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.
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 bottom of the lesson plan template 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?