Whether you’re getting ready to head off for a new TEFL position abroad, or you’re just looking for some ways to enhance your current teaching practice, we’ve put together some suggestions for ways to make your lesson plans the best that they can be.
Model for your students
Most of us learn well by example, and by repetition. This means that if you can provide your students with a good example of how you’d like each activity to be completed, they’ll be off to a better start. Start by outlining each specific activity for your students, then demonstrating what a job well done looks like, including your thought process as you work through the tasks.
Watch your language
No, I don’t just mean the obvious here. Something that should always be front-of-mind is how quickly you’re speaking to your students and whether or not you’re making yourself clear with understandable word choices. Speaking slower than we would with fluent English speakers is almost always essential in the classroom setting, and especially so with beginner learning groups. Although you might initially feel like you’re belittling your students, they will appreciate your efforts—believe me.
Depending on the language level of your classroom, word choice is also something to consider. Are you overusing slang, regional variations, phrasal verbs, or are you just speaking over your students’ heads? Remember that a lot of your students will be first absorbing the material in English and then often translating internally into their first language, while also considering how you might next respond. That’s a lot of work!
Check frequently for understanding
Simply asking your students if they have questions after introducing a new concept won’t be enough, because shy students won’t speak up and in some cultures, students will fear coming across as either rude or unintelligent. Instead, you should look for other opportunities to check in to make sure that your students have understood and will be able to activate what they’ve learned when they leave your classroom. There are a number of ways that you could do this, but including follow-up examples, pairing students together and having them ask their partner a comprehension question and vice versa, or introducing a quick game at the end of a class will help you know who has understood the new concepts and who needs more support.
With these new check-ins, students might also begin to question more deeply whether they’ve actually grasped new material, and be more honest with themselves about their language development. This helps everyone in the long run!
Visuals are a must
You’ll cover a lot of new vocabulary and concepts in each of your lessons, and having some visual cues will help keep your students engaged and aware of what’s going on. You don’t have to be an artist to include visuals in your lessons—even existing artwork or photographs will go a long way. Asking students to bring in their own visual material can also create new opportunities for engagement in your lessons.
Let your students make mistakes
Mistakes are bound to happen, both in written and oral communication. You’ll encounter students who like to be corrected all the time and others who will be totally embarrassed if they feel like every time they try to speak, their teacher is pointing out all their mistakes. This might even prevent some students from speaking out or participating at all.
Try this: make all the necessary corrections in written assignments but let students speak as freely as possible when participating in oral exercises. If you keep a running list of some common errors that several students are making and cover these errors more generally for five minutes at the end of your lesson, no students will feel singled out, and you’ll still be able to provide some feedback on the classroom material.
Have you picked up any great tips to share with other TEFL teachers? Share them in the comments and maybe we’ll collect your contributions together for the next tips blog post!