How much time do you spend preparing your lessons in advance? Are you a planner? Or do you like to let the lesson take its own course?
As a young student teacher I learned how to carefully plan my lessons. I would write out exactly what I planned to do during each part of the fifty-minute class: how I would warm-up the students, introduce new language, have students practice the language, and then probably a productive activity. In one column I would lay out the time, in another the portion of the text or the handouts that I would use, and additional notes in a third column. My master teacher remarked that I had occasional problems with timing. I was one of those teachers who would happily go off on an a semi-related tangent, just because the students and I thought it was interesting, and then belatedly notice that much of the class had passed without us focusing on the key parts of the lesson!
Later in my teaching career, I did less planning. I would go in with only a rough outline, jotted down on a piece of paper, of what I hoped to accomplish in a given class. If I hadn’t taught the course before, or if the material was particularly difficult, then I might put some extra time and effort into planning, but otherwise, I felt that as long as I knew the material, my students, the course, and my teaching style, and I could put it all together without needing a detailed plan. Perhaps this is a question of experience? But I think that these classes came out pretty well.
What about you? Are you a planner? Do you usually “wing it?” What is the right balance for you between planning and being a free spirit in the classroom?