Thankfully, I’ve had very few lessons that I would call ‘bad’. I’m sure my students would say I’ve had many bad lessons but I won’t bother asking them.
There was, for example, the lesson wherein I finished the assigned material with 25 minutes still to go. Then there was the lesson where I could not for the life me make the students understand the rules to a simple word game. Then there was also that lesson where I… (ad nauseam)
What is a bad lesson?
Good question. In this context, I’m thinking particularly about lessons that start off well enough – good lesson plan, good attendance, good atmosphere – but seem to go off the tracks. We’ve all been there (it’s not just me, right?!) and felt the sinking feeling as you lose control of the class.
Causes of a bad lesson
There are too many possible reasons to write down here but I would imagine the most common reason include:
- Poor time management
- Planned activity ends too early
- Planned activity takes too long
- The activity is just not effective/interesting
- Lesson material that is too difficult for the students
- Materials that are too easy for the students
- Instructions for an activity not being properly understood/explained
What to do if a lesson turns bad
Thorough lesson preparation can usually stop lessons from turning sour, but that doesn’t help when you’re actually in the pickle. So, a few ideas to help you if your lessons go bad:
- End the activity – if it’s not going well, or if it’s going too slowly, don’t be afraid to end it. The key point is to ensure the focus language has been understood and can be used
- Explain again – you may find that your lesson is going badly because your students don’t know what to do. In this case, time-permitting, you should explain things again more simply, more clearly, and with better examples
- Change the lesson – particularly if you find the planned material is too difficult/easy, you should just change what you had planned. How can you do this on the spot? Always have some games or activities in mind, or simply move on to a future lesson. You can always review the material for the planned lesson at a later date.
You might also just want to take a few minutes to compose yourself. If the lesson feels like it’s slipping away, think calmly about the focus of the lesson and take the best course of action. And, remember, a bad lesson doesn’t mean you are a bad teacher!