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Don’t waste time in your TEFL class

When I first started teaching English as a Foreign Language, I wasn’t very good. I had just arrived in China after completing my TEFL course a few weeks before. During my TEFL training, I had to teach real students who were learning English over the summer in the same school I was doing my training in. These students were all teenagers or adults and came from many different countries. The lessons started off as 15-minute long lessons, before moving up to 30 minutes in my third week of training. In my final week, I had to teach for 60 minutes and be observed teaching. I completed my TEFL training, passed the course and landed a job teaching English in China at a language school which mainly taught children.

Watch Stuart from TEFL Lemon talk about not wasting time in TEFL classes in this video.

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The two-hour long lessons and wasting time in my TEFL classes

I got a big shock when I first started teaching English in China. Firstly, the lessons were with children, who I hadn’t had experience with on my TEFL training course. I hadn’t taught kids before and there was no unit on my training course to prepare me for what I needed to do and what special skills were needed to teach children. The biggest shock though was that my English classes were two hours long…how on earth could I teach for that length of time?!

Learning bad habits from fellow teachers and ‘running down the clock’

I soon found a popular strategy among my colleagues was to play games in their TEFL class. Maybe their class involved learning some vocab items, and so they would do something like write the words on the whiteboard and have their kids throw a sticky ball at the word and then say it or use the word in a sentence.

Ordinarily, this isn’t always a bad thing and playing games to teach kids English has many benefits, but what many of the teachers were doing (and me too) was to purposely play a language game for far too long. Rather than just play this for five minutes to review words, I might have played this game for half an hour. The whole thing was about getting to the end of class and using up the two hours. The kids in my TEFL class actually learning and using the language appropriately came second in importance. It was all about ‘running down the clock’ and wasting time in my TEFL class. It was unfair on my students and their parents, but I was a young and inexperienced teacher who didn’t know any better. For me, it was about surviving the school day.

It can be tempting to waste time in TEFL classes

It can sometimes be VERY TEMPTING for English teachers to waste time in TEFL class by playing too many games and making them last longer than they should do, especially during really busy periods of teaching (such as the weekend), when we have a crazy amount of classes to do each day. Many ESL teachers will just want to get the teaching day over and done with, constantly looking at their phone to see how much time is left in the class, but this MUST be avoided and there are many reasons why we should stop wasting time in class.

Have you ever heard this in your teacher's office?

Crap Teacher: "I'll play this game with my students, I can drag this game out for 35 minutes at least! Then there will be only 25 minutes left of the class and I'll be done."

Maybe you have heard something like this, perhaps you've even thought it yourself - I mean it is very easy to get into this mind set when you have so many ESL classes per week, but seriously wasting time in your TEFL class must be avoided at all costs!

Why should you avoid playing games in class just to drag out the time?

On this website, you will find many language games you can play with your kids to teach English. All of these ESL games for kids are great to help them learn new words and grammar. These English language games are designed to be played for 5-10 minutes. Actually, you can make all of these games last an hour, but what is the point? The students will get bored and despondent, won't enjoy the class, and will naturally start to misbehave because they are bored. This, in turn, will affect the general ambiance and morale of your class.

So what have you gained by wasting time in your TEFL class?

By playing ESL games with your kids for too long, you've sacrificed a happy and productive set of students for bored, disruptive and difficult to teach students. By just trying to save yourself some planning time and ideas for your class, you’ve now got a class of kids who aren’t enjoying learning English with you and don’t want to be there. By wasting time in your TEFL class, you’ve now got a class of naughty and bored kids who will barely learn any English at all. You can be much better ESL teacher than that.....

Good English teachers don’t waste time in their TEFL class

Good ESL teachers should know when to call a halt to an activity at the perfect time and move on to something else in the class. Don't waste time in your class. By creating meaningful language activities, you’ll find that the kids will enjoy their language learning much more and your class will seem to go faster anyway! Playing games in your English class to waste time just doesn’t make sense. It is also unethical ESL teaching practice.

Keep most activities short and snappy

Although making games stretch out longer than they should will mean less work planning classes for yourself, you are actually just harming yourself in the long run. You are not doing yourself justice as a good TEFL teacher and are also letting down your students and your school. You wouldn't do a half-assed job back home, so don't do a half-assed in your job overseas as an ESL teacher.

Keep your students motivated ALWAYS

Keep TEFL activities short. Keep your class motivated and happy. This will mean that teaching English every day during busy periods becomes a joy, not a chore. Your language students will make better progress with their language and you will become a far better teacher in a short space of time.

Don't waste your time in your TEFL classes with games in class that go on forever, you are just hurting yourself. I had to learn the hard way myself!

Hope this helps,

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by Stuart Allen