Teach English in Weimiao Zhen - Xuzhou Shi

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I recently applied to the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) which will provide me an opportunity to teach English as a foreign language (EFL) to Japanese students. Although I have taught classes in America, I have no experience teaching students who speak a completely different language than me nor do I have any experience teaching classes abroad. This is a daunting task; at first, I felt unprepared to teach EFL. However, I recalled my experiences teaching various subjects at the college level, the middle school level and the grade school level. They inspired me to write down three of the most important principles I’ve learned about teaching and how I should apply them abroad. The first task in teaching your students is engaging them and getting them interested in the material. This is an especially important principle because it grants your students the initial motivation to start learning and ensures that they are enjoying the class. Unmotivated and bored students are unlikely to make much progress and may even consider dropping out of the class entirely. In a public health class that I was an assistant teacher for, the staff and I engaged the students by starting a talk about their favorite foods, snacks and restaurant chains. The students enthusiastically responded with popular brands like McDonald’s, Burger King, Gatorade and Cheetos. This led into a discussion about nutrition facts and intake; the students were shocked to learn how many calories and sugars were in what they ate! This new information motivated them to continue with the lesson. Engaging my students shall be different as an EFL teacher, however. Because of the language and cultural barriers, I’ll need to be creative in introducing the material to my students. Activities could include starting the lesson with music and encouraging my students to spell a word to the rhythm of a song; this would be great for younger children! With adults, I could begin the class by asking where they would like to go for vacation i.e. the Bahamas etc. Then, I could lead this into a discussion about how to say one is traveling or going somewhere. Another principle to keep in mind is understanding how to helpfully communicate and give advice to your students. Vocalization and attitude are incredibly important in communicating with them. It’s often best to explain how to say or write things as slowly as possible so that your students don’t miss any details. Additionally, talking in an appreciative and understanding tone signals to your students that they can trust you. When I worked with first graders with learning disorders, it was difficult to maintain their attention because they were easily distracted. Additionally, they would quickly shut down if there was a problem they couldn’t solve. To help them, I decided to lead them in their assignments; first, I would complete a portion of their work while explaining how I did it at the same time. Then, I would let them try completing a few problems with my guidance; afterwards, I would let them try completing their work on their own. I gained my students’ trust, built up their confidence and made them more independent. Helping my students will be more difficult when I’m teaching abroad; I won’t have the luxury of speaking the same language as they do. I also might have to deal with cultural attitudes that dictate that students aren’t supposed to ask questions or receive help when in school; this is not ideal for a classroom about language. It will fall on me to approach students to ask them what they are having trouble with and how they are feeling. I could try giving out easy-to-read questionnaires for the class to complete or asking them as a group what their opinions are on the material. This monitoring will show them that they can trust my help; I can incorporate their feedback into my lesson plans to facilitate their learning. The last principle I learned as a teacher was checking my students’ understanding and making sure they can apply the material. Both you and your students will participate in a “feedback loop”; you will present material for them to study and ask them to complete related assignments/activities. When they finish these tasks, you will need to see what they are having difficulty with and how you can help them in-class. Over time, you can greatly expand your students’ knowledge while narrowing down particular issues that they have and finding creative methods to help them overcome them. However, you must also provide opportunities for your students to independently experiment with the material without immediately correcting their mistakes; that way, they can express their grasp of it confidently. In a research paper writing class that I tutored for, an idea that my students and I had difficulty discussing was “brevity”. My students would often add too many words to fill a page or to make their papers sound “intelligent”. Fortunately, I was able to help them improve their writing by reviewing their papers in-class and via online feedback; I pointed out sentences that could be cut down and suggested alternate ways of writing them. Their writing became more cohesive and clearer with each new essay that they wrote. I let them handle their research independently and occasionally refrained from correcting minor grammatical errors; that way, they could try fixing their own errors and learn how to find sources themselves. While I’m working abroad, I need to acknowledge that some students may understand English at a slower pace than others. As a result, it will take time to discover what my students are having trouble with and will take longer for them to speak English fluently. A tactic I could try would be to split the class into different groups based on their English-level. Students of the same level will likely have similar difficulties with English; therefore, I could help tackle their issues as a group. Additionally, each group can learn and progress at their own pace.