How to Nail Your ESL Demo Lessons and Land a Teaching Job

A row of bored-looking kids (or adults) sits staring at you, waiting.

Your task is to entertain and educate these individuals in a way that sets you apart from the competition.

No, you’re not a clown in a circus. Though you might very well feel like one.

You’re just a prospective teacher, looking to impress your future employers with your teaching skills.

Sometimes, acing the interview isn’t enough. That’s because for teachers, landing a job requires more than just good interview skills.

In addition to giving all the right answers, you may also be required to teach a demo class.

It doesn’t have to be scary, though. All it takes is the right preparation. So paint on that happy, confident face and read this post for a much-needed confidence boost—and some excellent tips for being prepared.

When Do You Need for an ESL Demo Lesson?

Not every employer will ask for a demo lesson. Some of them will hire you after just one interview.

However, others have more rigorous recruitment processes and ask you to give an example class first. You may be asked to teach a demo lesson if you’re applying to:

  • International schools. These tend to have particularly high standards for teachers.
  • Corporate clients for business English. The selection process for corporate teachers is rigorous because a company may recruit just one single teacher to carry out a course at their office.
  • Private tutoring positions. Whether you’re pitching tutoring sessions to current students or to other clients, you might have to offer free demo classes, too.

What to Expect at Your Demo Lesson

Different employers approach demo classes in different ways.

In some cases, you’ll be assigned a topic. This could be something academic, like story writing, error correction or verb tenses. However, sometimes it’s a broader concept, like food or traveling. If you’re teaching via Skype for an agency, you may even be given a full set of materials to use. However, plenty of schools will leave it entirely in your hands.

Make sure you find out what you’re expected to teach before you turn up. If anything is unclear, feel free to send an email to check.

When you arrive to teach, you may not be teaching actual students. Sometimes, staff members will pretend to be students in a “mock class.” If that’s the case, don’t let it distract you: Treat them as if they were your students.

How to Structure Your Demo Lessons

Below is one method of organizing your demo lesson. Of course, you can take the lesson in whatever direction you want, but this template will help you get started!

  1. Introduce the basic vocabulary, topic or concept. This can be integrated into an ice-breaker or even a short discussion activity. That’s a great way to inject some energy into the class and make everyone feel at ease.
  2. From there, you can start to present your central topic. For young learners, basic vocabulary games are enough. If it’s a beginner’s class, it could be something easy, such as the verb “to be.” For an intermediate class, try you can try teaching tenses. If you’re teaching advanced students or a business English class, you could go for formal and informal language. Spend some time explaining your chosen grammar or topic, giving clear examples. This could involve the use of flashcards, a projector or simply writing on the board.
  3. Next, give your students a chance to practice the topic you’ve just taught them. The easiest way to do this is to hand out a worksheet with questions for them to answer. If they’re fairly confident already, they can try doing it alone. If not, have them work on it in pairs or in small groups.
  4. After that, go through the answers with your class, eliciting responses from different students and making corrections where needed.
  5. To finish up, provide a short activity that gives students free reign to use what they’ve learned. This can be a discussion on a given topic or a game.

The combination of these steps will create a well-rounded demo class, which will provide a great display of your abilities as a teacher.

How to Nail Your ESL Demo Lessons and Land a Teaching Job

If you’ve got a demo lesson coming up, you might be nervous. There’s a lot of pressure to plan, prepare and execute everything perfectly. With these tips, you can knock it out of the park.

1. Arrive Early

It’s always good to arrive early for an ESL demo class. That way, you can gauge the situation by taking a look at the room, the students and the equipment you’ll be working with. If anything doesn’t quite fit with what you’ve prepared, this gives you time to make some adjustments.

2. Bring Materials

Make sure you prepare and bring teaching materials and tools with you. This will show that you’ve put some effort into lesson planning, which will look great to the interviewer. These materials will also provide a crutch to lean on if you ever get stuck. Whether it’s worksheets, flashcards, videos or games, have some materials ready. Don’t show up empty-handed.

One great material you can bring to your demo class is FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.

FluentU provides a fun alternative to textbook learning, and the annotated subtitles will ensure that all students are following along with the content. Using FluentU in your demo lesson will keep students engaged and make your class a success!

3. Do Your Research

Find out as much information as you can about the circumstances under which your demo class will take place.

This includes:

  • The age group you’ll be teaching.
  • What their skill level is.
  • How many students will be in the class.
  • How long the class will be.

This information may not be offered to you at first, but don’t be afraid to ask.

4. Focus on One Central Topic

Don’t try and do too much in one class. If you do, you’ll be in danger of looking rushed or disorganized. Instead, focus on one thing and make sure you do it well. Follow a simple structure, with one grammar point at the heart of the class.

This also makes it easier for the person observing you. If they have a clear grammar point or set of vocabulary to look at, they can assess whether or not the students were able to pick it up. This will show them how effective your teaching skills are.

5. Be (or Appear) Confident

One of the most important things to remember when teaching a demo class is that you have to appear confident. It’s normal to be a nervous wreck when teaching your first class, but try not to let it show. Your prospective employers need to know that you can handle a class without getting lost or overwhelmed.

Some tricks for looking confident while teaching include making eye contact with students, using lots of gestures, standing up straight and projecting your voice clearly.

Teaching is often about improvisation. Even if things aren’t going to plan, or you’ve completely forgotten what the next activity is supposed to be, no one else needs to know that. If you keep cool and think on your feet, you can carry your class through to the end without a hitch.

6. Manage Your Time Well

Time management is key, so keep an eye on the clock throughout your class. When preparing your lesson, write down the maximum time you can allot to any part of the class. When teaching, stick to your time limits!

If you let one activity run for too long, you might find that you run out of time before you can teach everything you’d planned. That means you won’t be able to showcase your true teaching skills. It could also be the difference between being offered a job and getting rejected.

7. Don’t Lecture

Whatever you do, don’t just stand at the front of the class and talk at your students. It will put them, as well as the person observing you, to sleep. Lecturing is a boring, ineffective way of teaching.

Schools want to see that you can be dynamic and entertaining. They want someone who will teach engaging classes that students will love. Besides, anyone can read from a PowerPoint presentation.

Make your class interactive and get students involved as much as possible. Whenever you can, take the opportunity to get them up, moving around and doing hands-on, physical activities.

8. Let Your Personality Shine Through

What do you have to offer? Whether it’s expertise in a certain subject, excellent classroom management skills or a bubbly, active personality, make sure you project that in your demo class. Prospective employers don’t want to see the same old standard lesson. They could hire almost anyone for that. They want to see something different. Identify some of your strengths and see how you can showcase them in your class.

9. Have Fun with It

Being observed is always uncomfortable, but it’s even more unnerving when there’s a job at stake. Don’t let that worry you. Instead, try to forget about whoever’s watching and just have fun. If both you and your students enjoy the class, you’re bound to make a great impression.


At the end of your demo class, ask for feedback. Ask the interviewer what they thought about your teaching methods and how you could improve. That way, no matter how your lesson went, you’ll be able to learn from it.

The feedback and the process of doing a demo lesson will help you to become a better teacher in the long run!

Emma Thomas is an ESL teacher in Bangkok with more than five years of experience in teaching students of all ages. You can read more about her experiences as a teacher in Thailand at Under the Ropes.

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