When you’re teaching English abroad there are things you should do and things you should try your best to avoid doing. Here are the top 10 tips for your TEFL classroom, which are taken from i-to-i’s brand new book – Essential TEFL: Grammar, Lesson Plans & 300 Activities to Make You a Confident Teacher. Check them out:
1) Just Go for It
You’ve got nothing to lose by throwing yourself into everything you do and have fun. Your students are probably going to be more nervous than you are, so encourage and motivate them. If your positive and energetic you can create a positive experience and fun lessons.
2) Have An Aim
It’s really important that all of your lessons have an aim. You want your students to come away from the lesson thinking ‘Today I learnt how to do X’. Without an aim, the lesson can seem like a waste of time (remember classes that you went to and thought, ‘What was the point of that?’).
3) Be Organised
Being organised is really important, make sure you know exactly what you need for your lesson and how everything is going to work. Prepare all the materials you’ll need before hand. Take a spare pen for the board. Make a running sheet. If you’ve got new content to teach make sure you’re familiar with it. If you’re prepared you’ll be much more confident, so you can enjoy your time teaching and your students will enjoy your lessons too.
4) Get Students Talking
This isn’t just about making a lesson lively and fun (although that’s a big plus). Learning English is a skill, like learning to swim or cook. Your students need to practice English, not just learn about English. And the best way for students to practice what they have learnt is by talking to each other, in pairs, groups and mingling as a whole class.
5) Start a Lesson With a Warmer
A warmer is a simple activity at the start of the lesson, which is preferably interactive and fun. As you know, it’s easy to feel uncomfortable and shy in a big group of people. A warmer removes that initial anxiety, as it helps students to feel relaxed and confident to speak for the rest of the lesson. In a warmer, it is best that students interact in small groups – not talking one at a time in front of the whole class.
6) Use Variety
Who wants to sit through a boring class?! Making your lessons interesting doesn’t mean you have to play games all the time. It’s good to use a variety of different activities in your class. Vary the skills your students are practicing (writing, speaking, reading, listening) as well as the pace and physical activity (sitting, standing, mingling, running). Keep the expression ‘light and shade’ in mind – follow a quiet and serious activity with something fun and high-energy.
7) Instruct Clearly
We’ve said it’s important to have students practicing a variety of activities. The one risk that creates – as opposed to a traditional class, where students just have to sit and listen – is that they won’t know what to do. This is especially so, since English is not their second language (Yet!). The result would be chaos. So, it’s important to instruct simply and clearly, and back up your instructions by using a demonstration.
Eliciting means asking the students to tell you, rather than you always telling the students (which is the unfortunate dynamic in many classrooms around the world). Turn everything into a question. Rather than drawing a picture on the board and saying ‘This is a car’, ask, ‘What’s this?’. Give your students a chance to tell you things, rather than been told everything. They’ll feel much more engaged in the lesson.
9) Work on Pronunciation Constantly
Pronunciation seems to be the last thing on many teachers’ minds. But if you can’t understand someone’s pronunciation, it doesn’t matter how good their grammar or vocabulary is. Whenever you teach anything new – grammar or vocabulary or functional language – you should teach students how to pronounce it as well, and give them a chance to practise it orally.
10) Correct Students
Studies have shown that language students like to be corrected and are often not corrected enough. When students are corrected they know that you’re actually listening to them and wanting to help them. It’s just the way you go about it that’s important – when you correct a student it should be in a kind way, not as a criticism or a telling off. There are times, however when you shouldn’t correct your students. For example, when students are speaking in front of the class. Instead wait until they have finished and discuss any errors that you have heard, this way you’re not knocking their confidence.
If this article has inspired you and you would like to read more, you can order your copy of Essential TEFLtoday! It’s filled with loads of great teaching tips, lesson plans, activities and games plus a comprehensive guide to English grammar!