This article was published in EFL Magazine. You can read it here.
A demo lesson can be nightmare, especially if you are a shiny, new teacher trying to land your first job. Some people stress over it and compare it to taking a horrible exam. However, I perceive the demo lesson experience as an opportunity rather than an exam. It’s a chance to show off your teaching skills, your knowledge, your passion, and to basically show what kind of a teacher you really are. Another way to look at it is to consider yourself as a ‘product’ and the demo lesson is the ad that would get you sold. Wouldn’t you follow an effective marketing strategy to sell your product?
Not every teacher has the luxury of a TEFL training course, perhaps because of finances or through personal circumstances. For those non -TEFL trained teachers in the far flung corners of the world, of which there are many, here are some tips to give a brilliant demo lesson that will help you land that teaching job.
Write a procedure form and a lesson plan.
Writing a lesson plan and a procedure form will show your observer(s) that you know what you are doing, when you are doing it, and above all WHY you are doing it. The procedure form will allow the observers to follow you in case there are students in the lesson. In your procedures write how you will give instructions, and how you will check the understanding of the instructions.
At the end of the lesson plan, write an extension to your lesson. So, let’s say your lesson was ‘clothes lexis’, then as an extension suggest that in the following lesson you will teach, for example, functional language, to shop for clothes.
Ask the following questions
- What is the age of the learners?
- What is the level of the learners?
- Are there going to be students, how many?
- How many teachers/observers will be there?
- How much time do I have?
- What is the topic of the demo lesson? (A skill, then which? A grammar point? Again, which one ?).
This is the most important point in the lesson. I have seen countless demo lessons, where the teachers weren’t able to explain the target structure, nor answer some of the questions raised by the observers. Once your potential employer informs you of the topic of the lesson (most of the time it is going to be grammar), go and research the target structure, even if you think you know it like the back of your hand. Some books that you can consult are:
- Teaching Tenses By Aitken.
- Teaching English Grammar by Scrivener.
- Practical English Usage by Parrot.
- Concept Questions and Time Lines by Workman.
This part of the lesson is the meat in your sandwich, so you need to do it well. I have seen observers shut down after asking a question that was not answered correctly or accurately by the teachers being observed.
- Use some CCQs (concept-checking questions) in your slides.
- Use a guided-discovery worksheet.
- Be ready for tricky questions, such as, what would you do if the learners still do not understand the target language?
Do not rush to answer a question the second it is asked. This is a common occurrence in teachers who are trying to please their observers. Instead, make use of the two second rule. Take two seconds before answering the question. This not only shows that you value the question being asked, but, it also gives you a little more time to process the question and formulate the best answer. Our brain processes are very fast and two seconds can make a big difference between a good and a poor answer. If in doubt, repeat the question. Another delaying tactic is to make the comment “good question”, before giving your answer. However all delaying tactics should be used with caution and used only once.
Try to use your own laptop if you have one, because you’ll have all your materials and the programs you need on it. The school might not have a video player that plays all the video/audio extensions. Have all the slides and materials in one folder and copy it onto your desktop, so you can reach it easily during the lesson.
Use handouts that are clear, and error-free. If you are using some materials from the internet, do check them and see if the exercises are only about the target structure. Make sure they are PARSNIP free (Politics, Alcohol, Religion, Sex, Narcotics, ISMs, and Pork.) Some institutions are pretty strict about them.
Try to find various activities such as games and communicative activities for the target structure of your demo lesson, especially if you are applying for elementary or middle school. Also try to vary the skills of the activities to include speaking, writing, listening, and reading. There are lots of books that provide activities and games based on language structures or lexical groups, or functional exponents. You do not have to include all of them in the lesson plan, but by inserting some games, even if you don’t use all of them, it shows that you have done your preparation well and have a store of material to call upon if your lesson deviates a little from the plan.
When doing the demo lesson, and trust me on this, you are going to have like a gazillion thoughts per second, not to mention the questions and the looks that will come from your audience. So, having some slides in your arsenal is also very useful. They will keep you organized, on topic, and will have everything you need to avoid forgetting something and they save s time.
Try to create your own slides with your name in the corner, and avoid writing 100 words on each slide. Simplicity is the key.
Know who is your audience and how to address them.
I recommend using this strategy when there will be no actual students in the demo lesson. When you are about to start your lesson, ask how your observer(s) would like to be addressed. You need to know whether your observers are going to be students all the time, students and observers/teachers, or just observers/teachers. I find the second one to be the best since you can ‘teach’ the lesson, and comment on it simultaneously. If the observers do not specify an approach, try to choose the second. The reason for this is because that way you will present the activity/skill/language point/material/stage and have the chance to give the rationale behind it. You will be able to show them that you’re doing this because it will lead to that.
Some other tips
Practice teaching the lesson at home, and if possible, have a colleague or a friend observe and critique your lesson.
It is fine to reschedule. If anything goes wrong, or they ask you to give a different lesson from the one already agreed upon, then reschedule, so you can prepare the materials. This happened to a good teacher who agreed to do a different lesson. Unfortunately, it did not go well for him. So, do reschedule.
Do not be over confident and do not patronize the observers as if they are learners and know nothing. Even if you think they know very little, do not act like it. Again, this happened to a teacher who ended up talking to experienced teachers as if they did not know the first thing about English. She kept giving them tips about learning, and told them that with practice they would be able to speak without any trouble. All they asked was “can you highlight the difference between the simple past and the present perfect?”
Thank the observers for the time and the opportunity. You can ask when they will contact you to inform you about the decision.
This might seem a lot of work, but the old adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” comes in very useful here. If I had a language institution, I would definitely expect a good teacher to follow most of these tips and in a perfect world, all of them.
Do you have other tips you would like to add?