Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Life of an Overseas English Teacher

Pupils in a traditional classroom situation si...
Pupils in a traditional classroom situation signal to their teacher that they want to be heard (Wikipedia)
by Carl H Hart

Student centered teaching is one of the often-preferred methods of running a TEFL classroom, especially in Asian countries such as Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

This is different from the standard teacher centered lecture style classes that many people are familiar with.

In a student centered class the teacher demonstrates the new material but thereafter they establish work or activities that feature the English learner using and practicing English instead of listening to the teacher.

Some student centered work can be done individually, but most is done either in dyads (pair work) or small groups of 3 to 7 students. This allows the students to learn the language by using it instead of only learning by listening.

One key feature of this type of classroom is that is both teaches and builds confidence, something that is lacking from only lecture-based teaching.

Activities are commonplace and the core of most student centered classrooms. Role playing activities make students use new vocabulary and break free from the rote conversations that many textbooks impose.

They force students to practice both listening and speaking, which is much more practical than sitting in a classroom while a teacher lectures.

Group problem solving is another popular activity for more advanced TEFL learners. It lets the students put their own views into the activity but still offers plenty of speaking and listening practice.

In the above scenarios, the English teacher takes more of a support role, assisting the students as they work in their groups. The teacher can softly correct spoken grammar or help with pronunciation without discouraging or pressuring students.

Other examples of activities include Readers' Theater, small plays, speaking and guessing games, common party games altered for the classroom, and modified card games. Younger learners may be urged to use English while working on art projects.

Older students are lured more with the idea of learning about a new and often popular aspect of American and European culture. They are also encouraged to participate in western holiday traditions.

For prospective overseas English teachers, the idea of living in a new place is extremely exciting. They also usually imagine a traditional teacher-student classroom dynamic, not realizing that they will be more a facilitator of activities than a lecturer.

Understanding what is expected of them before accepting employment will make for an easier transition in both living in a new culture and working in a new job.

A great way to explore what a classroom might be like is to research the various English teaching activities on the web, like those at or browse the various TEFL Internet forums.

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