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EFL Teaching Guide 1 - a two-page crash course for new English Teachers

Updated on July 3, 2009

Part One; EFL Lesson Planning

By the end of this "crash course" in ESL/EFL teaching, you should be able to deliver a decent English lesson. Teaching English is an art, not a science, and even after years of practice, you will be learning new techniques every day. A four-week CELTA training course will give you an excellent grounding; if you have neither the time nor the money, then you can make a good start by following these tips. In addition to these, you’ll need to remember of course to be professional. Dress appropriately, be confident and friendly, and do your best to learn your students’ names..

The first part of this course is about planning your ESL or EFL lessons (hereafter I’ll use the term EFL). The second part is about teaching skills, which you can find here.

Plan to Succeed; Writing a good EFL Lesson Plan

The 80/20 rule applies here. 80% of the success of your lesson will be determined by your plan. Your plan should include your lesson objectives, the approximate timing of each activity, a breakdown of the steps any exercises you have not memorized, and the resources you will need for each. Also, make a list of the vocabulary you are planning to teach, and include any notes about how you intend to teach them. Context questions are often the best way. E.g. “I can’t afford to buy a house because I don’t earn enough money.”

Why? Why? Why? Being clear and realistic about the objectives of your EFL class

There is a very rough rule of thumb that suggests that adult language students will need to use a word between seven and 25 times in order to internalize it. Be careful about introducing too many words and structures in your lessons. During the course of a one hour lesson, somewhere between five and ten should be OK. Others may come up during the course of your class. New sentence structures, or other grammar points, should probably be limited to one or two.

Write your objectives on the whiteboard at the beginning of your lesson. Between two and four should be manageable. Tick them off once your students have accomplished each objective.

The Golden Rule is that you should start from your objectives and use your textbook to reach them. Don’t just plough through your textbook with no thought to your purpose.

Warm things up; starting with an effective English warm-up activity.

Begin with a fun, simple warm-up activity or game to relax your students, establish a group dynamic and get everyone ready to speak English. (Discourage the use of other languages from the very beginning of your lesson.) There is an excellent list of English warm-up activities at http://www.teflwarm-ups.com, even if I say so myself since I put it together…

Use your warm-up as an opportunity to get students mixing with one another, and keep it short and sweet. Five minutes is enough for a one hour class. 10 minutes is OK for 90 minutes or more. Don’t worry a great deal about correcting your students as they warm up.

EFL Lesson planning; presentation, practice & production

Your EFL class should include the “three Ps”: presentation, practice and production. They should usually be covered in this order.

Presentation is the introduction of new vocabulary and structures. This is the first part of your class. You should chorus new vocabulary as many times as necessary and iron out any pronunciation problems. Remember that some of the material may not be new to all of your students. Try to elicit the meaning of words first and then “teach” them only if necessary. If a keen student can tell the class the meaning of a given word, then have them do so. When checking that your class understands, don’t assume that simply asking them “Do you understand?” will be enough. Think of some questions to ask students, to have them demonstrate their understanding. Concept-checking questions can be difficult to adlib, so include them in your plan. Closed questions can be OK if necessary. Based on our previous example, “I earn $10 dollars a day. Can I afford a new car?” will probably be sufficient.

Next, students will need to practice what they have been taught. Practice should begin in a fairly controlled way; pair-practicing dialogues (from textbooks or the whiteboard), substituting certain words for others is a classic technique. Fill-in-the-blanks-exercises, or activities in which students assemble sentences from cut-out strips of paper, are good ways to set-up controlled practice activities. Games which require the repetition of key structures are useful too. Once students have had some time to practice some correctly formed structures or vocabulary, you can start to broaden out the activities. Freer practice allows students some opportunities for personalization. Have them use their own information or their imaginations, while making use of the cues still provided for them. During the practice phase, you should correct whenever necessary.

The production phase is when students no longer have the structures and vocabulary in front of them. Broaden the topic and have them chat freely. Encourage conversations to wander off topic. Have students speak in pairs or small groups and ensure that students mingle beyond their usual friendship circles. Monitor discussions and be prepared to teach new vocabulary to help students express themselves. If you want to correct students at this point, you can either do so on the spot, or periodically bring the class back together as one, and use the whiteboard to correct in front of everyone.

That’s a Wrap; Ending your EFL class with an effective wrap-up.

Keep an eye on your timing so that you have around three to five minutes to wrap up your lesson. Wrap-ups stop classes from ending abruptly. They also provide a chance to praise your students and do some final comprehension checks at the end. Do a quick, easy “test”, designed to set your students up for success, so that they end the lesson feeling good about their efforts and the class as a whole. Check for questions at the end and say goodbye.

So that’s the first part of your crash course in how to teach an English class. A practical course with observed classes is by the far the best option. Since it’s not always possible, then reading some practical textbooks and articles like this should stand you in good stead.

For the second part of the course, which covers specific teaching skills, click here.

If you're thinking of coming to Japan to teach, then check out my related hubs:

Teaching English in Japan

Tokyo or Osaka? Which is better place to live?

Choosing a good Japanese bank and sending money back home

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    • wiserworld profile image

      wiserworld 20 months ago

      Great tips for beginner teachers. Thanks for sharing!

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