Teaching English in Japan - ESL Demo Lesson Ideas
ESL Demo Lesson Plans - How to Start
Teaching English in Asia is a dream for many. Whether it's to travel for a few years, or embark on a new career path, countries such as South Korea, China, and Japan are popular destinations for people to find ESL jobs.
Many entry level positions can be had with simply a college degree from an English speaking country - but of course, soft skills like cultural adaptability, dealing with culture shock, and people skills are vitally important.
To that end many ESL companies and programs - such as EPIK in South Korea or Interac or the JET Programme in Japan - will require you to put on a demo lesson to show some of your teaching abilities to your interviewers.
Applicants for these programs are often just starting out with their journeys teaching English abroad - so putting on a perfect lesson plan isn't necessarily the goal. It's still important to put forth your best effort, and show your interviewers that you are adaptable and enthusiastic about ESL teaching.
In some cases, experienced teachers may be asked to put on demo lessons as a part of their jobs - to show school staff what their teaching is like. I have had to put on several of these for past jobs teaching in South Korea.
This article goes over a few tips for demo lessons for both interviews and during the job itself. In the interest of disclosure, most of my ESL teaching experience has been in Japan and South Korea, but this article may be helpful for teacher hopefuls all across Asia.
Interview Preparation and the Mock Lesson
As I wrote above, demo lessons are an important part of many interview processes for English teaching positions. There are several ways that interviewers may ask you to prepare.
Demo Lesson Ideas - Before the Interview
It's not uncommon for many English teaching programs to send you a brief outline for you to work with so you can prepare. Some may give you a choice between several outlines or basic lesson ideas for you to expand on.
One company I interviewed for gave me a choice between Elementary and Junior High mock lessons, for example. In this case, all I had to do was write out a detailed lesson plan to show my interviewers - no actual teaching was required at the interview. However, I had to write the lesson plan as if I was working with an actual Japanese teacher, and include this person in the teaching and activities. Those who are familiar with the team teaching system of Japanese public schools know how this works.
Demo lesson ideas in cases like these are not so hard to come up with, as half of the work has already been done for you. Do keep in mind that for many teaching jobs in Asia, the emphasis is on English classes being fun and interactive for the students - almost like edutainment rather than regular teaching. The outline you receive will likely ask you to throw in a few activities, especially if you are applying to teach younger students. Private English cram schools in particular have a lot of emphasis on edutainment, in my experience.
A good, basic sample lesson in an ESL classroom often looks something like this -
1. Greetings and Introduction of the Day's Topic
2. Teaching the Material Through Flashcards or Visual Aids
3. A Game, Activity, or Song - the latter especially for younger learners
4. Final Review - perhaps another activity, worksheet, or some reinforcement of the material
That is of course incredibly simplified - many demo lessons will be a bit more detailed than that - but it is a good rule of thumb when preparing mock lessons.
Mock Lessons During the Interview - Without Preparation
It's not unheard of for you to have to write and teach a demo lesson after an interview, perhaps with no prior notice. For me this tended to happen more after I got some ESL teaching experience already under my belt, though it can happen to new teachers as well! Even in interviews for related jobs you may be asked to teach one - I've heard of one interview for the CIR position on the JET Program where the interviewee was asked to prepare a lesson (as many CIRs teach as part of their duties).
So even if you haven't been asked to prepare anything, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with ESL teaching a bit before heading to your interview just in case. Look up demo lesson ideas online, and also English teaching materials to get an idea of what kind of material is commonly taught in Asian classrooms.
If you are an experienced teacher, it might be a good idea to also bring some of your past lesson plans and materials to an interview. I brought one of my favorite Powerpoints I made to an interview with a private company, and even though they had their own set curriculum they were very impressed.
During the Interview Itself
Most job interviews are already nerve wracking experiences - adding a mock lesson doesn't help, especially if it's your first teaching job! But there are a few things to keep in mind in order to help you ace the demo lesson.
As noted above, many ESL jobs in Asia are more like edutainment than anything. So presenting an energetic, positive face is half the battle here. That doesn't mean you have to act like a clown, just enthusiastic and prepared.
If you need any particular materials, make sure they're prepared before the interview - place them neatly on a desk for easy access during the lesson. If your interview is just handing in a lesson plan itself, make sure that you're ready to discuss your plan and the reasons you made certain choices in it - for example why you're using a particular activity for that material.
Sometimes you may be asked to prepare a video lesson depending on circumstances. For example I had a Skype interview once as the interviewers were unable to meet me in person - so I had to send them a video recording of a lesson for them to see (again, according to their requirements).
Even though this is "just" a video mock lesson, make sure you are dressed professionally. Setting up your camera to record your body and the surrounding area is important, and speaking clearly is even more important than a regular demo lesson. Other than that a video shouldn't be much different than doing it in the interview itself.