To start this off, because I love my dictionary, let’s look at how the dictionary describes a syllabus:
Syllabus / noun: Programme or outline of course of study, teaching, etc.
That is a pretty good summary of what a syllabus is to be honest. A syllabus is a document that contains the prescribed series of topics for your entire course. My favourite view of anything I look at is SMART which is the view that anything you set out to do should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based. This is my view of what should be contained in any syllabus.
A syllabus should be specific and contain an ordered list of what language items you need to have taught your students by the end of the course. It should be measurable, which is not to say that it should contain the tests you will use but should allow time for you to test the progress of your students and measure that they are absorbing the information contained in the syllabus. It should be attainable. Taking a syllabus for a university level native-English class and trying to apply this syllabus to a beginner EFL class is never going to be attainable. The syllabus needs to be suitable for the time and level of your students. Linked to attainable it should also be realistic. Even if you have a syllabus which is set to the level and time of your students you should be able to realistically be able to achieve the goals of the syllabus with your students. It should be time based with steps throughout. There should be set times within the syllabus by when you need to have reached a certain level. You need these steps in the full timeline to be able to measure the pace of your classes and ensure you are staying on track.
In addition to what is stated above, each school has a different style in which they like the teaching to be done in. In order for the teacher to be able to play their role in ensuring that the syllabus is followed and that they meet the standards of the school there should be a section detailing some of these items. There should at least be a guide telling the teacher the preferred style of the lessons, assessment methods and preferred materials.
There are 8 main items which you will come across in the full syllabus set out in the school you are working at. This is by no means the full list but this summarizes what your lessons within the syllabus will mainly cover:
I will cover these in much greater detail later because I feel that each of these deserves their own post or at least a greater level of detail after I have given some insight into lesson planning and planning for different classes. For now I want to leave you with something to think about and a question. A lot of teachers look at a syllabus as a hindrance to their teaching and planning, whereas i feel it is the greatest tool to assist a teacher starting out. What are your thoughts?