ESL Demo Lesson Tips

Often, acing your ESL teacher interview isn’t enough to impress employers.

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 put on that happy, confident face and read this post for a much-needed confidence boost—plus some excellent tips to help you prepare for your ESL demo lessons.


When Do You Need an ESL Demo Lesson?

Not every employer will ask for a demo lesson. Some of them will hire you after just one interview. Others, however, are more rigorous and will ask you to give a demo 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 only recruit one teacher for a single course.
  • Private tutoring positions. Whether you’re pitching tutoring sessions to current students or other clients, you might have to offer free demo classes, too.

What to Expect at Your ESL Demo Lesson

Different employers approach demo classes in different ways. For example:

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  • In some cases, you’ll be assigned a topic. This could be something academic like story writing, error correction or verb tenses. It may also involve a broader concept like food or traveling. If you’re teaching via Skype for an agency, you may be given a full set of materials to use. However, plenty of schools will leave it entirely in your hands.
  • Find out what you’re expected to teach before you turn up. If anything is unclear, feel free to send an email to check.
  • At your demo class, 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.

11 ESL Demo Lesson Tips to Set You Up for Success

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. But with the tips below, you can knock it out of the park.

1. Do Your Research

Find out as much 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. After all, most employers are just an email or phone call away.

2. Plan How You’ll Structure Your Demo Lesson

As the old saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Even if you’re the sort of teacher who dishes out lessons on the fly, keeping a general lesson structure in mind will help you focus and manage your time on Demo Day.

Below is one way to organize your demo lesson. Of course, you can take the lesson in any direction you want, but this template will help you get started:

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  1. Introduce the basic vocabulary, topic or concept. This can be integrated into an ice-breaker or even a short discussion activity. It’s a great way to inject energy into the class and make everyone feel at ease.
  2. 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 small groups.
  3. Go through the answers with your class. Elicit responses from different students and make corrections where needed.
  4. Provide a short activity that gives students free rein to use what they’ve learned. This can be a discussion on a given topic or a game.

Combined, these steps will help you create a well-rounded demo class that showcases your abilities as a teacher.

Alternatively, you can watch this video for ideas:

3. Focus On One Central Topic

Don’t try and do too much in one class. Otherwise, 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 or vocabulary point at the heart of the class.

This also makes it easier for the person observing you. If they have one topic 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.

Here are some suggested topics per level:

  • Young learners or beginners. For them, basic vocabulary games or easy concepts like the verb “to be” may suffice.
  • Intermediate learners. Try teaching them verb tenses.
  • Advanced/Business English learners. With these students, you can go through the differences between formal and informal language.

Spend some time explaining your chosen topic and give clear examples. This could involve flashcards, a projector or simply writing on the board.

Also, here’s a nice place to get sample lessons for all levels.

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4. Bring Materials

Having materials on hand 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 piece of technology that’s sure to impress your demo class is FluentU.

By using this language learning platform in your demo lesson, you’ll keep students engaged and make your class a success!

5. Arrive Early

It’s always good to be on time 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 before your students and the evaluators arrive.

6. Be (Or 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.

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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 your cool and think on your feet, you can carry your class through to the end without a hitch.

7. Manage Your Time Well

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’ve 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.

8. Don’t Lecture

Whatever you do, don’t just stand in 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 to teach.

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, but not everyone can make that presentation feel like an accessory to an awesome class rather than its central showpiece.

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

9. Let Your Personality Shine Through

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.

10. 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: 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.

Hi, I'm Alan! I became obsessed with learning Chinese, Japanese, and Korean in 2001, and managed to get good enough to work professionally in those languages as a management consultant.

I started FluentU to build a new kind of language app.
Want to learn more about how FluentU got started?

11. Ask For Feedback Afterward

After the demo class, 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 become a better teacher in the long run!


See? ESL demo lessons are much easier than they look! Once you get the hang of it, nailing those teaching jobs will be a cakewalk.

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