Teaching with intention! (otherwise known as learning with intention)

Jun 9, 2022 | 0 comments

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”― Friedrich Nietzsche

Have you ever been sitting in a class as a student and wondered, “why are we doing this?” or “what is the point?”

Have you ever been teaching a class or tutoring someone and thought “I wonder if the students know why we are doing this” or worse, “why am I teaching this?”

I certainly have and seen a glazed look in my students’ eyes as I teach. I often blame myself, but do so less if I have adequately stated what the goal of the lesson is (why we are doing this).  Even if the “why” isn’t perfect or obviously relevant to the student, at least I have done the student the common courtesy of stating explicitly why we are doing this perhaps seemingly pointless activity. When planning a lesson it’s important to make sure the lesson explicitly states the goal or objective of the lesson (why we are doing this)

When I first got my teaching credential in California 20 years ago, I was taught the Madeline Hunter (1916–1994) seven step instructional model for lesson planning.

  1. objectives
  2. standards
  3. anticipatory set (the hook)
  4. teaching (input, modeling, checking for understanding)
  5. guided practice/monitoring
  6. closure
  7. independent practice

I think this model is useful for planning a lesson, but more recently I moved on to the GANAG lesson plan model that my last school required (and because it has that catchy acronym). 

GANAG was developed by Jane Pollock (who was greatly influenced by the Hunter model) in her 2001 book Classroom Instruction that Works. This is how the GANAG model is described by www.ASCD.org (and educational site affiliated with Dr. Pollock):

The sequence for teaching and learning in a GANAG-planned lesson is

  • Set the GOAL
  • ACCESS Prior Knowledge
  • Introduce NEW Information
  • APPLY New Information
  • Review the GOAL

In action in the classroom, GANAG-style lesson planning might look like this:

G: To set the lesson goal, students might write or say the lesson goal and rate themselves on their current knowledge or skill with the goal.

A: To access prior knowledge, students might interact with a visual prompt or graphic organizer or discuss a guiding question with a partner.

N: While new information is introduced, students can practice summarizing and working cooperatively to clarify concepts and generate questions.

A: During the application of new information, students can identify similarities and differences, generate and test hypotheses, and seek feedback from the teacher and peers.

G: Finally, to review the goal at the end of a lesson, students can reflect on and rate their new level of understanding and amount of effort applied during the lesson.


What does this look like in the foreign language classroom? I was recently teaching an advanced ESL class for the sales staff at the Hyatt hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. I found that formally stating the goal of the lesson let the students know I meant business about today’s content and why we were doing it. Also in my experience Colombian teachers, are sometimes haphazard and tangential in their lesson content. Imagine taking a computer class on using a spreadsheet taught by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – the florid prose of magical realism might prove a distraction. 

During one of our first classes I taught a class on common vocabulary used in the classroom so I could use English as much as possible in the future for routine classroom directions. I used the lesson plan table below based on the GANAG model. 

Set the Goal:To learn English vocabulary and directions commonly used in the classroom to improve class experience and practice comprehension.
Access Prior Knowledge:To Students: Write a list in English of everything you see in the classroom: pen, chair, teacher… etc. Which words are cognates with Spanish?
Introduce NEW InformationI presented the vocabulary in the table below separating nouns and verbs. I used the actual objects as much as possible or photos.
APPLY New InformationPlay “Simon says” with the objects of the classroom. Such as “Simon says pick up your pencil” or “Simon says point at the door”, or “Simon says write your name”, etc. 
Review Goal:Students review the new vocabulary below and circle the ones they already know and underline the words they need to study more.

Common Classroom Vocabulary

Nouns – things (sustantivos)Verbs – actions (verbos)
pen, pencil, paper, handout, folder, screen, chair, desk, teacher, student, light, light switch, projector, write, think, listen, speak, say out loud, work with a partner, look at, point at, greet, find, get, show, pass in, give, repeat after me, 

The lesson went fairly well, largely because I had told the reason we were doing this activity. Students might have asked themselves, “why are we studying the word for pencil, desk and listen when I’m here to learn to make sales pitches in English to foreign customers.”  I hope that stating the goal of the lesson helped dissuade the students from such distracting thoughts and gave them a “why” to engage in the lesson. Since the students had Nietzsche’s “why” they could proceed to figure out the “how” to learn the vocabulary.

If I was going to GANAG the content of this article (in a way, this is a lesson) I would do it like this:

G (Goal)The goal of the lesson is to inform the reader of the importance of stating the goal of the lesson plan and using the GANAG format.
A (Access)To you the reader: “What are some lesson plan formats you’ve used?, Why do you think it’s important to state the goal of a lesson?”
N (New)GANAG stands for blah, blah, blah. This is an example of how I used it in an ESL class.
A (Apply)Because this is an article, I skipped this step.
G (Goal)Did you learn the GANAG steps? What does it stand for? Why is it a good idea to state the goal to your students?


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