We have all experienced times when you've gone through a few exercises in your book with your students and upon finishing see nothing but confused faces. You realize the exercises are difficult, so you run through again, but still nothing. The students are frustrated and you're frustrated and you just can’t understand what’s wrong.
Is it possible that you forgot to set the scene, to put things into context, for the students? It is an easy temptation to jump right into a book exercise, especially when you know that is where the teacher on the previous day left off. It is important, however, to build context and set a framework for new lesson material with some warm-up activities. If you’ve ever been involved in a conversation in another language where you didn’t know what the topic was, you can probably understand how difficult it can be to sort it out, especially if the vocabulary is new for you, or even if you’ve just joined an English conversation halfway through.
So how can you help your students out in this situation? Remember to always start your lessons by setting the scene. You should know ahead of time what was covered in the class before yours, and find a way to review what the students know and use that to transition into new material. Starting with review will both build student confidence and set the scene for new learning. You can do things like telling a story to introduce the topic, putting grammar points into the context of a conversation, having students lead review activities, asking pre-reading questions or introducing key vocabulary first, and always asking comprehension questions. Establishing a framework and setting the scene for a lesson helps students prepare for that day's class and can minimize frustrations for both you and your students. Spend some time on review and warm-ups and your lessons will be more enjoyable for everyone.