“ABC! Easy as 123! As simple as Do Re Mi!”… We’ll stop there, and start running you through the TEFL Alphabet, guaranteed to answer any questions you may have about TEFL overseas.

Feel free to sing along with us “Now I know my ABCs… there is nothing stopping me!”

The A-Z Of TEFL Overseas

A – Animals won’t always look the same in other countries, remember!  What we might see as a squeaky pink pig in our books, might not translate to what the children in your new classroom see as a pig.  Consider this when planning lessons…

B – Bingo! Try playing bingo with words, not just numbers.  Do not play for money with your students…

C – Copying. Copying is a no-no and you should encourage your students to be creative and not just copy off the smartest student in the class.  Try to think of activities that eliminate any chance of copying, for example giving each child a different colour, animal or letter to write about – no copying.

D – Dress like a teacher, act like a teacher.  If you wear a vest top and skirt or board shorts, you’re going to a the beach.  If you wear a smart top and longer shorts/trousers/skirts (some men wear them too don’t you know?) then you’re going to school – simple.  Try not to get the two mixed up.  On a serious note, some countries have very different cultures from the western world – it’s important you don’t offend OR stand out like a sore thumb.  You’re living and working abroad to immerse yourself and understand a new culture… not challenge it.

E – English is ace.  By learning English, children around the world have the opportunity to earn around double their income.  Possessing the English language means more job opportunities, so feel good about yourself… you’re part of something big!

F – Fun. Don’t forget to have fun with your lessons. Think back to your time at school… let’s face it – you remember the lessons that were fun. Miss Trunchbull from ‘Matilda’ once said “If you are having fun, you are NOT learning”. We disagree! (If you haven’t read it… what did you do during your childhood!?  Check it out on Amazon!)

G – Grammar = groan.  Although we liked the subject of grammar a whole lot more when one new starter at i-to-i was asked ‘How’s your grammar?’ and she replied ‘she’s kind of small…’ Gold dust.  That’s what happens when Brits and Yankees co-exist.

Grammar is a funny subject. Most native English speakers grow up speaking English without really questioning it; we just talk the language without really knowing it.  Those who learn English as a second language are taught it in such a way that they probably have a better understanding of English.

H – Hangman.  When in doubt, play hangman. It’s universal dear friend, and we haven’t met a single person yet who doesn’t like playing hangman.

I – Illegal activities are not cool, contrary to popular belief.  It’s not cool to be banged up abroad; it’s not cool to fester away in prison – although that is taking it to the extreme.  Police forces overseas are a lot less lenient than they might be back at home… you have been warned.  We don’t want to see you on the news.  Please do not work without a work visa – it’s a really great way to get banned from an amazing country… it’s absolutely NOT advised.

J – Job hunting overseas needn’t be hard. Use our advice to help, just check out our jobs board for listings, or get your free Six Step guide to help you find that perfect job abroad!

K – Knowledge is power! Power to the teacher! Enough said.

L – Lots of students in one classroom – is something that you might come across as it’s not uncommon to have around 50 people in a class around the world. Make it your mission to learn every student’s name and get the class to help you with this. Make it fun. In East Asia, classes might have between 50 and 100 people in certain classes.

M – Media. If you’re heading overseas to teach, have you told your local media about it? Your local paper might just be interested and might even set you up with your own regular column – you only have to ask to find out.

N – Noodles.  Something you’ll never get away from in Asia and you’ll potentially love to hate. Just say nooooo. Seriously though, local cuisine is something to embrace, not run away from. It’s fine to succumb to the odd McDonald’s fix every so often; but a big part of the adventure of living overseas is trying the local delicacies, no matter how many legs or wings it has!

O – Opposites games are great fun. Up, down, big, little, light, dark, early, late… use your classroom to its advantage and get the class involved in a few opposites games – pair the students up and get them to come up with as many opposite examples. Or split the class in two and play a game involving students standing up when they have the opposite if the class is looking tired.

P – Present perfect, continuous … you lost us at present… (Please refer to letter ‘G’ for grammar)

Q – Questions are fun to use in lessons. Write a list of potential answers on your board. Get your class to call out possible questions for your answers and write them on the board, then have your students to memorise the questions before rubbing them off the board and leave them to ask each other.

R – Restaurants.  You’re bound eat at a few, but they also make great lessons… have some fun with role play and pretend to open up a class restaurant.  Your students can create menus with dishes and prices and have some fun ordering and ‘eating’ your dishes, then write a review of the dishes and the complete dining experience after.  Have your students serve you!

S – Shopping is going to be a very strange experience for you in your new country – there might be things in jars you’ve never seen before; but the good news is in most places you can buy toiletries and clothes so it’s not necessary to fill your bag with your whole wardrobe and bathroom cabinet; you’ll only kick yourself when you arrive for over-packing!

T – Travel.  It’s not about getting there, it’s about the journey.  We read that on a beer mat somewhere… that scary looking toilet, that unidentifiable meat on a stick you’ve been offered through a bus window – they’re all part of enjoying the journey and they make great stories to tell.

U – Underwear… how many pairs are you taking/have you taken with you? Remember… you can turn them inside out.

V – Vaccinations. Prevention is cheaper than the cures are. On a weekend you might spend a week’s worth of wages in a bar or on clothes, but if you think a vaccination isn’t worth the money?  Change your mindset and open your wallet.

W – Weather. Everyone’s got it and everyone’s got an opinion about it. It’s an icebreaker; a good topic for lessons and a reason to leave the country you’re currently living in and complaining about.

X – X-Ray vision should not be used on students! (you thought we might struggle on that one didn’t you?)

Y – Yelling is not the answer.  Ever.

Z – Zebra is not the answer to this question: What’s black and white and red all over?

Well? What is black and white and re(a)d all over?

Have you got your own alternative TEFL Alphabet?  Share any other tips you have if you TEFL overseas!


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