Making the initial jump into the world of teaching ESL can be scary.
The idea of teaching a class for the first time is daunting enough, but when you’re teaching a second language, things get even more complicated.
You may even start to second-guess your abilities.
“How will my students understand me?”
“What if they ask a question I don’t know the answer to?”
Don’t worry, it’s completely normal to get first-day jitters—especially if you’re a new teacher. The good news is that ESL teacher training courses can help you reduce your initial stress and teach you how to conduct your lessons smoothly and confidently, so that you always feel in control.
Jump into Action: How ESL Teacher Training Makes You a Better Teacher
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re expanding your existing professional skill set, you can benefit from taking a training course from time to time—even if it’s not part of your job requirement.
Sure, you can teach English without a TEFL in many places. But a good training course will help you learn how to use different tools, techniques and strategies to get the job done. These classes provide a wealth of valuable information for new teachers. They’re not just about teaching. They also give you some great communication skills, job hunting tips and networking opportunities. Plus, they look great on your resume or CV.
Taking a Course for the First Time?
Most training course providers will give you a rundown of how to get started. They should give you an overview of the curriculum taught throughout the duration of the training, as well as list any materials you need to bring or buy beforehand.
Depending on where the training is being held, you may need to budget for flights and accommodations—and in some cases, even get police background checks and vaccines. So if you’re traveling abroad for training, don’t forget to check the visa regulations by visiting the embassy website of the country you’re traveling to.
Also, be sure to read through all of the pre-course materials to get an idea of what to expect when you get there. That way, you can prepare for everything. It’s a good idea to buy some basic items, like pens, notebooks and folders. After all, you’ll probably have to write lots of notes and create materials for classes during your course.
Topics Commonly Covered in ESL Teacher Training Courses
Now that we’ve got the basic introduction out of the way, what will you actually be learning at a teacher training course? Well, that depends on the type of program—but here are some common themes found in most training courses.
If your course takes place abroad, it’s likely that your first day will involve an introduction to the local culture. This may involve learning a few words in a new language, trying some local food and going over the cultural dos and don’ts. TEFL course providers like to add these topics to their course in order to make their teachers feel welcome, give them the tools they need to adjust to their new environment and reduce culture shock.
In order to be a good teacher, you first need to understand what it’s like to be an ESL student.
One of the main worries new teachers have is that they won’t be able to communicate well with students if they don’t speak their language. This isn’t true. And to illustrate it, many ESL courses will start with a short activity conducted entirely in another language that teachers don’t speak. Participants will act as students, following along and using context and visual aids to understand what’s being said. Short activities like this one provide some inspiration for solving communication problems in the classroom.
After that, a TEFL course may also cover the science of language learning and a range of different learning styles.
Once you begin teaching English, you’re bound to receive lots of technical grammar questions. When you’re just starting out, terms like “passive voice,” “past participle” and “present perfect” may confuse you. That’s because when English is your first language, you don’t always have to remember them. They’re second nature to you. However, these terms are essential for ESL students. That’s why you’ll have to make sure you understand them before you step into the classroom. In order to do that, you’ll have a grammar review in your TEFL course. This will test your knowledge of English grammar and ensure you know how to explain it to students.
Your course may also include a lesson on phonics, as well as how different parts of the mouth are used to create certain sounds. It’s also a good idea to become acquainted with the Phonemic Chart, as it will help you to teach pronunciation later on.
Lesson planning is a huge part of ESL teaching. Before you even step into the classroom, you’ll have to have an entire lesson planned, with learning objectives and target language laid out and teaching materials prepared. Without proper planning, your lessons won’t be effective and your students won’t progress.
During your course, you’ll spend a lot of time writing lesson plans. Your course leader will guide you along the way, giving you examples of great lesson plans and feedback on everything your produce. By the end of it, lesson planning will be easy for you.
Classroom Management Techniques
It doesn’t matter how much hard work and preparation you put into your lessons. If you can’t get your students to pay attention and participate, it won’t work. For that reason, classroom management techniques will be an important part of your teacher’s course. You’ll learn how to cater to different class sizes, groups with varying skill abilities, and disruptive students. For many new course graduates, this can be one of the most daunting parts of teacher life. A good training course will prepare you for it.
No good teacher training course would be complete without some practical teaching time. Once you’ve spent enough time going over theories and methods, you’ll have a chance to put everything you’ve learned into practice. This could start with peer-to-peer teaching, where you’ll teach mock lessons to other people on the course. You may start off doing this in groups, then eventually move on to teaching a class by yourself. Then, you’ll probably teach some real students. Some courses will bring students in from outside, whereas others will take you to local schools to teach. Ideally, you’ll have the chance to teach different age groups. This way, you’ll be able to work out which one you’d most like to teach when it’s time to start job hunting. Throughout your teaching practice, you’ll receive feedback from your peers and your assessors.
Other Benefits of ESL Teaching Courses
There are lots of other benefits you’ll gain from your TEFL course, too. Some of these perks include:
- Meeting other new teachers, some of whom you may form valuable friendships with.
- Making professional connections that could be useful later on in your career.
- Learning how to break through cultural and language barriers.
- Gaining a deeper appreciation for other languages and cultures.
A teacher training course is the best way to start developing yourself as an ESL teacher. Whether you’re a complete newbie or have previous teaching experience, this can be the stepping stone to a new career with better job prospects or a chance to explore a new side of the world you’ve always wanted to travel to.
Now that we’ve covered the basics about ESL training courses, let’s look at a few of the popular programs available.
Different ESL Teacher Courses to Choose From
When you’re researching different teacher training courses, it can be difficult to get your head around all of the different acronyms. Here’s a breakdown of all of the courses available to you.
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)
This is the most commonly-used course. It prepares teachers to teach in a country where English isn’t the first language. It can be taken in a classroom setting or as an online certification.
ESL education website, GoAbroad.com, has a comprehensive list of TEFL programs across the globe. Some may even be close to you!
TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
A TESOL is very similar to a TEFL, but prepares teachers to teach non-native students in an English-speaking country. These courses often include guaranteed job placements at the end.
- The American TESOL Institute offers courses in several countries around the world, with job placements for all graduates.
- You can get certified either online or in a classroom with International Open Academy Both courses include modules on classroom management, linguistics, pedagogy and job hunting, each of which is followed by an exam.
CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults)
A CELTA is one the most widely accepted and respected courses for ESL teachers. This is because it’s an intensive, four-week standardized course. There’s usually a maximum of six trainees on each course, so everyone is given lots of individual attention. This course provides access to a wider range of jobs than TEFL or TESOL.
- You can get certified with Teaching House, which offers a range of flexible options. If you can’t do a full-time course, you can do it part-time, stretched over 10 weeks, or study it online.
- British Council offers CELTA courses in countries all around the world, including Italy, Egypt and Colombia. After completing the course, you can apply to work at one of their language centers.
DELTA (University of Cambridge Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
A DELTA is ideal for teachers who want to take the next step in their ESL career, perhaps to a position as a director or teacher trainer. Since it’s the most intensive course available, it’s also to priciest, requiring some extra funding and planning. Prices depend on where you study, but you can expect to pay around $4,000 to $4,500 for all three modules.
To enroll, you’ll first need to have a previous ESL certification (at least a 120-hour course) and two years of experience. The course is broken down into three modules: an exam, teaching practice and a written assignment.
- You don’t have to stop everything to take your course. The Distance DELTA allows you to study while continuing your day-to-day teaching job.
- Bell English provides the same flexibility, both in-person and online courses that teachers can take.
Take the Next Step
Now that you know what a TEFL course entails, the next step is to find the right one for you. Make sure it’s run by a legitimate provider with a great track record. Then, you can start your journey of teaching English abroad. If you like, you can even teach your way around the world!
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.