Sunday, December 27, 2015

7 Classroom Management Mistakes - #5 Not Having a Well-Prepared Lesson

Okay, I hate it that this particular thing affects my classroom management so much, because fixing it is a lot of work, but this is:

Mistake #5 - Not Having a Well-Prepared Lesson.

It never fails. When I'm bumbling around at the front of the room trying to figure out what I'm doing because I don't have a well-planned lesson, my class senses a weakness in the Force, and things start going awry. They get louder and more talkative, less willing to do what I ask, more whiny, more rowdy and restless.

Or, maybe I have part of the lesson well-planned, but then there's dead time in the middle or at the end, and it takes me a few minutes to regroup and transition to something else. Or, I never do really figure out what I'm transitioning to, and it's just simply too late. They've already gone haywire.

So how do you make sure you don't get caught fumbling around trying to figure out what you're doing? Different teachers do this different ways. Some people have ready-made filler activities and games they whip out at the last minute. Me, I wrote 4 levels of lesson plan books because I hate not knowing what I'm doing and where this is all going so much. For me, a well-prepared skit lesson with smooth transitions basically runs like this:

1. A warm-up/review of the material from the last class.
2. Read something that reinforces the vocab and grammar from last class.
3. Conversation in Spanish about a question of the day or some sort of given topic, preferably something that also reinforces the vocab they have been learning. At the beginning levels, this would obviously be very scripted and guided.
4. Introduction of new vocab/vocab phrases.
5. Skit.
6. Q&A about the skit, me asking questions and them answering either as a group or getting called on one by one (if only a few are answering out loud as a group.)
7. 4-minute break.
8. Grammar, either intro of new grammar topic or a continuing practice of one that we've been working on.
9. Go over homework/new homework assigned.
10. Telenovela (right now, I'm showing Un gancho al corazón in level 3 and Al diablo con los guapos in level 4. We're all very addicted to these two shows. : - ))

Now, part of what makes me well-prepared when I run this lesson is that I do it almost every day, exactly in the same order. So my students are accustomed to this routine and so am I, and it runs pretty much like clockwork.

(For my Spanish 4/AP culture lessons, substitute the culture topic/reading/writing/conversation for #4, 5, and 6 above.)

You may need to experiment with your own lesson sequencing and content to find your sweet spot in terms of lesson planning, and you may also hate doing the same routine and need to shake it up more. I don't shake much, and that works well for me.

Another great source of lesson planning ideas is Martina Bex's awesome blog. She has a TON of resources, ideas, lessons, units, and activities there, so check her out!

What ideas do you have for last-minute activities that always go well in class? Share in the comments below!


  1. The activity has been dubbed "back to back" competition (after a drake song). If we have extra time after the exit ticket, 2 students, usually volunteers, come to the front of the room, stand back to back, and compete to act out first/ gesture the vocabulary word I say. The winner faces a new classmate directly after or the following class.the class judges and determines the winner of each round.its a riot.

  2. I love this idea! Thanks for sharing, Manuel.

  3. Hi, Jalen! I read about you on Martina Bex's blog. I am excited to preview your materials, but was unable to download a preview of your Spanish 1A curriculum. Can you help? Thank you so much!


    1. Hi Marcia! You can try the link at the upper right of my blog page, under my photo in the upper right, that says "Download a Spanish 1 lesson." (That will be a sample from my 2009 books for high school.) Or, visit my website at and go to the books page (under "Jalen's Lesson Plan Books") for the level you want to download, scroll down on that level's page and you'll see the links to download samples from those particular books. Let me know if it still doesn't seem to work, and I will email you some stuff. (If you're looking for middle school by the way, go to my website and look at the 2005 Spanish 1A for middle school under "Jalen's Lesson Plan Books.")


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