Home / Common blunders made in an ESL classroom
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First week of teaching English as a foreign language

Maybe you’re a newly qualified TEFL teacher, started a new TEFL internship programme, or you’ve joined a new language school abroad. Like many you’re filled with excitement! At the same time maybe you’re a little nervous for obvious reason… Here are some tips and advice for newly qualified TEFL teachers to help make it a success. This blog will look at first-hand blunders that real TEFL teachers made during their first week of teaching. This can be seen as practical advice (and how to avoid mistakes). But, at the end of the day we all make mistakes.


So what are the most common mistakes made in an ESL classroom?

  • Teacher talk time > than students – as a TEFL teacher you should encourage your students to participate in English conversation as much as possible! A quiet classroom isn’t a good learning environment. There’s lots of ways to encourage English speaking, such as, during a reading task ask a student to read out loud; pair work and group work.
  • Correcting mistakes during conversation – I’m a big fan of freedom/ openness during conversation. Don’t put off a student by highlighting their mistake in front of everyone. This could prevent them from talking further and knock their confidence. Instead you could write down any mistakes on the whiteboard and have an open class discussion. Taking lead as the TEFL teacher only when students require your assistance.
  • Relying 100% on the course book – language schools usually follow ESL curriculum/ material. Its useful to have back ups and relevant extra material handy for each lesson. Such as listening exercises, ESL videos, ESL games, grammar points and debates (previous blogs have mentioned extra material ideas).
  • Not preparing for a lesson – never think you can just walk into a class and open the book to start a lesson.
  • Not remembering students names – I believe that it shows respect and genuine interest when you are able to remember each student individually.

TEFL teachers blunders made in the classroom

  • Setting off the security alarm – Sometimes private language schools require you to open/ lock up the building. This is because you could be teaching business classes of an early morning 7am or evening adult group classes which finish at 9pm.
  • Observing the wrong class – Its very useful to observe fellow colleagues teaching and vice versa have colleagues/ the director sit in on your lessons. The feedback provided can highlight things you’re not aware of during teaching.
  • Talking too fast – make sure your students adjust to your accent. At the beginning you could talk slower than usual.
  • Using a permanent marker on a whiteboard – keep your pens in the classroom; green, blue, red and black whiteboard pens.
  • Breaking the CD player – always exit the classroom so that its ready for another lesson.
  • Rude/ inappropriate adult student comments – set class rules at the beginning of a new group.
  • Finishing the lesson too late – make sure your time management skills are effective and keep a planner/ diary at hand to pencil in any changes.
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