Developing a Scheme of Work: My Approach and Top 5 Tips

By Trevor Jones
Trevor has been teaching General and Business English, ESP and Teacher Training for the past 7 years in the UK, Spain and France to a wide range of students, following an extensive career in business management.

scheme of work bookWhy I use a Scheme of Work

Just like many EFL teachers, I teach in a variety of situations:

EFL Classrooms   -   One to One   -   ESOL for Immigrants to the UK   -   Online.

When teaching in the EFL classroom I use the course books we all use. In my other teaching situations, however, I find course books alone do not meet my students’ needs.  Usually I have to design a scheme of work (SoW) to meet their particular learning needs and then introduce a range of materials into the lessons. This article discusses my approach to SoW, but I would also really appreciate your views.

My approach to creating a Scheme of Work

My SoW is prepared in advance and shows the syllabus and course requirements broken down into sessions. It will state, briefly, what will be covered during the course and also in each lesson. It is a working document that shows how I intend to work throughout the course, i.e. it is a working schedule, but it does not replace a lesson plan.

My SoW details:

  • Session dates and times
  • Learner level(s)
  • Topics to be covered, week by week
  • The main aim of each session
  • Key learning outcomes for the course
  • Main methods to be used, including the assessment type for at least the first few sessions
  • Key resources
  • Methodologies: e.g. small group work, role-play, case-studies, or discussion with feedback

It can be quite time consuming to create a SoW, yet I find it can also be more fulfilling than just picking the next topic in the course book.

Lesson materialsMy 5 top tips for creating a Scheme of Work

Below are my 5 top tips for developing a SoW to help anyone who has to do likewise, but I also welcome your thoughts and feedback.

1. Start with the end in mind: what does your student(s) want or need to achieve by the end of the course.

2. Have an outline for your SoW before the course commences, but don’t issue the first edition until you have held 3 lessons with the student(s), and have got to know their needs and wants in terms of English.

3. Remember a SoW should not be set in ‘tablets of stone,’ and be prepared to reissue it to meet unexpected needs or as your knowledge of the student(s) develop(s).

4. Make sure your SoW includes learning aims, objectives, and an outline of resources so you have a clear plan of what you are trying to deliver each week.

5. Be prepared to change it if:

    • it is too ambitious, or more time is needed than originally planned;
    • learners are of a more mixed level than anticipated;
    • the group is working better, or not as well, as you had hoped;
    • something topical happens and it is relevant and appropriate to include it;
    • you feel you should respond to learners’ feedback regarding their interests and situations or requests to cover a different topic; or
    • from observation of the learner’(s’) progress you feel the need to go over something in more detail or approach it differently.

Note – thanks for this article must go to West Sussex Adult Community Learning, who I work with part time, for their approach to SsoW.

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