It’s a great feeling when you know you have just aced a lesson – when you have just heard the ‘ker-ching’ that means that the penny has dropped and your students have finally got it! After all, you’ve been trying to teach them that word or grammatical structure for ages now!
But how do you really know what makes a good TEFL lesson? Are rows of smiley happy students definitive of a great lesson? Or can we measure TEFL classroom success in a different way?
While your personality may help your popularity with a class, this alone won’t sustain you for long. The bottom line is that preparation is key if you want to have continued success with your TEFL students.
So let’s look at our top 5 sure-fire ways to create successful lessons.
1. Get your students engaged and involved straight away
A TEFL lesson is like a blog – if it doesn’t get you involved straight away you switch off. So get all your students involved and communicating from the start and set a strong context for the rest of your lesson. This gets them over any inhibitions about speaking English in class and makes communication later in the lesson much easier.
For example, if you’re planning to practice question forms in English, then find out what they can do by having them guess the famous person in your picture by asking ‘yes/no’ questions. See this in action here.
2. Have a clear objective for your lesson
‘Improve students speaking skills’ is too vague and it is also impossible to measure. However, ‘Learn 4 new ways to ask for something in a restaurant and practice using them verbally in a natural context’ doesn’t sound as pretty, but is quantifiable and will focus your activities around this task.
Often it is better to practice one thing in several different ways than keep introducing new elements through the course of a lesson. So keep your objective measurable and realistic to your students’ abilities.
3. Plan your lessons!
You may be able to wing it on the odd occasion but planning is essential if you are to be successful. There is no substitute for a well-prepared lesson plan built around your key objective. Get into the planning habit early and the process will get quicker with time.
Attached is a lesson plan template we encourage all our students to use in our TESOL training courses. Have a look. As you will see, the plan is split into 3 stages. There is presentation stage where you engage students into the theme and present the target language, the study phase which may include reading, writing, listening or speaking tasks with related activities and then a final practice session. This will generally be less controlled and allow the students to practice the target language in a more natural context. A solid objective (see 2) will really help you to plan suitable tasks within each of the 3 sections.
4. Prepare plenty of pair and group work activities
This ensures students get plenty of communication practice and it probably means you as the teacher are not talking too much. As a new teacher, a common mistake is to ‘tell’ everything and to dominate with too much Teacher Talking Time (TTT). Cut it down! You rarely need to say as much as you think.
Remember that good course books have pre-prepared material graded for level and there are a wealth of free TEFL resources and ideas on the internet. You can select and adapt these according to your class.
5. Review your lessons
Back to the beginning now – do you remember we asked how we can we measure TEFL classroom success? At the end of each the lesson plan in our courses you will see some great questions for review after the lesson:
a. Have you got the focus of the lesson right? For example, if it’s a reading/writing/grammar based lesson, have you made this skill or element the central part of the lesson? Is this reflected in the timings? Have you mentioned the relevant skill in your aim?
b. Are there any points where the students might lose interest or where they have worked quicker than you expected? If so, where and do you have a back-up or extra activity? What would you have them do?
c. How could the lesson have been improved? Hard to know before you teach it, but is there somewhere you can see room for potential improvement?
Answer these questions as soon as possible after giving the lesson and be honest with yourself. If this is tricky, ask yourself, ‘If I had to give this lesson again tomorrow, what would I change?’
The bottom line is ‘Did I meet my objective? If not, why?'
Over to you
While we believe the key to TEFL success is mostly about preparation and planning, there is still so much to say about what makes a successful TEFL lesson and we’re sure you have your own ideas. So, over to you; what are your do’s and don’ts for the TEFL classroom? What should you avoid?
We’d like to invite you to share your advice for lesson success.
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