University ESL Lesson Plans- What I Actually Do in Class

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Lesson Plans for University ESL Students

Okay, so you’ve got yourself a shiny new teaching job at a Korean uni. It’s now getting to crunch time. What do you actually do in your classes?

Keep on reading to find out!

University ESL Lesson Plans: What do you Actually do in Class?

One of the common questions that I get from Hagwon and public school teachers in South Korea is what I actually do in my university classes. In hagwons, it’s  rare to have the same students for more than an hour at a time and 40-45 minutes is more common, a couple of times a week.

With this length of time, it’s pretty easy to keep just about anyone entertained.  In public schools, the class lengths are about the same and the Korean co-teacher usually does the bulk of the heavy lifting with the foreign teacher just being the “assistant.”

How to Plan for a 4-Hour Class

My university classes in Korea range from 1.5 hour to 4 hours with the same group of students. 4 hour classes can be quite difficult to plan for since they’re so long so I’ll use that as my example.  Here’s how I would I use the time (if I was given no materials that I had to teach) and had reasonably high-level students.

Choose a Topic First

I’d pick a topic such as “Youth unemployment in Korea,” “Microfinance” or “Renewable Energy.”  I choose stuff that I’m actually interested in and then I adapt and make easier for as low level as high-beginners. Things like movies, hobbies, food and pets are TOTALLY overdone and I refuse to use topics like these unless forced to (if I’m given a textbook with them in it, or have extremely low-level students-but I generally try to avoid teaching absolute beginners because I find it pretty demoralizing).

Hour 1: introduction to the topic

This usually involves some general warm-up questions, key vocabulary, sample conversation, or something like “describe the picture” for lower level students.

Hour 2: Reading or listening 

If you find articles from Breaking News English, you can do the listening first with some sort of “big-picture” questions. I’d usually listen twice, with the first time just being simple true/false or matching or something and then the second time, I’d increase the level of difficulty and use some short answer questions. I’ll always get the students to compare with their partner before eliciting answers from the class.

Then, I’d get the students to read the same thing that they just listened to but they’d have to answer some serious “critical thinking” or advanced level “reading comprehension” questions where the answers require processing the information in a deep kind of way, or the answers are very subtle and require some “reading between the lines.”

Hour 3: Discussion

The students would have to discuss in small groups of 3-4 people and then we’d talk together as a class. I give them questions based on the topic for that day.

Hour 4: Activity

For example, when I talked about microfinance, I showed a couple videos from Kiva and showed the students my own portfolio of who I lent money to.

It might be a debate of some kind. For example, on the topic of Youth Unemployment, it could be, “Who has the final responsibility for solving this problem: youth, the government, parents, industry or universities?”

It could be a survey activity. For advanced students, they’d have to make their own survey question or two, ask their classmates, process the information and then report back to the class their results.  For lower levels, I give them the questions already prepared.

Or, I might do some writing activity of some kind where the students have to share their opinion on the topic. But, I will quite rarely do this and my activities are generally slanted towards speaking.

What about Shorter Classes?

The way that you plan lessons for a 4-hour class is much the same as for a 1-2 hour class. Except that you’d probably focus on a single skill. For example, a listening activity or reading one instead of focusing on multiple skills.
All my Favourite ESL Speaking Activities:
ESL Speaking games and activities

What do you do in your Classes?

If you teach at a university in Korea, please let us know what you do in your classes? Leave a comment below and let us know.


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