Decentralised Teaching and Learning

“Not all who wander are lost”. J R R Tolkien

#dct syllabus 1

This is the 12 week syllabus I created with my Business English group. Please forgive the formatting, it’s just the way it came out when transferring to WordPress.

After the learners decided what they would like to do, I created this document in Google docs, which I then shared with the class. There’s a ‘comments’ section on the right-hand side where learners can add their own contributions.

Ongoing activities:

–  Small Talk
–  Games to remember vocabulary
–  Useful Business English Phrases





The Tallest Tower, Make syllabus


Game: Invent a product, do marketing, make a pitch

Tenses (in conversation)

maybe build a prototype? (each time has same materials this time)


Grammar Test

Reported Speech

Discussion on Movies, Essays/ Articles

Prepare a movie (no tom hanks pleez!), essay or article for class?

Hugh Grant – easily to understand..and please without subtitles

(NOTE: movie moved to week 3)


BBC Sherlock discussion


Grammar: Noun, adj.+preposition

Phrases for phoning, skype

Game: Skype call (offline)

Prepare a list of (interesting or work-related) topics for debate in 4



Debate – ‘Refugees’

 Prepare meeting simulation/ roles/ situation for week 6



Job Interview 1 – CV’s and Job interview questions

 *Changed – now on Job interviews!


Job Interview 2 – Simulation – Practise of Useful phrases from Week 6


Grammar: Reported Speech: Easier ways of reporting speech

***Xmas drinks!***

 Prepare Conditionals for next lesson


Grammar: Conditionals revision/ Disussion activity


Appraisals/ Discussion (limit the time of the speaker)


The Soup Nazi/ Turn taking discussion


Evaluation of syllabus

Working on next syllabus

(remind me to bring in extra materials/ syllabuses/ books to choose from)

9 comments on “#dct syllabus 1

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  8. Roni
    July 8, 2014

    Very interesting Paul, thanks for posting this – I was interested to know what kind of activities you did in your class to negotiate the syllabus?


    • paulwalsh
      July 9, 2014

      Hi Roni,

      That’s a good question. If you go to the page called ‘Decentralised Teaching in Action – The Beginning!‘ then there’s a brief description of the first lesson – which really sets the tone for the rest of the syllabus. So it’s really important!

      Basically, here are the stages I go through to negotiate the syllabus in class:

      Brainstorming – Learners come up with their own ideas for lesson topic, content, activities and so on. Teacher can monitor, guide and even add items. First put the learners into groups, then in groups they brainstorm ideas for the coming course and write them down on a sheet of paper. Then, you ask them what items they want to have on their course. You should aim to slow the process down so learners are really thinking about this, and refining their ideas. Also, it’s my idea to NOT have coursebooks available, otherwise learners may simply choose the easy option and copy the coursebook syllabus, which is opposite of what you want! Put the coursebooks away. When they have decided this, their choices ideas are written on big index cards – one card, one idea.

      Discussion – Then the group comes together as one big group and discusses which ideas they really like or don’t like. Ideas can be discarded at this stage; also groups tend to choose similar items e.g. reported speech, which you probably won’t want to do 4 times! The group can also decide which items topics go well together. For example, you might not want two vocabulary lessons in a row. Luckily my groups have been quite small so we’ve always managed to come to a consensus on this. You could also vote.

      Arrangement/ Choosing – Then learners choose which activities they want to do in which week and write a number on each card (front or back). 1 for week 1, 2 for week 2. I have a two hour lesson, so I advise them that two or three items for each lesson would be good (but it’s their choice) . I also ask them ‘are there any activities you want every week – themes running through the whole syllabus?’ Syllabus 1 it was vocabulary, now with Syllabus 3 it’s pronunciation.

      Final check – Are there any problems with the syllabus, is it too ‘grammar-heavy’? Is it ‘balanced’? Is there enough skills practice? Have a final check before finishing. The teacher’s job is not really to push the learners in any direction but more to advise them.

      There’s your syllabus! You have a list of activities/ topics etc., and a weekly plan.

      My homework: I go away and type up this ‘syllabus’ into a Google docs (try and get it on one page) and distribute it to the learners. I then work on planning the course and the individual lessons and I can even plan my photocopying (if needed) and do it all in one go. This way everyone is ‘thinking ahead’. Google docs also has this great ‘chat’ function on it now – perhaps I’ll use this in the future, to add another discussion phases to the syllabus.

      Actually, I usually combine the evaluation of the old syllabus with the making of the new syllabus. In the future I think I will change this and stretch the syllabus creation over two lessons. This is based on some reading I’ve been doing on the process of creativity, which can be divided into five phases (Leonard & Swap, 1999):

      1. Preparation
      2. Innovation Opportunity
      3. Divergence: Generating options
      4. Incubation
      5. Convergence: Selecting options

      I think some incubation would improve the syllabus creation. I forgot to say – I also get learners to make personal learning goals for the course. These should NOT be general (e.g. improve my english) but specific (you might want to introduce SMART criteria, specific, measurable and so on). You can then bring these out at the end of the course. With the first course I defined the syllabus as 12 weeks, but the most recent syllabus I let the learners control this and they chose a course of 10 weeks.

      I would also say that a good period of ‘priming’ the learners is also essential (in my opinion) before embarking on this kind or project.

      Hope that this goes some way to answering your question,



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