Designing a Session for Teachers

by Zhenya

This image of poppy field reflects the idea of Wednesday sessions (seminars) to me: happen every week at the same time, last for an hour, but are so different from each other if you look closer. Taken by my friend Natasha (Summer 2010)

This image of poppy field reflects the idea of weekly PD sessions (seminars) to me: happen every week at the same time, last for an hour, but are so different from each other if you look closer. Taken by my friend Natasha (Summer 2010)

So… what kind of sessions do I know? Have I run myself? Have I read about and made a note to myself to run this type in the future? Let me see if I can make a list!

A practical session includes practical activities on a particular topic. The topic, or theme, can vary from a general one (teaching reading to beginners, teaching writing, etc.) to more specific (a set of practice tasks for grammar, for example) Works well with teachers who are starting to work for a school for example, and need practical ideas for their lessons. For more experienced teachers might feel boring and as a ‘waste of time’ (so if I have a mixed group if teachers I need to either choose tasks that are new to everyone (hm…) or tweak the old(er) tasks to bring a new perspective. Also, can always ask the more experienced teachers for their input before the session, as well as during.

A reflective session with practical elements can also involve activities but will be also looking at pros and cons of using them in class, levels they are suitable for, language focus, etc. The participants leave with fewer new activities but with some ideas how to experiment in class. My ideal way is to choose a warmer which is a task illustrating the topic and which is new to everyone in my audience (often including myself!) It does take some to find this idea, and I think it is worth it 🙂

A session-brainstorm before a particular school event (Open House Days, New Year, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and any other relevant holidays that our students are looking forward to). In this case the ‘input’ of the session is a suggested idea of the format of this event, and the outcome would be concrete solutions brought by the teachers (oftentimes the teachers contribute into the overall idea of the format too, and this makes the coming occasion more ‘shared’)

A session-reflection on a book read: the facilitator brings a book on ELT, for example, and ‘presents’ the ideas, shares what was important for him/her, demonstrates some of the ideas with the group, asks reflective questions, etc. As a result, the book becomes popular in the school and everyone wants it. Another ‘extension’ of this idea is taking one book and reading it chapter by chapter, and sharing every week (we did this a while ago with Michael Lewis’s Lexical Approach, I think those sessions helped a lot in bringing the ideas into our lessons ever after)

A session-experimentation, where a teacher brings a new idea or a question and the group discusses it, shares their input and experience, and often encourages the teacher to present to bigger audience (a webinar? workshop or conference presentation? anything!)

I think I outlined just major types of sessions I could think of at this moment of time. The majority of the session topic ideas actually comes from the teachers themselves, and the format is often secondary to the content and meaning and objective. At the same time having a list of possible formats at hand helps me make better (and faster!) choices. Perhaps this is my type of personality 🙂

I hope will keep adding to this list and perhaps one day you will read the second part for the same heading!