6 Tips for a Killer Demo Lesson

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How to Do a Demo Lesson They’ll Never Forget

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Fair enough, but that first impression is still born of a combination of small events that contribute to that overall first impression. The total may very well be worth more than the individual parts, but isn’t it better to try and include as many of the good bits as possible, just in case? If you want to have a successful teaching career abroad, you better start with a killer demo lesson (and these 13 other important things to know before teaching abroad).

TEFL students during class

Trainers are crucial to the quality of any teaching programme.

In the current teaching job market, your demo lesson might not actually be taught in person; instead, it may arrive in the form of a short video you send as part of your CV or even conducted and viewed remotely over Skype. Whatever the format, demo lessons are still a significant part of the hiring process for teaching jobs. Future employers want to hear what you sound like, how you come across in a classroom setting, and check your language awareness as well as see a sampling of your teaching and classroom management skills.

A unique element of the teaching profession is that prospective employers can actually observe you in action doing what they will be paying you to do, before you are even chosen for the job, so don’t take your teacher demo lesson lightly!

Tip #1: Write a demo lesson plan.

Write yourself a demo lesson plan, even if the interviewer is not requiring it. No one else needs to see it, but it will give you a chance to organize everything you want to achieve in the allotted time and work out any kinks before you actually have to teach it. If you plan to use technology you better make darn sure it will work when you need it, and you should still have a back-up plan for when, heaven forbid, it doesn’t. Make sure you know the language you are teaching well, brush up if need be until you know it well and can answer any of the far-flung questions a mean-spirited demo student might dare ask you on the spot. No one wants to see you crash and burn in a demo lesson, but there are fewer things less convincing than a teacher who doesn’t know what their lesson target is actually supposed to be. Being a one-trick pony is fine, but it better be one hell of a trick! 

[KEEP READING: What Do You Need to Teach English Abroad?]

Tip #2: Make proper introductions.

Make sure you introduce yourself and ask for the practice students’ names. This seems like a no-brainer, but when you are nervous you don’t always remember to do the obvious. Demo lessons where the teacher behaves as though they are auditioning in front of an anonymous audience rather than showing what they are like in front of a classroom don’t generally go over well. Arguably, the set-up of a demo lesson tends toward the unnatural, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to show them as authentic a “teacher-you” as you can. That is why, afterall, you were invited.

The quality of student-teacher rapport can not be stressed enough. 
TEFL trainers teaching young learners

Gaining teaching experience with young learners is a great way to boost your CV.

Tip #3: Watch the TTT and interaction patterns.

Yes, they want to hear you speaking, but as a facilitator, not as a lecturing drone. It is all about you, but a quietly-orchestratin-puppet-master sort of you. They should hear more from you at certain stages of the demo lesson, but in general shut up and get the students to say it too. You’ve already made it clear that you speak the language, right? So now it’s time to see if your faux students do.

[KEEP READING: How to Ruin Your ESL Classroom]

Tip #4: Illustrate classroom management.

Highlight your classroom management skills and all the fabulous techniques you were taught in your TEFL course. This means pair-work, monitoring when it seems prudent, and tidy board-work. Having said this, think long and hard about what really needs to go up on the board. You don’t want to be spending half of your precious 20 minutes alloted for your demo lesson having the students stare at your back. That time is better spent interacting with your class of students.

Also, don’t be afraid of giving meaningful and sensitive error correction. You are the teacher, so it’s part of any teaching job description.

Tip #5: Spend quality time on your materials.

You can be a one trick pony, but you’d better be one with a really sleek headdress.

Demo lessons are pretty much a given even when you are already working for a school, so why not take the time to create materials that will show you in the best possible light? Laminate your vocab and discussion cards, invest in colour copies if you plan to use photographs, and make sure you have enough materials for everyone (don’t worry, you can re-use them if you print too many -- #savetheearth). Trust me, it will help if you appear serious, professional, and prepared during your demo lesson. 

[KEEP READING: 4 Easy Activities for ESL Students]

TEFL graduate 
Language and Training, Ltd. Graduate with her TEFL Certificate in hand

Tip #6: Don’t make it up (completely).

Lastly, be honest. If the student (aka. your interviewer) asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, fess up and say so. People are less impressed when they know you are faking it. It’s so much better to be honest than to speak off the top of your head and then be cursing yourself the whole way home because your mistake was so painfully obvious. 

[KEEP READING: ESL Interview Questions & the Answers to Get You Hired]

Your demo lesson is essentially the product sample of what you are actually selling the school: your time and expertise. Being likeable and friendly is great, but if you can’t actually demonstrate that you know what you are doing in the classroom, it’s not enough to get you hired for a teaching job at a reputable school. Who’d want to hire a teacher who doesn’t know how to teach when they could just as easily hire one who does? This is why you have to give them a killer demo lesson they won’t forget.

Starting to feel under-prepared for a teaching job abroad? Check out TEFL programs abroad to get ready now!

This article was contributed by Language and Training, a company that provides a four-week TEFL course leading to an internationally recognized certificate in TESOL. The course is internationally accredited, validated, and moderated by TEFL International, one of the largest and most respected providers of initial teacher training and certification.