ESL South Korea

Practical Teaching Tips

Here are some practical teaching tips that you should implement from your first day of teaching:

– Arriving early for school
Your school’s official policy might demand you arrive at least 30 minutes before the start of the first class, but even if it doesn’t, it’s a good idea to make a habit of it.  Not only will this act of positive professionalism impress your employer, but actually help you to be prepared for your lessons during the day.

– Set out clear objectives for your classes
What do you want your students to know by the end of your 30 or 40 minutes with them.  What new knowledge must they have gained during that time and which English skills should they have aquired or refined.

– Lesson planning
With a objective in mind you can now proceed to plan your lesson by listing out a sequence of activities that will aid students in achieving these objectives.  It’s a good idea to be specific and allot certain amounts of time to different components of your lessons.

Lessons that are planned and thought through run smoothly.  The ones who benefit most from you planning your lessons however, are the students.  With clear objectives and a well prepared lessons structure you will maximize the amount of actual learning that takes place and spent more time doing constructive teaching then you will scrambling around for papers and chalk.

A few practical teaching tips for new teachers or unexperienced educators.  Learn from the mistakes of others and avoid making them yourself!
– Make lessons relevant
If you’re having a conversation class with elementary school students, don’t ask them about their political leanings or their favourite author.  Kids like to talk about their families, friends, activities and dreams.  So centre your class on relevant topics.  This is true no matter what age group you are teaching.  Find out what they like, what music they like, what TV shows they love, and what food’s they hate, etc.  Then try and incorporate any of these elements into your lessons in any way possible.
– Check your lessons’ difficulty level
This can only be done after a couple of weeks of teaching the same students, when you’ve developed a good idea of their general level.  Nothing will bore a young student like a lesson that’s too easy, and lessons that are too hard will frustrate and de-motivate them.  So keep it at their level.

– Remember to keep it fun.
Especially with younger students, this is very important.  Your boss will be more impressed with your classes if your students are having a ball of a time and telling their mothers about it, than if they can recite Shakespeare.  Fun and games remains high on the priority list of any teacher of younger students in Korea.  Both in a private and public school environment.

–  Use the Internet
The online world is a treasure trove for ESL teachers, so don’t reinvent the wheel by designing all your materials, worksheets, puzzles and flashcards by yourself.  Chances are that you’ll finding something better in a shorter time it would take you to design it.  Check the Links section of this site for a list of ESL resource sites.

– Prepare your classroom before hand.
Five minutes before the commencement of your class, check that everything in the room is in order.  Check the seating, lighting, chalk or markers, CD player and materials you’ll need.  If you’re disorganized the students are not the only ones who will realize this (and be more rowdy because of it), but your co-workers and boss will also take note.

Regarding interaction with students

Speak slowly and distinctly.  I’ve found that most foreign teachers ramble away in English as if they’re still back in the West, not realizing that most kids will miss 90% of what you’re saying if you speak too fast or if you mumble.

See this article on speaking comprehensible English.

Address students using eye contact and smiling often.  This grabs their attention and sets them at ease.  By being warm and personable you’ll ensure that your students relate better to you and increase their learning capacity.  It’s obvious that you should use easy language with younger students, but you should also avoid slang and figurative speech or idioms.  It’ll simply confuse them.

You can aid students in understanding by using facial expressions (which Koreans themselves don’t normally do though, but it really helps with conveying meaning in an ESL setting), using hand signals, body language and varying the pitch of your voice.

Students acquire knowledge through audio, visual or kinetic means.  If you teach a small group of students for long enough you might recognize which method is favoured by which students.  As a generalisation, most learners will benefit from visual learning.  So the more visual examples, aids and props you use, the easier they’ll remember something.