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Delivering two types of lessons

Delivering two types of lessons

Is your online lesson like a home delivery pizza; expertly prepared with measured ingredients in a neat hygienic kitchen and delivered red hot and ready for the student to consume? That pizza is exactly what was advertised on the website the student chose from, although they may have to pick out the olives if they’ve never liked those.  

Or is your lesson more like a barbecue in your backyard where friends bring something along and cook it together? Some of the offerings end up burnt and lost in the fire, while those mushrooms offered from one student along with another’s grilled onions go with your halloumi in a way you would never have imagined.   

Does one of these describe your favourite way to serve up a lesson? Let me put that another way, which of the following lesson descriptions sound more familiar?  


Lesson 1: The broadcast  

Also known as Delivering a lesson, The sage on the stage, the lecture, chalk and talk, teacher fronted classrooms.   

This is the easy one to plan and teach. Easy because the teacher only has to worry about what they do. They don’t need to think about what the learners do.  

Perhaps an excellent broadcaster will consider the needs of their collective audience (which could be as small as one), what they are already likely to know and what they need to know by the end. A superlative broadcaster may even put in a test or poll of their audience early on to see what they know and use this to select one or two options in what they present.  

If you are doing this, you will carefully prepare slides, maybe even with animations that reveal the language you are presenting deductively step by step. You might even add multimedia like a song or video that contains a strong message or examples of language you want the students to catch. If students have missed something, you might remind them that they can check the recording afterwards or even give them a link to a handout.    

This lesson will likely finish with perfect timing. You may reserve the last five minutes for questions, or refer learners to a website if they missed something before informing them about the topic of the next lesson to close.  


Lesson 2: The dialogic  

Also known as the Deep end CLT, the student-centred classroom, experiential learning   

This one can never truly be called delivering a lesson. It is hard because the language emerges, it is a product of everyone in the classroom. The examples, the questions, the correction and feedback are not something the teacher could entirely predict. The teacher recognizes that they are not the one ‘presenting language’ or ‘delivering the lesson’ the lesson and the language is a product of the work of the group who all need to contribute.     

Teachers who work this way like to call themselves facilitators. Rather than present language, teachers in this role set up tasks and create opportunities for learners to participate. Perhaps if things don’t go smoothly, they help with additional resources, highlight key vocabulary on-screen or temporarily redirect questions to other students often with the help of text chat or on-screen tools so that they don’t interrupt learners while they’re on task.   

The teacher here does need to ensure that they thank everyone for what they brought to the lesson at the end and remind them of what the group enjoyed and learned from. They will make a strong summary and check that the learners recalled what they had with some final questions.  


Which lesson is most valuable to your students?  

I hope my analogy holds up and you can see that the broadcast lesson is like the home delivery pizza while the dialogic is more like the meal created at the barbecue–possibly curated by the host but owned by the diners.   

The student receiving that pizza is mostly a passive recipient of the learning they have had delivered. On the other hand, you cannot just stand by the backyard barbie – everyone needs to bring something along and join in or go hungry.  

My two types of lessons are deliberate extremes. Perhaps all online lessons can be considered somewhere on a scale between these two–somewhere between the pizza delivery and the backyard barbie.   

Most of us love a pizza sometimes as it’s low effort and feels safe. Even though we drop some carefully prepared food in the barbecue, the combination of people and unique flavours makes it something that stays with us long after the meal has finished.  

So even if it’s pizza night – why not be bold and try a barbie. 


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