Monday, 25 January 2016 02:44

Making a good TEFL Lesson Plan

Making TEFL lesson plans is a key job and will take up much of the working week for any ESL teacher. Having an effective lesson plan will make both your life easier as a TEFL teacher and will dramatic effects on your students learning...
Things to Consider Before You Start Planning
When making a TEFL lesson plan, think about the end first. What is your aim? What would you like your students to learn from this lesson? What is the age and ability level of the students will you be teaching? How will this affect the type of activities you will use in the lesson?
Making a Key Vocab and Materials List
Write out a list of the key vocabulary you want to teach during your English class. Refer to this list from time to time to think when you will introduce the vocab and how. Also create a materials list and add to this as you write your plan so that you understand precisely what you are going to need at different stages of your lesson. This could include the numbers of photocopies you'll need, any page numbers from text books, coloured markers, sticky tape, etc. Make a note of any supplemntary material you use, which website you found it on or out of which supplemntary activity book.
Setting the Context for Your TEFL Class
Think about how you will introduce the lesson. Don't just walk into the classroom and say "Right, today we're going to learn about the weather. Open your books to page 45, John start reading!" Your students will be completely confused and unsure what is going on. Introduce the topic slowly and carefully. Make sure that they are comfortable and aware of what is going on before you get going. Don't rush it.
Practice Stages
Decide exactly how you will teach and get the students to practice the content of your lesson. Will you use reading, do pair-work, group-work or a mingling activity? Often it is best to use a combination of these ideas, varying teaching techniques. Make learning fun, engaging and different for your TEFL classes. Don't be afraid to try new things! Once you have decided how you will teach the content of your lesson, write out little notes on your plan which will guide your teaching process.
Stage Timing in Your TEFL Lesson Plan
Once you have determined just how students will practice the skills that you taught, write out step-by-step instructions in your lesson plan including the time each stage should take. This will help your timings in the lesson. A mistake many TEFL teachers make is to stop things up that are working really well just because the time you allocated for that activity when planning is up. If the students are really talking well and clearly enjoying the activity, then definitely run with it a little longer. Your TEFL lesson plan should be flexible; not rigid. If you run out of time, you can always set things for homework or use activities in the next class as part of your review. Don't get too flustered.
Setting Homework
Try to make some time in your TEFL lesson plan to quickly review what has been covered in that class. Set some review work to be done at home which will require your students to recall what was done in class. This will help them to reinforce and recycle the content of your class. This will be invaluable in them getting the most from your classes.

by Stuart Allen

Stuart Allen

Stuart Allen has been an English teacher since 2002 and has taught Chinese, French, Italian, Austrian, Korean and Spanish students, both in the UK and China. He runs two successful TEFL blogs in China and is a well-known voice in the China TEFL industry. Stuart is the founder and owner of
“Sarah, what song are we going to listen to next week?” One of the students excitedly asked me after I finished my weekly music class. “You’ll have to wait and see,” I replied with a mischievous grin and walked away, leaving my student hanging on a cliff.  I don’t usually tell my students what song we’ll be listening to next, but rather tell them to expect the unexpected.
I’ve taught my music mystery class for more than two years and I can honestly say that it never gets boring or old, because you’re highly unlikely to ever run out of material. With music there is so much you can do. Listening to an English song in the classroom isn’t only a great opportunity for students to practice their listening skills, but also gives them the chance to talk about the meaning of the lyrics, learn new words and grammar structures.
While I seldom focus on the grammar in my music class, I do insist that students point out ‘mistakes’ in the song lyrics and tell me how they should be said. This helps them to differentiate between slang and Standard English.
A gap fill exercise is a wonderful way for the students to listen to the lyrics carefully and complete the lyrics on their own, but if you do that in every class students will get bored. Instead, engage the students with a competition: You simply pick a song; then you choose about twenty words from the lyrics. Add about five words that sound similar to some of the chosen words but are not in the song, then print it all out and stick the individual words on the wall or board in the class. Don’t tell the students about the wrong words, just ask them to listen carefully and grab the words they hear. For every wrong word they chose, they must give up one of their right words. It’s a wonderful competition to get the students out of their seats and actively involve them in the class.
Alternatively you can cut up the song lyrics, put the students into groups and ask them to put the lyrics into the right order while listening. For these competitions I tend to get a small prize, e.g. chocolates, to motivate the students. The idea of a piece of chocolate at the end of the class really gets them going.
What else can you do using music in the classroom? Well, I have taught students about different music styles and their development. We have for example looked at Jazz music and how it developed. We listened to early Jazz songs and compared them with modern Jazz songs, trying to work out the difference. We even learned about the Andean Condor!

Around Christmas we sang Christmas carols and on St. Patrick’s Day we danced like crazy leprechauns. With big ESL classes I’ve played musical chairs, just to get the students up and moving for a few minutes after a long day of class after class, which is common practice in English training centres in China.
Sometimes we just sing the song; karaoke is still a firm favourite among Chinese students. We’ve analysed music videos and even made our own. With music, your options are endless, you can do so much and all it takes is a song. You can teach them about rhetorical questions, and if you dare, even chose a Chinese song and ask the students to translate it into English. I’ve done this activity quite a few times using music in the classroom and the students have always had a blast. This activity does take a little more preparation since you either need to pre-translate the song first yourself or get somebody to do it for you. 
If you aren’t using music in your classroom, you’re missing out on a great opportunity for a fun-filled class, students of all ages will enjoy. It’s a win-win for everyone involved and if you’re teaching a lot of classes during the day, a few minutes of rest for your vocal cords, while the students listen to complete an exercise, will feel wonderful. If you play an instrument, e.g. guitar, bring it along to the class and play a song for the students, then ask them to sing with you!

by Serlina Sarah Heintze
Serlina Sarah Heintze 

I’m originally from Germany but spent most of my twenties in Ireland, working for a well-known multi-national corporation. After getting my ESL  qualifications, I left the Emerald Isle and I have been teaching English at an English training centre in Wuhan, Hubei for the last two and a half years. I’m a bit of a fitness junkie so when I’m not teaching, I can usually be found in the gym. I’m also a bit of a foodie, so trying out new restaurants with my Chinese friends has become somewhat of a hobby. I also blog at
Sunday, 24 January 2016 12:37

Teaching pronunciation can be dangerous…

 “Teaching pronunciation can be dangerous…”
This sentence is not a profound thought – nor is it a conclusion I have reached after long academic research....
I have a small class of three lovely ladies, aged 60, true beginners in the process of learning the English language, who I teach privately twice a week. Their objective is to be able to order their own food, shop and get about when they go on holidays around Europe. About 6 months have gone by since our first lesson and their ability to communicate in English is astonishing! They seem to have digested the form of Yes/No and Wh- questions, the use of ‘do/does’ and ‘did’ in present and past simple, even though they’re still not fond of the short answers (“Isn’t just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ enough?”).
Pronunciation: A Big Chapter
Pronunciation is a big chapter for them, as it is for most Spanish speakers in the south of Spain. Those consonants at the end of the words (ng, tch, kt, pt) are so hard to form and their lips, tongue and teeth struggle every time we practise ‘isn’t’, ‘evening’, ‘vegetable’. We recently stepped into the world of the regular past simple ‘-ed’ verbs. Arrived, lived, worked, changed, liked – lots of drilling, bingo games, listen and repeat with and without the CD. The next day, one of the ladies showed up with her front tooth broken. She said she’d been practising the ‘-ed’ past simple endings at home and the filling of this tooth she’d broken years ago came off! So, this is why pronunciation can be dangerous!
Apart from this, correcting pronunciation mistakes has to be done carefully and selectively. Before interrupting a student to correct the way they say ‘comfortable’ (/ˈkʌmp .fə.tə.bl/ or /komfortéibl/), we should really ask ourselves whether their pronunciation would really hinder communication.
A Core Part of the Lesson
I recently attended a seminar in Seville by OUP writer and teacher Robin Walker whose message to teachers was that pronunciation should be a core part of our lesson – as important as teaching grammar, vocabulary, writing and speaking. If a student is not confident on how to pronounce a word, they will not use it. So, correcting and working on students’ pronunciation is essential, but speaking English with a strong accent is not a crime. If your student pronounces ‘aren’t’ /árent/ and not /á:nt/ it’s not the end of the world.

However, if you’ve got a student who says /éi/ or /éitʃ/ or even /éiht/ when they’re thinking of the number 8 (like one of my lovely ladies does), then that’s something you need to work on with them and incorporate as one of your main aims in your lesson. How you’ll go about it depends on your class – level, L1, etc. You might for instance want to focus only on difficult numbers and their pronunciation (3, 6, 8, 13, etc.) or on ‘gh/ght’ endings, you might want to do it with a game or your students might ask you to write the phonetics for them or you could create a transcription of your own that your students prefer or understand better.
Activity Ideas for Teaching Pronunciation
Here are some ideas of target language I usually practice with my Spanish students and activities I use to make it into a fun part of the lesson.
- gh/ght words:
enough, laugh, tough, rough
bought, fought, brough, sought, thought, caught, taught
Whenever one of these words comes up in English class and I hear a student having trouble pronouncing it, I write up all of these words jumbled up on the board. I ask them in pairs to take a look at the words and say them out loud together, check how confident they feel with their pronunciation. Then, I write the four different sounds on the board: /ʌf/, /ɔːt/, /uː/ and /oʊ/. I ask them to categorise the words according to the sound of ‘(ou)gh(t)’. It’s usually a challenging task with which students sometimes get desperate. But, in the end it’s worth it because they realise how much easier it is to pronounce these words.

Students actually make up a much harder pronunciation that the real one, e.g. /bouht/ instead of /bɔːt/ or /kæutʃht/ instead of /kɔːt/. I think it’s important to encourage students to see how easy saying these words really is. Sometimes it’s as easy as asking them to look at your mouth when you pronounce them.
To have a laugh, I drill the words with the whole class. Ask them to concentrate and pronounce the words correctly in unison. I start pointing to words one-by-one, slowly and looking at the students till they pronounce it. The first time, I go through the words in order, then I start pointing randomly and then I might repeatedly point at the same two words 2 or 3 times and then start jumping from one word to another faster and faster until students break out in laughter. 
- ed regular past simple
An old-time classic. I’m sure all of your students have declared how much they hate the regular past simple. It’s true that some of the past simple verbs are tricky (‘changed’), but most of them aren’t. I usually create a powerpoint slide with all the regular past simple verbsand pair up my students. I assign one box for each student. They then take turns calling out a number from their partner’s box (they usually pick the ones that they don’t know how to pronounce) and challenge their partner to pronounce the verb correctly.

After a couple of minutes, I either pick verbs myself and check/correct their pronunciation, or ask them to pick the 10 most difficult ones to drill individually and as a class. I go through the voiced/voiceless and –t/-d sound theory, but not too much. I just highlight the importance of pronouncing /id/ only when they should. Of course, how you explain the theory behind the –ed pronunciations depends on what your students need.
A fun activity usually follows: table tennis. I ask them if they like playing table tennis and to get ready to play. In pairs (different than before if possible), Student A calls out the infinitive of a regular verb, Student B calls out the past simple and Student A the past participle. Then it’s Student’s B turn to pick a verb and so on. It’s good practice.
Other fun activities which you could do with your class focusing on the above language or any other words that your students have trouble saying (e.g. ‘comfortable’, ‘useful’, ‘road’, etc. go around when your students are doing a speaking activity and take note of all the words they mispronounce. You can use them for all these activities.) are the following:
- Minimal pairs: e.g. ‘sheep – ship’, ‘peach – beach’: write them up on the board or dictate them to the students. Say them and ask students to say ‘a’ or ‘b’ (e.g. ‘a) sheep   b) ship), or have students in pairs or small groups take turns to say a word and the others have to listen and point which word their partner is saying.
- Bingo: fast and fun. Students draw a six- or nine- bingo grid. This game works well with regular past simple verbs. Make a list on the board with regular infinitive and past simple verbs. Ask students to copy some in their grid. Call out verbs (make sure you cross them out on your personal list) and wait till someone calls bingo. Check that the winner has crossed out the correct verbs. Then students can take turns calling out the verbs.
- Tonguetwisters: if you’re creative, write up your own tonguetwisters with target words you feel your students need to practise. Make sure it’s fun and encourage students to keep practising at home, record themselves on their phone and listen to check for mistakes.
Written by Katie Foufouti
 Katie Foufouti is a highly experienced ESL teacher and ELT  materials editor currently working in Spain.

 Her list of clients include Macmillan Education, Cambridge  University Press and Signature Manuscripts.
Sunday, 24 January 2016 12:06

Different Ways of Pairing Up ESL Students

Pair work is very important in a TEFL classroom. My TEFL course tutors highlighted this very clearly and I experienced it first hand in my own classes. The advantages of pairing students?
The Advantages of Pairing Up ESL Students
- Increase student talking time (each and every student gets a chance to give their opinion, contribute with their ideas)
- Students get to know each other and feel more comfortable in class
- Shy students grow more confident
- Variety of language problems/difficulties arise simply because there are so many students using the language
- Opportunity for teacher to monitor and check students’ understanding and progress
Of course, there are activities which lend themselves to individual or group work, but I’m sure that you tell your students ‘Now, in pairs do this and that.’ more than twice in each lesson. And surely you’ve found the need to ask your students to pair up with a different partner either to avoid uncomfortable pairs or simply to renew the class vibes. How do you go about this? Allocating pairs by naming students is one way, but here are some fun ideas on how to do this (thanks to my TEFL tutors and other fellow teachers):

Different Ways to Pair Up Your ESL Students
1. The traditional ’1, 2, 3, 4′: if you’ve got a biggish number of students in class, allocate a number to each one (up to 4). Then divide your class into 4 sections and have students sit in these according to their number. Then set the pairs.
2. ‘Change chairs if …’: Tell students to follow your instructions. Finish the sentence with something random, e.g. ‘Change chairs if you saw the football match last night.’ If students have, then they have to sit in a different seat. Continue with more ‘Change chairs if …’ sentences until most of the students have changed places – students move more than once if necessary. You can make it fun by saying silly things or challenging students, e.g. ‘Change chairs if you are reaaaaaally looking forward to our text tomorrow.’ or ‘Change chairs if you think English is a piece of cake.’ For lower-level classes, keep it simple, e.g. ‘Change chairs if you are wearing something blue.’ or ‘if you like chocolate’. You can also use this trick to check target language. If, for instance, you’re teaching the irregular verbs you could say ‘Change chairs if you agree that 'taught' is the past simple of teach.’
3. Target language: Write and cut up pieces of paper with language you’ve been teaching, e.g. infinitive and past simple irregular verbs, countries – nationalities, verb – noun formation, synonyms, opposites, phrasal verbs and their meanings. For instance, look after / take care of something or someone, take after / have the same behaviour or taste as someone. Hand out the pieces of paper and ask students to find the student with the ‘connecting’ piece of paper. New pairs are formed and language is revised/checked.
4. Strings: Get some pieces of string (1 for every two students), a metre or so long. Hold them all together and ask students to grab the end of one string. When you let go, students will be in new pairs.
5. Students’ names: Write students names on pieces of paper (you could laminate these and use them when checking exercises to name students or for other games) and just pair them up. Or you could have students pick names.
There should be a limit to changing pairs especially when you’ve got big classes, as it can take some time for students to pick up all their things and settle down again. Generally though the above ideas can make a nice mini-break out of it and students appreciate that! Happy pairing!
Written by Katie Foufouti
Katie Foufouti Katie Foufouti is a highly experienced ESL teacher and  ELT  materials editor currently working in Spain.

 Her list of clients include Macmillan Education,  Cambridge  University Press and Signature Manuscripts.
Sunday, 24 January 2016 10:21

Using Music in the ESL Classroom

When I started English teaching, I generally used music in the classroom as just a listening task; filling in the gaps and maybe as something fun to do on a Friday morning or late afternoon.  However, since then with more experience, and from reading more widely, I have begun to realise that using music in the ESL classroom can be more than this.

Using Music to Teach Pronunciation
When I taught language students in London, it did not take them long to notice that pronunciation in London does not necessarily follow what would be seen as “standard” pronunciation. So, I used music in the classroom to highlight certain aspects of some Londoners’ pronunciation; I played a song by Dizzee Rascal, the London rapper, to highlight his pronunciation of certain words, which may not be seen by many as “good pronunciation”, but a significant feature of many Londoners’ pronunciation nonetheless, and one I thought the students needed to understand. In a task such as this, it is important that you know the song well and can highlight the features of speech very clearly, so a good amount of planning would be needed.
A good thing about this task is that it can be used at most levels, I have used it at elementary, intermediate and advanced levels and they all found it useful. It also generates important discussion about language, you could personalise the lesson by asking students to discuss what is deemed to be the correct pronunciation of their own languages, a task like this also reveals students’ thoughts about how they would like to sound in English, and what they believe is good pronunciation.
Using music to connect with your students
I have found that music is also a great way of connecting with your students beyond a grammar or pronunciation point. By adapting a task from the book Being Creative, I have used music to go beyond just filling in the gaps but to create connections between students. Instead of you bringing in the music, you ask your students to provide the music, many students have music on their phones or Mp3 players, so they often have music to hand. Ensure that you teach some useful phrases beforehand and encourage them to think of their own questions related to music; you could also build up a spider-gram of lexis on the board.
“When was the song released?”
“Who is the lead singer of the band?”
“Is it his/her/their debut album?”

Allow one of your students to play a song they like that is around 2 – 3 minutes long, and just listen to it as a group. The student can give a short introduction to the song if they think it would help the rest of the class, and it does not matter if the song is not in English.  I know this may sound strange, but the point of the lesson is to generate personalised discussion, and to learn more about your students and their musical tastes, in my opinion music is a great vehicle for this.

Write Good Language on the Board
When using music in the ESL classroom, you can make the English lesson as structured as you like or it could even be very impromptu, which was the case when I had a small class of advanced learners.  It generated a lot of discussion and new lexis, which I wrote on the board, I also learnt from my students, which is part of the joys of teaching.  If you have a large class just choose a couple of students who do not mind sharing their taste in music.  Make sure that you give the other students a couple of questions to ponder about while the listen; how did you feel while listening to the song? How would you describe the mood of the music?

Encourage Curiousity about the Music
Once the song has finished playing give the students time to think about the piece and ask any questions they might have, encourage the student who shared their song to add any extra information they have about the artist.  You often find that other students, including yourself, become curious about certain artists, even an artist you were adamant you did not like, especially if the student talks passionately about them.  Depending on how well you know your student this task is also good to use in a one to one class as there can be an exchange of more than one song.
Music in the ESL classroom is always a nice break from the coursebook or the grammar point of the week, it is also a way of creating a relaxed and encouraging atmosphere in the ESL classroom, which assists in generating useful language and interesting discussions.
By Yolande M Deane
Yolande M Deane is a highly experienced ESL teacher and ELT article writer. She previously taught ESL to language students in London and she is currently teaching ESL in Harbin, China.
Sunday, 24 January 2016 10:02

ESL: Thinking Outside the Box

My TEFL/TESL teaching years were the most rewarding in my life; probably not so much in terms of cash but invaluable when it came to creating connections and most importantly, the job satisfaction coming from the visible, measurable results: when having a decent conversation in English after a few months of intense but fun learning, which started at the ABCs.
As someone who has spent over ten years Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)*, I have made observations that are hardly surprising: turns out, adults love playing just as much as children do! In my own experience, no more than two percent of my students ever questioned my slightly unconventional methods of learning, which incorporated English langauge puzzles, charades, contemporary music hits and so on. Occasionally, there would be a serious guy asking why we were wasting our time matching wordswith pictures, but later he would get down on all fours on the carpet, make a story with the group - and forget about the traditional ideas of learning (which calls for pain and suffering along the way!).
ESL - the dangerous misconception
There is a huge, dangerous misconception about language games in the classroom, music and all visual media as sources of entertainment and nothing more**. On top of this, young TESL learners are presumed distracted and unwilling to learn. Connect those two, and you have the solution: if your students are lacking in interest or motivation, the reason is most likely boredom. The traditional textbook-workbook-pen-chalk-blackboard concept may be still good, but it most definitely is only a small part of the arsenal a TEFL teacher can use in an attempt to make teaching English a success.
It's a proven psychological fact that we retain much more when we are interested in the subject of learning. Our memory is very selective this way. Events and experiences that have impressed us or moved us deeply are engraved in our memory years and decades later, while we all have boring subject exams we have passed and completely forgotten about within weeks. Take a sports fan who knows every detail about his favorite team or player, plus stats and goal situations, championships, positions on the field, etc. I could never try to remember that, since sports are not even remotely interesting to me. But ask me about my favorite musicians, and I will tell you every album, every landmark in their lives - believe it or not, I know every word of every song of my favorite band from the time I was growing up (it's too embarrasing to mention but I like them to this day), and I have won contests and prizes because of my useless trivia knowledge, based on pure interest in the subject.
Thinking outside the box in the ESL classroom
Dear teachers out there, please do not be afraid to venture out of the book, lesson plan, subject matter - or whatever else you have planned for your day or session. There has never been a better time to incorporate fun into TEFL learning, and resources have never been more abundant. Take those clips off the internet, use them to prove a point ("I don't know nothin' about no stolen paintings!", from a movie, took care of "using double negative", and made us all laugh, because this example is even triple!) - then go ahead with theplanned practice. You'll be amazed at the results. Ask your ESL students about their interests and bring class materials that would not only engage them, but make them look forward to that class. Preparation is minimal, and you can use the props multiple times. Silliness and fun can be the surprising allies on your way to achieving excellence in teaching English.
*In most countries out of North America, English comes as a third, maybe even fourth foreign language
by Dana Vlahova
Dana is an experienced former TEFL teacher and a busy ELT articles writer. She is the author of the book "Don't Worry, Be Happy - or How to Learn English while Enjoying Yourself" (1992)
Monday, 11 January 2016 18:48

Teaching English with No Materials

Don't Panic! Teaching English with no materials

Teaching English with No Materials

Yes, you've received a phone call to come in and teach with no time to prepare your lesson...PANIC!! There can be times when you may need to teach a lesson with no materials. As English teachers, we always strive to plan good lessons, but sometimes things can go wrong on us and we need to think quickly, improvise and go and teach ESL classes with little or no materials.
There can be a number of reasons why teachers may have to do this. You might find yourself being asked to cover a class for a sick teacher at short notice, you may have looked at last week’s schedule by accident or the photocopier might jam up on you. Whatever the reason you need to teach with no lesson plan, there is no need to panic and you can still have a great class.

Here are some ideas if you have to teach a class with no lesson plan or materials:

The Greatest Invention Ever

Get your students into pairs and ask them to write down 15 inventions that changed the world e.g. soap, mobile phones, glasses, paper, scissors, the internet. Give them a few minutes to think and then take 2-3 inventions from each pair and write them on the board. Try to fill the board with at least 20-30 different inventions.

Now, explain that the class needs to find the one invention that has changed the world the mostand become ‘The Greatest Invention’. Students must come to the board one by one and rub out one invention which they think is least important and explain why. This will create a lot of talking once they start rubbing out certain inventions and you can encourage this debate. Keep going until there is one remaining invention. This is a fantastic speaking class without any materials.

Mixed Dialogues

Divide your class into pairs and give each pair of students eight strips of paper. Ask them to write an eight-part dialogue between two people, with each part of the dialogue on a separate piece of paper. Lower levels can just use one sentence on each paper. Higher levels can write more. If you want to help your students out, you can give them a topic i.e. two people having an argument on a first date, an angry customer in a supermarket, a lady asking for directions in her car, etc.

Once they have finished writing the dialogue, pairs should mix up the strips of paper and hand them to another group to try and put together. Once it has been put in the right order, the new pairs canpractice the dialogues or perform them in front of the class. Depending on how long your ESL class is, you can keep swapping up the dialogues multiple times and get lots of speaking, reading and comprehension practice. Again, this English class with no materials is easy to set up and just requires paper.

Random Story Words

Write around 10-15 words on the board. Make them quite random, for example, bus, India, plastic bag, bicycle lock, thief, underwear, tennis ball, etc. Now ask students to write a story with some of these words in the story. They should use as many words within the story as they can and encourage them to be imaginative.

Students can then read out their stories and if you have enough time, you could ask them to role-play the funniest stories.

Teaching English with no plan or materials can be a whole lot of fun and it is good to have a few ideas up your sleeve for when you least expect it. New teachers will especially find having to teach English with no plan very daunting and stressful, but actually you can sometimes have a fantastic class with no materials.
Monday, 11 January 2016 16:56

Free TEFL Warmers and Games Pack

Free TEFL Warmers and Games

When your ESL students come into class, no matter what age they are, they may be nervous or hesitant about speaking English. 

Maybe its been a whole week with no English speaking at all, maybe it's been a month or longer since they did anything in English at all, so it's important for English teachers to break down this barrier and ease them into class and back to speaking English again. 

Scroll to the bottom to download our free TEFL Warmers and Games pack!

Rather than just having students crack straight into the main content of your class, you can do a 'warmer'. A warmer is a short, easy to do activity at the very start of your class. This TEFL warmer can related, or unrelated, to your main class activity; it doesn't really matter.

What is important is using TEFL warmers to get your students speaking and using English in a non-pressure way, having fun, relaxing themselves and getting back into the swing of using English words, which are obviously not their L1. Create a real hive of activity in your class, raise energy levels and get your students' brains and ears tuned to soaking up English.

Below we have a wonderful PDF pack full of free TEFL Warmers and Games for teachers. This is a free download and you are welcome to share this teaching games pack with the other teachers in your office.

To download the free TEFL Games and Warmers pack, please click the link in red below and save it to your computer.

How to Prepare and Useful and Meaningful English Class 

A well planned English class can do wonders for your self-confidence, your ESL students, and your school. We have all had those classes where we wished we put a little more effort into it or prepared a bit more. There is no greater feeling for an ESL instructor than leaving behind a classroom filled of happy students that absolutely loved your English lesson. So, how do you prepare a memorable and useful English class? How do you make use of your time while inspiring your students? The possibilities are endless, you just have to find what works for you!

Of course, the age of your English students must be taken into consideration when making your lesson plan. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me over the years.

Quality Class Review and TEFL Lead-Ins

Warm-ups. Before you begin with the new class material, it’s always a good idea to quickly review what you went over in the previous lesson. Ask questions about the previous grammar points. Ask how to spell the old vocabulary words. Review a dialogue, song, or chant you taught. Or simply do some free talk about the day’s new topic. For example, if you are teaching different types of fruit, ask what the student’s favorite fruit is. Have them tell you why they like it.

Smart Teaching of New Vocabulary

Vocabulary. When teaching vocabulary in your English class, I find breaking your time down into sections helps out a lot. For example, you can divide your time allotted for vocab into presentation, practice, and a closure. Presentation is where you present the new words to your ESL students. You can use a variety of methods to do this. You can choose to use real objects, props, simple English, pictures, acting, T.P.R., anything you think is suitable for the words. For example, if teaching fruit, you won’t use acting to describe an apple! Props or real objects would be better suited.

When teaching verbs, like run, jump, sit, etc, acting and T.P.R. (total physical response) would get better results than a picture. During practice, you can use a variety of methods.

See-say (when the students see it and than say it), repetition, guessing, or T.P.R. (you say jump, and the students jump). Closures should be meaningful. You can do anything from matching, to fill-in the blank, to spelling. It just depends on the ability of your students.

Don’t forget to include games for younger students! If you just stand there and drill them, they will lose interest and not participate! For game ideas, check out The Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching English.

Careful Grammar Breakdown

Grammar Point. Grammar point can be broken down in the same way vocabulary can be: presentation, practice, and closure. It will be more time consuming presenting a grammar point than presenting vocabulary.

I always presented the answer first, and the question second. For example, if the grammar point is “What do you like? I like ______.”, present “I like _____ .” first. Simply draw an apple on the board with a heart around it and say “I like apples.” Write the answer on the board.

Then, erase the apple and replace it with a question mark. Have the students guess what you like. They can say “apples, bananas, oranges, etc” but you keep saying “No”. Then have them repeat after you, “What do you like?” Now write the question above the answer. Write the question and the answer on the whiteboard in different colors as well. For practice, I find making the students make the questions and answers themselves is best. Draw a grid on the board like below.

Place a board magnet in the “?” and “You” section. The students should say “What do you like?” Move the magnet to the “I” and “Apples” section. The students than say “I like apples.” This works with a variety of grammar points. Just like vocabulary, end with a meaningful closure to your activity. A fill-in the blank, guessing game, oral game, something catered to your students’ ability.

For slower classes, try a guessing game. Place cues on the board like the one below. Let the students guess the answer.

Then turn the cue over to show your answer. Make many cues. This is also a great practice for your ESL students. As always, include easy TEFL games during practice! For game ideas, click here for 7 Easy TEFL Games.

Good TEFL Speaking Practice

Dialogues and Readings. When teaching a dialogue or reading in your ESL class, teach the new words and phases first. After your students have a strong understanding of the new material, present the dialogue/reading with one of the methods above.

When teaching dialogues, a good practice always includes having English students act it out and read. For closures, you can have them make a new dialogue/reading using the original as a template, answer true or false statements, choose multiple choice answers, anything to check their understanding.

Using Songs in Your TEFL Class

Songs, chants, and death. My personal least favorite in the lesson (although perhaps a favourite for other English teachers...)

When you have a song or chant, teach the new words first. I always presented them with pictures and acting. Have the students follow you line by line following your tune and rhythm. If there is a dance involved.... Kill yourself. Unfortunately for you, the parents love to watch this part of the lesson the most... If you are rhythmically challenged or tone death like me, just suck it up and try to have fun with the students.

Obviously what works for one teacher, won’t work for all. Consider age, gender, class size, the works, when preparing your TEFL lesson plan. For older students in university and high school, simple English can be used to present almost everything! Also, with older students, say good-bye to songs and chants! They learn more readings, stories, and grammar.

While teaching older students is much easier and less tiring, it also is slow, and boring. Although I now work at a university, I sometimes long for the chaos that comes with teaching younger students. Somehow, it is more fulfilling teaching the little monsters. But, after a week of it, I remember why I chose a university!

One helpful tactic in my ESL class I’ve found useful, no matter the age of your students, is using humor. Make your class funny. Joke with the students. With younger students, tell them “I like poo-poo.” They go insane. With older students, joke with them about their hair style, school, Chinese teacher! No matter the level and age of your class, always reinforce the idea that you are on the student’s side, not the evil, homework giving, test making, monster that is their Chinese teacher!

If you have anything you would like to add, please feel free to add a comment! Happy teaching!

Paul Berger


Published in Articles about China

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