What´s the point?

Do you know, or do you remember, what a typical lesson plan template looks like? Let me just remind you just in case. Although plans vary slightly, they are invariably divided up into four or five columns, headed by ´Stage Name´, ´Interaction´, ´Stage Aims´, ´Procedures´ and maybe ´Materials´.

What I really want to touch upon in this post is not lesson plans but stage aims, and the importance of having clear stage aims in mind both at the planning stage and at the moment of teaching, and some of the traps that trainee teachers and experienced teachers might sometimes fall into.

Firstly, what is a stage aim? It is not easy to find a definition on the internet but I found this:

“These are the aims of the individual stages of your lesson, as opposed to the main aim of the lesson as a whole. There should be a logical progression here towards achieving the main aim. Stage aims should answer the question “Why am I doing this?” rather than “What am I doing?” (ESL Base, 2012)

It is the last point about answering the questions that I would like to address. The definition quite rightly points out that stage aims should answer the question ´why´ as opposed to ‘what´. However, it is precisely these responses to ´why´ questions that teachers, in my experience, often have such problems with.

And the ability to formulate appropriate responses is important, whether it be at the planning stages, during the actual lesson, or during post-lesson reflection. For it is only through adequately expressed responses to ´why´ questions can we hope to measure the extent to which our aims have been achieved.

In my experience, teachers often have problems with expressing stage aims because, on the one hand, the aims are not expressed as learning or development outcomes for students, and, on the other hand, they can be too superficial. Indeed, I would argue that almost all of what we do in the classroom has, or should have, a pedagogical aim.

Let me give two examples to illustrate my point.  ´To practice the target language´ is a stage aim I often come across both on teacher training courses and teacher development programmes. This aim at least incorporates students´ learning process. However, what is the aim of getting students to do practice? In my opinion, we get students to practice and produce language so that we can check the extent of students´ learning.

Another aim I see quite a lot of is, ´to present the target language´. This is a teacher´s aim. And let´s be honest, anybody can walk off the street and achieve this aim. However, what is the pedagogical aim? Maybe to help clarify the meaning or form of the target language for students?

So, in conclusion, unless we can identify our stage aims clearly, it can become more difficult to measure our learners´ progress in terms of learning. And if we can´t do that, then what are we doing?


ESL Base. (2012) TEFL A-Z – Lesson Planning

Available from: https://www.eslbase.com/resources/a-z/lesson-planning

Dominic Walters

I am CELTA and DELTA qualified and have an MA in Educational Psychology. I have been teaching English since 1991, working in Brazil, Republic of Ireland, Spain, Portugual, Egypt and the UK. I am a DELTA, ICELT, CELTA, FTBE assessor and tutor as well as a CELTA online course tutor. I am also an examiner for the Cambridge, IELTS, Trinity exams.

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