The way you lesson plan is costing you money

Here at VuLingo, we're a bit obsessed with making English Teaching easier and more profitable for you while making your services more valuable for your student.

I want to share a quick tip to help you squeeze some extra moolah out of your downtime. 

First, we have to get one thing straight:

time is money

It's cliche because it's true.

If it takes you half an hour to find materials and plan a 1-hour lesson, your hourly wage is actually about 2/3 of what you think it is. If you spend 5 hours a week lesson planning, you're throwing away 5 hours you could have been earning money.

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Multiply that over the course of weeks and months and...gasp!—you are losing a ton of potential earnings. 

So today we're going to reclaim some precious time you didn't even realize you were wasting, and it's going to save you time and earn you $$$ in the long run.

To set the scene...

You're fiddling around in the teacher's lounge between your classes, mostly FOMO-ing over your friend's Instagram stories of her trip to Barcelona. You figure you should probably check tomorrow's schedule and gather materials for your 8:00am class.

Level A2? A Future Simple grammar lesson ought to do it. Now to find materials. You take a hesitant glance at the disorganized bookshelf, and reluctantly dive in.

Here's how that planning usually goes....

You sift through textbook after textbook. looking for good worksheets, activities, fill-in-the-blanks, etc. Some textbooks are rubbish and you're sure they'll bore the pants off your students. But you can find some gems if you know where to look.

Now if you could just remember where to look...

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Hmmm....You've used that blue textbook before... most of it is pretty boring, but it has great writing prompts.
And the thick red one has terrible explanations, but the fill-in-the blank exercises are usually on point.
You remember a good activity book you've used before. Was it green? Or more of a teal? Where is that darn book?
You sift and copy, sift and copy. Preparing the one-hour lesson somehow fills your entire half-hour break.

Meanwhile, as you hunt, you find lots of other exercises, worksheets and games on other topics you know you could use in the future. You make a mental note to come back to that book when you get to those topics. 

Big, big mistake.

Let me explain...

A chef makes 50 hamburgers at a time

I want you to think in batches. Batching, my friend, is the key to productivity. 

Batching is when you do a task in a set of groups. Think of a restaurant service. When the chef gets your order, he doesn't bake one bun from scratch, ground one patty, slice one quarter onion,  and then do it all again for your friend's order. That would be...insanity. And your hamburgers would cost $85 each.

Chefs bake 50 buns at a time...then they ground 15 lbs. of beef and make 50 burger patties...then they slice 20 onions and...you get my point. When rush hour hits, they're ready to go. So why the heck are you still planning one lesson at a time?

You need to source and copy teaching materials just like that chef prepares for a Saturday night. You need to batch your resource collection. Here's how we do it:

  1. Get that one textbook you always go to for great reading excerpts (or fill-in-the blanks, or matching, or discussion prompts, or interactive games, etc.).
  2. Go through each chapter and scan (not photocopy) each exercise as a separate file. There should be a similar exercise in every chapter at each progressive level (A2 will have a similar exercise for Past Continuous, Present Perfect, Future Simple, you get my drift). 
  3. Save each scanned file to your cloud.*** (see CLOUD below) Name them consistently.
  4. Repeat until break time's over.

When you're just planning for a single lesson, it takes waaaay longer to find a good intro, a good Study 1 and Study 2. To plan an activation exercise. To hunt for good conversation topics. But when you have a conversation topic book at your fingertips, and the questions are divided into vocabulary topics, you can easily scan 10-20 times the amount of material for use in the future.

Before you know it, you're going to have enough exercises for your next month's worth of lessons, all saved in your cloud. 

It works with online resources too

Often, when I'm googling for ESL exercises, the same websites keep popping up, mostly because they're quality and thus, the algorithm likes them. If the author has given permission to make copies for the classroom, you're good to go.

This website is a perfect example. Seonaid has created great fill-in-the-blank exercises—nothing too fancy but really useful in my classroom. Download them and send her good karma through the interwebs.

The Cloud (the key to making this all work)

For the first six months of putting my in-between-class-time to good use, I'd only worked out half of this strategy. I scanned the exercises, and emailed them to myself. Then I forgot to do anything with them. I forgot I had them, and I ended up scavenging the library for exercises I already had. 

The key component is the cloud. The cloud is your online digital library.

You can use many platforms for your cloud. But it has to be online and accessible from anywhere. (No binders full of paper copies, people—they lead to heartbreak when you forget them at home.)

Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud and Evernote are all good cloud options, as long as you have an organized naming convention and organizational system. (Your Travel Agency Conversation prompts will do you no good if you can't find them.)

Keep it simple by naming each exercise you scan like this (or some other standard naming convention that makes sense to you)

LEVEL [Lesson topic] [type of exercise] for example:

  • A1 VOC Clothing FIB
  • A2 Present Simple Game
  • B2 VOC Travel Convo Cards

Personally, my cloud of choice is Trello. I ❤ ❤ ❤  Trello. Trello is my strawberry jaaaaaaaam.

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Trello is free, it's visual, and it gets the job done.

I attach each exercise to the appropriate lesson card on my LEVELS board and every time I need to teach that particular lesson, I can see EXACTLY what I have in my digital library and what if anything I need to source online of from a textbook. After a month or two, you've got the whole darned English Language filled out.

Not only do I keep my scanned exercises in Trello, but I outfit each card with my lesson plan, a description of how to teach each grammar point, common mistakes my students make and how to clearly explain them and much, much more.

Trello is a barebones application, and the brand new user might not know how to adapt it to their TEFL needs. Don't worry, I've already done that for you and you can check it out here>>

Seeing new teachers make one hamburger at a time breaks my heart. Once you master this simple trick, you can spend all the time you want FOMO-ing out on Instagram. Or heck, go to Barcelona yourself with all the time and money you've saved.