Want to be a great teacher? Become a great trainer first

Matt | Books: Trainer's | Monday, November 10th, 2008

Awhile back I stumbled across a book that changed my life when it came to teaching language learning.  Oddly, the book was not an ESL teaching guidebook.  Actually it wasn’t a traditional teachers’ guide.  Instead it was a pocket book that changed my life.

The book is called Trainer’s (Management)Pocket book, by John Townsend.

Trainer's (Management Pocketbooks)

This pocket book, while small, holds a heck of a lot of value for anyone interested in becoming a professional trainer, teacher or educator.

Some of the pages include:

  • Learning Theory
  • Learning Environment
  • Preparing to Train
  • Training Delivery
  • Audio Visual Support
  • Group and Individual Exercises

Now while it is targeted at a professional trainer, I do believe a lot of the information is useful and possibly essential for constructing a good lesson plan. The layout is a tiny pocket book.  Although the book is small, each page contains a wealth of information.

Learning Theory

How adults learn. A mentions some important things teachers need to be aware of: adults learn only if they want to and need to (need to be interested); by practicing what they have been taught in an informal and non-threatening way.

My takeaway from this is a teacher needs to create an interest between the topic and the student so they want to learn, create opportunities to practice it (exercise 1, exercise 2, follow-up, homework, next day review) and as a teacher we must create a positive learning environment for our students.


As a teacher I hardly gave any thought to how our brains work and how that would affect our students and learning.

“The brain goes into auto shut off after only 10 minutes if it is not given something to stimulate it. – so we must vary the media and give multi-channel messages”

When I read this I got a big “ah-ha”, now I realize why my students would drowse off after 20 minutes of the same exercise, or why Johnny would fall asleep after watching 20 minutes of a Friends episode.  Every 10 minutes change up your exercise, activity, type of exercise (listen, speak, read, write) and or move them.  From this one sentence in the book I changed how I lesson plan as I now try to add in a movement exercise to make things fun and to increase the energy into the class.

“When a message is given once, the brain remembers 10% one year later; when it is given six times, recall rises to 90% – so we must repeat, recap and review.”

This was another ah-ha for me.  As a teacher you want to help your students learn what you’ve taught them so they can use it outside of the classroom for the rest of their lives.  To do so we need to repeat, recap and review. My takeaway here is that the structure of your lesson plan is important: have a clear objective: what do you want to cover today?; how will you build exercises that make seem different, but still review the same thing you want to teach?; how will you structure your 24 hour review at the start of your next class.

I originally hoped to write all the good stuff from this book, but I realized I’ve reached the max on this post and I’ve only covered two pages of the book!!! I will refer to this book again later.  In the meantime, take a look at it to see if it can help you improve your teaching or training in the classroom.

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