TEFL teaching tips to get you started on your first day. The first day on the job is always a tough one, regardless. As an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher, you will feel nervous and unsure about actually working as an EFL teacher. In addition, putting the theory you've learned in your TEFL course into practice is a challenge.
A TEFL teacher must have a good knowledge of teaching methodologies, lesson planning, time management, classroom discipline and a good understanding of grammar. New TEFL teachers can feel quite overwhelmed trying to juggle it all while still coming across as cool, calm, and collected.
We know this. We've been there. So here are some excellent TEFL teaching tips from experienced TEFL teachers to help settle your nerves.
1. Being nervous is not bad
You will be nervous; it is normal when you are new to teaching. Accept that you're going to be anxious and work through those nerves. Take advantage of your nervous energy. Expect and accept that you might make mistakes or not know the answers to all the questions.
If you prepare and have a positive attitude, you'll be fine. So get to your class a few minutes early for every lesson to set up and be ready when your students arrive. Make sure you have a good lesson plan, as well as a Plan B. Enter the classroom with confidence. Students can sense fear, even in a virtual classroom.
2. Connecting with your students is crucial
Your lesson plan, language aim, material and coursebooks are important. However, what is even more important is your connection with your students. Get to know your students. Find out about their interests, hobbies, objectives, career goals. Work on building rapport with them. You will get a lot more learning and cooperation from your students if they are relaxed, comfortable and motivated to learn.
To help you know your students, always get a needs analysis. You can do your own needs analysis or ask the school for one. The needs analysis enables you to identify their learning styles, goals, needs and personalities. It will help if you plan learner-centred lessons. To make the class more meaningful and therefore more engaging to your students, try and choose relevant or relatable topics.
3. Build up your teaching portfolio
You will find different ideas for lessons, activities, and methodologies that work well in your classes. This might be because they are particularly interactive or work well with a particular language structure or topic. Take note of what does and does not work. As you get more experienced, you will build up your teaching portfolio with different activities, materials, games, methodologies that fit different language levels from A1 – C2. You can be more ambitious by classifying your lessons by level, profession, country, first language, etc. The more your lesson plan focuses on your student profile, the more effective your teaching will be.
Save your lesson plans, worksheets, games, copies of your handouts on your computer. Being well prepared reduces your lesson planning time and helps you out when you find yourself in a spot. If you need to take over another teacher's class or you get asked to teach a one-off class of advanced ELLs, having a ready to use teaching portfolio saves the day.
4. You are a teacher, and you know that you must keep on learning
You are the teacher, but you learn every day. Your learning can come from many sources. You get ideas from your colleagues. You learn from their experiences how to handle a challenging class. They've been there and have lots of helpful advice and tips on delivering engaging and effective TEFL classes. As teachers, we need to be on top of things. We need to recycle, improve and learn. Your students are also good sources of learning. The more classes you teach, the better you get. What you see from teaching your students gives you an idea about what activities, methods to use for future classes.
Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is critical, and as teachers, we should be on top of our CPD. Attend TEFL, TESOL conferences and workshops. Watch webinars, read blogs, attend talks organised by TEFL and TESOL groups. Keep informed of the latest developments in the English language sector.
5. Plan to take breaks during your teaching day
One thing you will figure out soon enough is that teaching is physically tiring.
TEFL teachers, or any classroom teacher for that matter, are usually on their feet for most of the lesson. They will be teaching, monitoring, facilitating, speaking to students and checking work. If you've got back to back (one after the other) classes, that's a lot of standing.
Teaching in a virtual classroom is also tiring. You sit for extended periods looking at a computer screen. Sitting means you are inactive, so your oxygen intake is lower than if you were moving around. Teaching takes brainpower, and your brain uses a lot of oxygen. So take breaks and move around to avoid becoming over-tired.
We now move on to the mental aspect of teaching. You need to prepare, find material, plan lessons and teach your class with as few hiccups as possible. Teaching is a stressful process.
In the beginning, planning your lessons might take a while, which is normal. Soon you will get used to it, and things will fall in place. If you find you don't have free time between your classes and your planning, you need to make changes. It is best to plan time outs during the day to avoid burnout.
6. Culture shock
Culture shock happens when you move to an unfamiliar cultural environment. For example, you have just moved to a new country, and you started a new job. You probably do not have any friends or family in your new country. You may not be able to speak the local language. How do you find the supermarket, get around, order things, etc.? At first, all of this is a challenge, but you will prevail.
Culture shock comprises four phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, and adaptation. Common problems include:
- information overload
- language barrier
- generation gap
- technology gap
- skill interdependence
- formulation dependency
There is no one way to prevent culture shock because we all react differently.
It is normal to experience culture shock. However, try not to jump on the first plane home because understanding why you feel the stress allows you to deal with it and make it go away.
Enjoy teaching your classes.
- If you're not enjoying yourself, neither are your students.
- If you find your class boring, so will your students.
Remember these two points. Try to use engaging material, exciting activities and games which are enjoyable. This could be as simple as using meaningful material to your class, increasing the STT (Student Talking Time), incorporating more group activities or casual chats at the end of the lesson.
What are the rules and regulations in your school? What are the dos and don'ts in your school? Armed with this information, you can now move on to thinking outside the box. Be creative, innovative and fun. Come up with interactive, engaging and motivating lessons for everyone to learn from and enjoy.
Have a great experience as a TEFL teacher
Being a newly accredited TEFL teacher can be daunting, but it is also one of the most rewarding things you can do.
We hope you find these TEFL teaching tips are helpful as you start your TEFL career.
Good luck, happy teaching and let us know if you want to add some TEFL teaching tips of your own.