Preparing for a TEFL training course
Article by: Euen Thomas, ESL Teacher
This article assumes that you've decided you'd like to teach English as a second language, either at home or abroad. If that's the case, you're almost certainly thinking about taking a TEFL course of some kind. If you're not long out of university and still have the study habit in you, another course won't be so hard.
However, for those who left college or university some time ago, starting a new course could be a bit of a shock to the system, so this is a good time to look at the things you can do to help yourself before the course begins.
If you're thinking of taking a CELTA or equivalent course, you're going to learn how to teach people to speak, write and understand English. Your trainer(s) will hopefully teach you the 'how'.
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It may sound like a very obvious thing to say, but one of the best things you can do prior to taking a TEFL course is to brush up on your English grammar and revise or learn the terminology used to describe the language.
For example, can you describe, in simple terms, what predicates, complements, direct and indirect objects (and so on) are? Can you explain when and why we use the present perfect tense, the difference between what and which, and have you ever tried to explain how the verb 'get' is used? Hopefully you can.
If you want to avoid the embarrassment of having an ESL student point out your grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, you might like to take a close look at how you write, what you say, and how you say it. It's worth reading a good ESL textbook on common mistakes in English. It's much better to discover and fix your habitual errors before you sit down in the classroom.
Learn to read and use phonemic script. Most of the course books you'll be using in the future will make great use of it. Phonemic script is a useful tool for many features of English pronunciation, helping students get to grips with the many mysteries of English pronunciation. Every dictionary uses it, which means every student will see it and expect you to be familiar with it too. Some ESL language schools base their entire teaching method around it..
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Once you start teaching ESL students you'll realise that you can't speak to them in the way you speak to native speakers. You need to modify how quickly you speak and the vocabulary you use. People who have lived overseas or have lots of foreign friends can often do this effortlessly, but it comes with practice. If you don't have swathes of foreign friends, think about the people you know. Conversations with people who are hard of hearing and even small children require similar skills. Practice on them!
You've probably already thought about reading up on teaching, or English grammar. Your course provider will almost certainly give you a list of books to read in advance of starting your course. In terms of 'how to teach' books we like Jeremy Harmer's 'How to teach English' and 'The practice of English teaching' and to refresh your grammar knowledge we like Ron Cowan's 'The teacher's grammar of English'.
As a teacher you'll almost certainly need to work on your time management skills. Keep it in mind from the outset and work on it. Take a simple explanation, for example the use of modal verbs in the present simple tense, and plan a lesson around it. Work out how you'll introduce the subject, give the words, explain their uses, give examples and get students to use the vocabulary. Now work out how long each part of your lesson will take – even if predicting how much time students will use isn't simple. Then find someone to practice your lesson on. Tell you aunt Agatha that you need to practice a lesson and see how long it takes in reality.
If you read enough teaching blogs you'll find teachers who insist that you can't teach English until you've learnt another language. We're not sure if that's a way of dissuading new entrants to the market, or delaying their entrance by a few years, but whatever the motivation, we don't agree. If nothing else, you want to teach now, not in one, two or three years after you've learnt to speak Spanish! If you stick to the suggestions above, you'll be on the right track!
Marketing isn't just for schools and companies. If you want to work as a private teacher, instead of or in addition to working for a school, you'll need to promote yourself, to find clients.
It's not the only way of generating private students but having a professional website can make life much easier. It's your 24:7 salesman. If you don't already have a website, below are a few articles that you might find helpful.
- Get online with your own website
- Planning your website
- What type of website do you need?
- Organising your content efficiently
- SEO and Promoting your site