Any lesson will incorporate a series of activities that allow students to practice and reinforce the target language or skill. Most lessons will include drills, discussion questions, dialogues, and/or role plays. However, attention should be given as to the order of the activities. Considering when and why they will be used ensures the class progresses smoothly, and students don't get confused or dissatisfied.
The teacher has several options when presenting the target language. He can provide an explanation. He can use diagrams, colored pens on the whiteboard, and other visual aids. He can give examples using the new material. He can call for examples from the students.
No single choice proves better than another choice. In fact, all more or less work together to provide clear explanations that fosters comprehension among the class. Not all may be used in a single lesson, but more than one will likely be selected by the teacher.
The teacher talks about the target language, no matter the focus. He may lecture for a minute or two as students listen and take notes. In addition, he would provide a similar lecture if he were to teach grammar, a thematic set of vocabulary words, a skill such as how to skim or how to scan, and so on.
Activities allow the students to practice newly learned language and skills, and they appear anywhere within a lesson. For the activities to run smoothly and effectively, the teacher should consider several points because valuable class time may be wasted. For example, students may be slow to start the activity, perhaps talking in their L1 to confirm what to do. Or, even worse, the teacher may need to stop the activity in order to re-explain the steps, which happens when part of the class misunderstood the explanation and begins the activity incorrectly.
Activities at the start of a lesson deserve more attention than they usually receive. In fact, the initial activities that start the class are very important for the following reasons:
1: Warm Ups set the tone of the lesson. For example, an activity that students find too difficult and/or confusing can prove discouraging. Compare a fun activity in which students stand up, mingle, and work in pairs; these sorts of activities will raise energy levels. Of course, it will be important to maximize student talk time with effective pair and group work.
2: Warm Ups get students to think in and focus on English. It may have been a few days, a week, or even longer since English was last used. A little time with the right warm up will improve productive and receptive skills elsewhere in the lesson.
The warm up of a lesson often receives less attention than it should. Teachers spend a lot of time preparing explanations and worksheets to introduce and practice the target language, for example. They then enter the classroom unprepared for the first five or ten minutes. "Let's do something fun" usually constitutes all the planning that goes into this stage of the lesson. Planning then gets done on the way to the classroom, with the teacher pulling a game out of his bag of tricks.
Every teacher with more than one month's experience is guilty, including myself. But a well-planned, effective warm up offers more towards the lesson than just a bit of fun.
There are many stages in a lesson as students work towards the objective. The lesson might focus on grammar; incorporate various discourse markers or rejoinders to agree, disagree, or link information; or practice active listening skills where students make comments, confirm information, and ask questions to indicate understanding and interest. Whatever the objective, though, drills serve as an important component to acquire the new language.