ELT Lesson planning with ChatGPT: Analysing learner’s needs 

By Mark McKinnon and Nicola Meldrum

Category: Teacher Resources

By now you’ve probably heard of ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot taking the world by storm. It’s slowly, but surely, changing the way we work. Yet, that isn’t necessarily a negative thing. In fact, this tool can make your life as a teacher a lot easier. Like any form of technology, you just need to know what it can do for you and how to tap into its full potential.

Not only can ChatGPT help us to create different types of lesson plans, it can also help us to plan classes that meet our learner’s needs more effectively. Read on to find out how.

Using ChatGPT to analyse pronunciation problems

Let’s create a scenario. Imagine you have to teach the following example lesson that ChatGPT has created for you. 

But, let’s imagine that this is for a group of teenagers whose first language is Korean. You’ve never taught Korean learners, you don’t speak Korean, and you have no idea what issues they’re going to have with grammar. 

That being said, one thing you do know is that pronunciation is a huge problem for all English language learners – Korean speakers included. So, how can ChatGPT help with pronunciation problems? Let’s send a prompt and see what it responds with.

Pretty helpful, right? ChatGPT has armed you with the knowledge you need to begin planning some useful pronunciation activities for these specific learners. But, while all of this information is useful, it could be overwhelming to cover all the issues mentioned. So, you could choose to just focus on one or two sounds at a time.

Discovering pronunciation activities with ChatGPT

What if we are not sure how to go about teaching a particular aspect of pronunciation? Once again, this tool can help us. It’s important to know that with every prompt you give ChatGPT to be as specific as possible and give it all the necessary information. This way, you’ll get a more beneficial response tailored to your needs. Check out the following for an example. 

Again, there are lots of great ideas here, but maybe too many to introduce into one class. So, select the activity which you think your learners will find most enjoyable and useful for the lesson you’re planning. 

It’s clear to see that while ChatGPT is good at helping with activity ideas, it is not perfect. One crucial thing which is missing from this list is an activity showing students how to make the sound. Learners need to know the mouth position, so ensure you cover this when teaching difficult sounds. 

To teach the /v/ sounds you could demonstrate by placing your teeth on your bottom lip in an exaggerated way and saying /v/. Then, have the students do the same. If they start to produce the /f/ sound, which has the same mouth position, you’ll need to focus on helping them voice the sound. Here’s a fun way to do this:

  • Tell them to Say ‘Ahh’ as if they are at the dentist. 
  • Have them put one hand on their throat and feel the vibration.
  • Now, tell them to say /f/ and notice there is no vibration.
  • Tell them to switch on the vibration, saying ‘Ahh’, ‘vvvv’ in quick succession.

Let’s now imagine it’s not possible to narrow the pronunciation focus down to just one sound and you want to help students pronounce a number of words from the lesson. ChatGPT can help here too – take a look at the following example.

Whatever the first language of the students, this tool is great at helping us to identify a pronunciation objective for our lesson planning. And, not just that, it can arm us with activities to teach pronunciation.

Analysing learner’s needs when teaching grammar

ChatGPT can also help us to plan lessons by analysing grammar points to find out what problems students might have based on their level and first language. 

In the case of the Korean learners, ChatGPT has this to say. 

This gives us a very insightful overview of potential grammar problems for these learners. We could dive deeper into whichever issue we think most important for the level we are teaching by then asking a more specific prompt about that particular grammar point.

While there’s a lot of information here, it is a good starting point to help you understand what issues your learners may face. So, whatever the first language of your students, you can simply ask this tool to help you discover what grammar they might need to work on. 

Analysing the needs of learners in different age groups

It’s not just language that ChatGPT can help us to analyse in order to plan lessons effectively. It can also help us to develop our knowledge and skills so we are better prepared to teach different age groups. 

For example, imagine you are new to teaching teenagers. You don’t have access to any teacher development courses and your work doesn’t have the facilities to train you. ChatGPT is here to help. 

With any new age group: young learners, teenagers or older adults, it’s good to research some characteristics of how they learn. We can then plan ELT lessons which capitalise on, and respond to, their needs. 

After receiving this information, we can then ask the tool to suggest ways we can respond to the characteristics outlined.

Some clear takeaways from this short investigation into teaching teenagers might include:

  • Adding problem solving and sufficient cognitive challenges into lesson activities.
  • Integrating learner training by helping students to set goals and reflect on their progress in engaging and relevant ways.
  • Being sensitive when planning interaction patterns as peer relationships are important and possibly fragile. 

As the world of ELT changes and there are increasingly more younger and older learners, it’s a great, and for now free, resource for professional development. 

Moving forward with ChatGPT

In our experience, the benefit of using ChatGPT over searching online is how specific you can be about your request and how effectively you can dive deeper into one area as your conversation with ChatGPT develops. What’s more, it saves the chat so you can go back to it and pick up right where you left off. 

As with all teacher development, we can’t do everything at once. So, trying out one or two of the ideas it suggests and then going back to it another day to reflect on what we have done and what else we can try, is very useful. 

By Mark McKinnon and Nicola Meldrum

Mark and Nicola are writing a methodology book for Garnet Education called Lesson Planning for ELT: New Principles and Frameworks

If you’d like to find out more about lesson planning check out our other blog posts. You might also be interested in our range of ELT titles.

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