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The ABC of ELT

The real reason I don’t like putting lesson objectives up on the board

blackboard goals

For a long time I’ve not liked the idea of putting lesson objectives on the board at the start of the lesson. I’ve come up with and come across a variety of reasons to back up this position and I do believe many of them…to a degree but in all honestly there is one true reason I don’t like putting lesson objectives up on the board.

It’s not because I think the lesson should be able to go off on tangents and focus on emerging language (though I do believe that). It’s not that I believe the students should be the one’s directing their learning (though I do) and that writing objectives on the board tell them that the teacher is the director (although they do). It’s not that I don’t want to spoil the surprise of learning and discovery in the class (though I don’t) and it’s not even that I’m worried some students will turn their eyes and complain that they know that grammar already (although they do).

No, in truth the real reason is that I’m scared. I’m scared that by putting the lesson objective on the board I’ve set a target which I have to get to and if we don’t, the students will know. More than that, they’ll know I didn’t help them get there and the only conclusion is that I’m a bad teacher.

Maybe this is an irrational fear, maybe that accountability is actually the best reason to put lesson objectives on the whiteboard. Either way regardless of all the other reasons I’ve heard about and believe, this is probably the reason I choose to give them more ear than the reasons for putting lesson objectives on the board and is the driving force of my actions.

The school I currently work for has a strong fondness for putting objectives on the board and so I have started doing so more and more. Sometimes the objective isn’t fully achieved but it is more often than not. It’s helping me deal with this fear but it is still there.

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

2 Replies

  1. Interesting points about all the reasons that don’t make you dislike putting objectives (although they apply). I actually really like to have objectives on the board -both as a teacher and learner. And I think having unmet objectives is quite alright since I review them as class goes by and let students know we won’t get to do X or Y, or I ask them what they’d prefer to work on from the list. The other thing I like doing with “left over” objectives is asking Ss the next day to tell me which ones I should write on the board. It’s telling who is paying attention and I feel (although I could be wrong) that it helps them be more involved in setting learning objectives.

    1. I’m growing to like putting objectives up on the board more and more now Laura and I am certainly getting more out of them as a teacher (I can’t speak from a learner’s perspective personally though). Do you ever add on objectives for things that arose during the class or something similar? I could see some value in doing that.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

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