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  • 6 things to check before accepting your TEFL job March 15, 2010
    It’s tempting to get carried away with the excitement of going to a new country and being accepted for a job is a great feeling, notes Bruce Haxton, but before you start packing your suitcase, make sure you check out the conditions – they’ll make or break your experience of teaching abroad! Here are 6 [...] […]
  • What type of English can I teach? March 1, 2010
    In this article Chris Soames looks into your options as a native speaker. If you’re a British TEFL teacher, you’ll be asked the question ‘do you teach American English?’ more often than you’ll hot dinners. Your response should always be a firm, but polite, ‘no’. This is nothing to do with snobbishness or a belief that British [...] […]
  • Being Certified in TESOL or TEFL has Benefits February 23, 2010
    By Frank Collins TEFL and TESOL are acronyms for teaching English as a foreign language and teaching English to speakers of other languages. If you plan to teach English overseas then getting a TEFL or TESOL Certificate is a prime requirement. Subscribe to The ELT Times by Email Nowadays there is huge demand for TEFL and TESOL certified [...] […]
  • How are TEFL courses structured? January 28, 2010
    What to expect from your four-week TEFL course by Bruce Haxton. So you’re interested in Teaching English as a Foreign Language [TEFL] but you don’t know which course might be for you? Or maybe you’d just like to know more about what to expect on day one on a course you’ve already booked? Well, there are [...] […]
  • How to Fact Check January 25, 2010
    How to write more accurately and improve your grade, by Celia Webb Fact checking is an important part of writing an accurate article. Meticulous authors do research prior to committing their thoughts to paper. Not all authors are so careful. Editors and readers serve society and themselves well when they read with a judicious eye. Just [...] […]
  • 5 Simple Tips for TEFL Job Success January 19, 2010
    Want to know how to succeed in the TEFL job market? Bruce Haxton tells you how. So, you’re thinking about doing a TEFL course, and it won’t be too long before you’ve got your crisp new TEFL certificate in hand – but what are you going to do with it?! Get a teaching job abroad and [...] […]
  • Why People TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) January 12, 2010
    Ever wondered why we do it? Find out now in this article by Bruce Haxton. TEFL, on paper, is perfect: an exciting career, a chance to see the world, a life full of fresh faces, opportunities and experiences. But, in reality, life at home holds people back: jobs, cars, family, friends, house, age, personal circumstances… so [...] […]
  • Classroom TEFL Courses – the Pros and the Cons January 7, 2010
    An online TEFL course or one done in the classroom? Honor Baldry offers advice on taking the latter option. Classroom learning – it’s what we’re all used to and the way we expect to study. Or is it? A classroom TEFL course is nothing like the lessons you took in school; expect it to be more [...] […]
  • How to Find a Good TEFL Employer January 7, 2010
    A new year and a new career? Check this advice by Bruce Haxton if you’re thinking about getting into TEFL. So you’re thinking about getting TEFL certified (or maybe you already are!), but once you’ve completed your TEFL course, what are you going to do with that crisp new certificate? Get a job and [...] […]
  • Tips about teaching English overseas December 22, 2009
    By Michiel Van Kets If you’re thinking about a career in teaching English you are choosing a great profession. Not only do you give your valuable expertise to others but it is also possible to teach English in other countries not just at home. You can do this as a long term option or just take [...] […]

How are TEFL courses structured?

What to expect from your four-week TEFL course by Bruce Haxton.

So you’re interested in Teaching English as a Foreign Language [TEFL] but you don’t know which course might be for you? Or maybe you’d just like to know more about what to expect on day one on a course you’ve already booked? Well, there are a variety of courses to choose from including online courses, 20-hour weekend courses, combined online and classroom TEFL courses, 4-week intensive certificates, and a 10-week diploma. The content of all of these courses is broadly similar, but the depth of training varies from course to course. Below are some descriptions to give you an idea of what you might expect on your TEFL Course.

Learning through doing activities

Probably the very best thing about a TEFL course is that the learning happens through actually doing activities, rather than long theoretical explanations. This is true even at diploma level, although discussion forms a greater part of the study on diploma courses, since by then you’ll have plenty of teaching experience and your aim is to perfect the skills you have. In all cases, your tutors want to encourage you to think about what they already know, so they provide plenty of opportunities to chat things through with others on the course. You and your fellow tutees will be given the chance to try out different exercises and materials, which usually involves interacting with each other. This is invariably terrific fun, so although you’ll feel tired, it’s more likely to be from the challenge and excitement than anything else.

Introduction to grammar

We all know an incredible number of words (about 50,000 on average) and grammar is simply the means for stringing this vast vocabulary into some kind of order so we understand each other. There are patterns and rules to think about, but you won’t have to learn it all in one day! Your tutor will use activities applied in a real EFL classroom and will usually break down the learning into manageable chunks. Many trainees are fascinated when they find out all the interesting reasons for why we say what we say. A Weekend TEFL Course will touch on a few aspects of grammar, but you can expect to study in much more depth if you supplement this with an online TEFL course or do an intensive 4-week course. Even in these comprehensive courses, you won’t fully learn grammar’s intricacies, so much of the teaching will raise your awareness and guide you on to further study. Tutors are very patient and understanding when it comes to this aspect, so don’t worry if you find it a bit tricky.

Pronunciation information

Just think about how to say this sentence:

“Get me some bread,” said Fred.

At a glance you can see that similar sounds have a different way of being spelt. We’ve got get, bread, said and Fred all with an /e/ sound. Any TEFL course will provide fun activities for you to help your students practice the pronunciation of individual words. This is important because, as you can see, spelling often isn’t a great deal of help! As mentioned above, the longer your course, the greater the level of detail on pronunciation. We also have to think about intonation, stress and the many other aspects of pronunciation. To prepare you for this highly enjoyable feature of the course, here’s a tongue-twister:

What noise annoys an oyster most? A noisy noise annoys an oyster most.

Teaching reading, writing, listening and speaking

English language learners also need help developing skills to cope with reading, writing, listening and speaking in English. Perhaps you’ve had training in how to write an essay or a letter yourself. Any good course will offer specific tips for helping your learners cope better with these aspects of using English. As always, expect the activities to be motivating, fun and interactive as you build your own awareness. You can also expect tips on how to use music in the classroom as part of your course.

Experience how language learning feels

At some point on any face-to-face TEFL course, you will have at least one lesson in a foreign language. You don’t have to be any good at languages yourself to enjoy this part of the course, and if you find it all gobbledygook – never mind! It’s your chance to experience what it feels like to be a language learner – something that helps every teacher to empathise with their learners. It’s also a great way to learn tips on classroom organisation, for example, how to give instructions clearly using mime and gesture and so on.

Learning by watching

Having the chance to do some classroom observation is an integral part of any course. Online courses often give you video clips to watch, so you can begin getting an idea of what lessons are like. On weekend courses, you will watch your peers teach at various times and on CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL courses, formal classroom observations are an important part of the learning. This safe environment makes it much easier to analyse what is happening in the classroom than when you are standing at the front, concentrating on leading the lesson. You’ll learn loads from this aspect, whether it’s picking up tips from watching an excellent teacher, or empathising with someone whose activity is not going as well they had hoped. And don’t be afraid of making mistakes yourself – it’s all part of the learning process! Nobody expects perfection and it can fun if the odd bit of controlled chaos breaks out!

Teaching practice with feedback

On any classroom TEFL course, part of your day is given over to guided lesson planning and you will be given materials and suggestions to teach from. Many tutees enjoy creating some of their own materials during lesson planning in order to make the lesson come to life. After preparing, it’s time to attend lessons, and these vary significantly according to the course you are doing. On a weekend course, your students are likely to be others doing the course with you whereas on 4-week intensive and 10-week diploma courses, you will be teaching real English students. The important factor is that you stand in front of a class and teach some aspect of the English language. Your aim is to use the ideas from earlier in your course to get them practicing in a fun, engaging way.

Analysis and evaluation

Some of your peers and your tutor will have been watching your lesson. So after teaching, there is the chance to get feedback on how it went. You are also encouraged to evaluate your own experience, focusing especially on what went well and considering any changes you would make if you had the chance to do it all over again. This part can be very encouraging as you’re often your own worst critic and don’t realise just how well you performed. It’s a great feeling to put your training into practice and motivate your students to learn.

So, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t already done it book a place on a TEFL course and get ready for an exciting, interesting, tiring, amusing and challenging experience!

About the Author

I believe that teaching English abroad is the perfect opportunity for any English speaker to explore the world. If you’re a fluent English speaker, a TEFL course is your ticket to the journey of your life. I work for

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