was “I’m just a card handerouter and a follower of a plan”. That kind of factory worker teaching is not for me.
I am guilty of preparing lessons and courses for teachers which I thought needed little prep (they were not paid for it so I thought it was helping). However, it sometimes takes longer to understand someone else’s stuff than make your own, as I found on some uni courses. One was a film/culture course with a syllabus that I spent a week trying to figure out how to teach. I’d been told what/how the co-ordinator did it but I don’t like to just redo other people’s stuff that I don’t really get. Thus, I redid the whole thing based on the overall principles of the course and what students liked and needed week to week, it was great. When people came in to ask me for ‘good to go’ stuff I could even offer a text, exercise or activity but not a full plan, just some ideas and possibilities.
Here’s an example of a new pick-up-and-use course book: http://www.macmillanstraightforward.com/about/
Are one-off lessons enough for a full course, especially a daily one?
If photocopiable good-to-go worksheets/books are the future then have we seen the end of teacher books and extra resources and even CDs that need preparing?
Are good-to-go resources just the answer to unpaid prep time?
Is the modern EFL teacher more savvy than 10 years ago and just doesn’t need lots of instructions?