After receiving a bachelor’s degree or TESOL certification, you’re probably thinking about teaching English in another country. Teaching English abroad might just be one of the most rewarding decisions you’ll ever make. Not only do you get the chance to experience a culture different from your own, but it also helps you make an impact in your students’ lives. Gaining mastery of the English language often helps students advance in their careers and gives them an opportunity to study abroad.
Regardless of the rewards that come from teaching in a foreign country, you’ll likely run into a number of obstacles along the way. You’ll have to be open-minded, accepting to a unique and sometimes confusing culture, and you may even begin doubting your capability as an English teacher. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed at first, but with adequate preparation, you’ll be successful despite the challenges you face!
These helpful hints are intended to be general guidelines, and as such, it’s important to use your best judgment when incorporating them into your classroom. It’s impossible to account for every possible teaching style and method, but hopefully, these hints will prove themselves useful to you.
Hint #1: Make Name Tags
This may seem like a no-brainer, but believe it or not, it’s one of the things most overlooked by English teachers teaching abroad. Making use of name tags in class will save you a lot of time and confusion. Name tags help you address each student by their proper name. It’s just not possible to remember everyone’s names in the first few days of class, no matter how great your memory is or how good you are as a teacher.
Hint #2: Don’t Let Your Students Rely on the Dictionary
Frequently, English teachers in foreign countries notice that when they introduce a new vocabulary or a phrase to the class, students will try taking the easy way out and look the words up in the dictionary instead of taking the time to understand the meaning and context. As you know, many words and phrases cannot be directly translated. It’s important to inform your students that translating words from the dictionary might cause them to confuse themselves even more.
Hint #3: Increase Student Participation and Communication in Class
Students learn more by doing, experiencing, and incorporating what they’ve been taught into their lives. Since it is unlikely they will use the language outside of the class, make sure to increase student talking time in class. Remember, though, that there’s a fine line between explaining the proper structure of the English language and allowing your students to speak freely while class is in session. Make sure to allot time to correct their errors when you’re teaching grammar lessons.
Hint #4: Use the Power of Peer Teaching
It might be helpful to let students check each other’s answers on some assignments. Besides, the benefits that come with correcting obvious mistakes, it also gives students an opportunity to teach each other and avoid embarrassment in front of the whole class. Students view each other as peers; therefore, it makes sense that working together and checking each other’s work encourages self-esteem and friendship while also taking the focus away from their teacher. This brings us to the next helpful hint…
Hint #5: Groups are Great!
Break your students up into small groups and get them to practice English with each other. This is probably the most effective way to get your students to speak the language. These small groups (three students per group is generally best), provide a safe environment in the classroom and get them comfortable enough to practice communicating in English. Direct interactions with the teacher often make students feel intimidated, nervous, and self-conscious about making mistakes. By putting students in groups, you help minimize or eliminate these feelings in your students.
Hint #6: Teach with Different Learning Styles in Mind
Just like in Western countries, students in foreign countries have various learning styles. Visual learners, auditory learners, hands-on learners are some of the different students you’ll encounter. It’s not uncommon for students to stop trying to learn the information you’re teaching because the material does not appeal to them. This is why it’s important to adapt to different learning styles by integrating visual cues, music, and hands-on activities into your lessons.
Hint #7: Homework Helps
Don’t waste time on projects students can do on their own time. Prioritize the time you have on group exercises, speaking, and explaining challenging concepts. Again, many students probably won’t be using English outside of class, so don’t forget to give them homework assignments to reinforce what they’re learning in the classroom.
Many online resources and tools can help you prepare even further. There are a number of websites, including our own, which offer resources, guides, and strategies that will maximize your effectiveness inside the classroom.