While most native teachers slated to start in April have postponed their travel until August, a few have migrated from other positions within Korea to begin their public school journeys.
We’ve all been new ESL teachers at one point. Moving abroad, flying thousands of miles, settling into a new community, and adapting to a new culture suffused with a likely foreign language is tough enough. Learning how to teach presents a different challenge unto itself.
I give presentations on lesson planning to incoming native teachers in the South Jeolla Province here in South Korea. In those presentations, I share basic tips to help new teachers adjust to the rigors of planning lessons during the first semester.
Keep Track of Classes’ Lesson Progress
Examinations, student field trips, self-study time, and other scattered events often take classes out of sync with respect to lesson progress. You may introduce a new lesson to one class on Thursday while Friday’s classes are two lessons behind. For that reason, it is essential to track each class’s lesson progress throughout the semester.
This chart need not be complex. A simple Excel spreadsheet with class numbers on the y-axis and lesson numbers on the x-axis will do just fine. You can make different tabs for different grades or schools. By keeping track of your classes’ lesson progress, you can prevent skipping or repeating lessons in particular classes.
You will likely find plenty of downtime in this job. At a minimum, you have 18 non-teaching hours per week. Use your time wisely. If you can plan two or three weeks ahead, you will be prepared for surprise schedule changes or the proverbial “shit that happens.” While this is not always possible to plan several lessons ahead, take advantage if you do have the opportunity and extra time.
The sooner you are several weeks ahead on lesson preparation, the sooner you can sit back and engage in more important matters like Netflix, YouTube, and planning your next international trip :).
Stay Positive, Keep Cool
Lessons will not always go smoothly. Your co-teacher may surprise you with a schedule change and a class that you’re unprepared to teach. It happens to us all. Stay calm. Smile through the unease. Students don’t always remember the quality of the lesson, but they will remember how you made them feel. No matter how rough your lesson is around the edges, you can always leave students with a positive impression. Following a difficult lesson, make adjustments to improve your delivery to the following class.
Your smile will save the day.
Find 3 or 4 Go-To Activities
You may have to plan 10-12 lessons per week. It can be daunting. If this is the case, it helps to have 3-4 activities with plug-and-play language capabilities. In other words, you can incorporate different expressions within the same activity structure. Some examples include sleeping elephants, sentence tennis, or sentence relay races. Students only see you once per week and will likely not tire of game formats re-used every 3-4 weeks. Refer to the Games section of this manual for more suggestions.
Backup Your Lesson Plans
You will likely use shared computers with a virus or two. It is wise to keep your lesson plans and materials on a USB drive or online cloud storage like Google Drive. Both would be desirable. If you cannot open a PPT on your USB, you can always download it from Google Drive.
Tip: Keep all of your old lesson plans and PPTs. You just might need them in a pinch. Perhaps you have to teach a lesson last-minute. It always pays to have “tried-and-true” activities ready to go.