How To: Teaching English as a Foreign Language.


Creative Activities for:

Teaching English as a Foreign Language.



One of the challenges of teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) abroad is the lack of state-of-the-art instructional materials. A solution to the scarcity of effective materials is the implementation of creative classroom activities that move beyond reliance on textbooks. These activities can enliven instruction, and can be developed using realia or other authentic materials from the target culture. Some activities introduce students to cultural information or characteristics, while other activities can make up the backbone of the language component of an TEFL program.

The following activities have been used successfully to teach English as a foreign language to students in Czecho-Slovakia and could easily be adapted to TEFL teaching situations in other countries.


Using this technique, the teacher plays a song and then has the students participate in one or more of the following activities:

* Cloze Procedure–Selected key words are removed from the text of the song and are placed in a word list that precedes the song lyrics. Students fill in the missing words as they listen to the song.

* Word Bingo–Students select words from the text of the song and place them in a bingo grid. Individually or in small groups, students then mark off the words as they hear them in the song. The first student or group to check off all the words is the winner.

* Reordering–Particular phrases of the song are listed in an incorrect order. Students must number the phrases in the order that they appear in the song. An alternative activity is to write the song phrases on sentence strips. Students must then organize the strips in the proper order.

* Retelling–Depending on the language capabilities of the students, retelling can begin with a simulation of the action within the song. Then, the students retell the story of the song in their own words, in a round, with each student contributing as much as he or she can in one sentence. As an extension of this activity, students could work in groups to illustrate scenes from the song. The groups could then retell the story using their illustrations.

* Discussion–The students begin by identifying the characters and their actions within the song, and then discuss the issues or meaning present in the song.


Explaining how laws are passed in the United States Congress can be a very difficult task when all of the students in the classroom are from a country with a totalitarian regime. One activity for helping students to understand the system of government in the United States (in a simplified fashion) is to split the classroom into two groups, one that represents the House of Representatives and the other, the Senate. Each group will elect a speaker. Most students will assume that the speaker will be the sole voice of the group. The exercise, if properly run, will teach students about how laws are passed and about the role of leadership in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. To facilitate the process, the teacher will serve as the President. The President informs the two groups that they must make the rules governing the class for the day, or for the semester. When a student from one of the houses makes a suggestion, the speaker of that house will ask for a show of hands of those students who support the idea. These supporters then form a committee to decide on the wording of the bill. When the committee presents the written bill to their house, changes may be suggested by other members and voted on. Finally, the entire house votes on the passage of the bill. If passed, the bill is sent to the second house, discussed, and voted on there. If passed by both houses, the bill goes to the President for signature. If the President signs the bill, it becomes law. If the President vetoes it, the bill may return to the House and Senate for another vote. If two-thirds of each house vote in favor of the bill, it becomes law. If not, the bill is defeated.

During this process, potential problem words such as “veto,” “vote,” “pass,” and “bill” are written on the board and clarified in order for all students to fully understand their meanings. At all stages of the process, students use English to act and react in these situations. This activity also provides students with the opportunity to see lawmaking in action. Because the students will encounter problems in their discussions of a particular bill or idea, they will be better able to ask questions about how lawmaking functions, to discuss the results of the lawmaking process in their house, and to prepare an outline of the procedure of lawmaking. Then, after students have completed this activity, they will be prepared to read a newspaper article or view a video clip dealing with the passage of a controversial bill in the United States legislature. Students can then discuss the issue, decide how they would word the bill, and vote on the bill in their different houses based on the procedure they have already learned.


An TEFL program can be designed around certain language learning activities. For example, parental concerns about the level and quality of English teaching at an elementary school in Czecho-Slovakia prompted the development and implementation of two courses aimed at enriching the TEFL program at the school. The first two-week intensive summer program, entitled “The Child and His World,” and the second seven-day intensive winter course, “The World Around Us,” both concentrated heavily on introducing the 54 participating students, aged 10-12, to ways of learning English other than the traditional grammar translation methods.

To minimize the influence of students’ native culture, the courses took place in a chalet in the mountains. The chalet was the “new world,” in which each of the bedrooms, occupied by 2-3 students, was considered a separate country. (Each country was chosen by the students in that particular room.) Children designed passports for themselves, immigration stamps, and signs to welcome visitors.

Students were then divided into four teaching groups (10-14 students each) based on their level of knowledge of English. During evening programs, each of the four groups was responsible for particular activities, including reporting on their countries, exchanging pen friend letters with another group, presenting fashion shows, teaching songs that they had learned, and organizing and running both summer and winter Olympic games.

These courses proved to be very enjoyable for course participants, and provided them with a new and exciting way to further develop their English skills.


Teaching students to associate new words in English with the concept represented by the word and not with the word equivalent in their own language can be very challenging. An example of teaching about the family offers one possible approach to this situation. By drawing a stick figure family tree, the teacher can introduce students to both the descending family relationships (e.g., son, granddaughter) and ascending family relationships (e.g., mother, grandfather) using down and up arrows on both sides of the family tree. Intragenerational relationships (e.g., brother, cousin) are drawn across the bottom of the tree. Students are all asked to copy the picture, and to assign the correct relationships to family members. After students are able to describe the relationships with minimal referral to their notebooks, they are asked to draw their own stick family tree. Next, two students sit back to back, and as one student describes his family, the other draws it, asking any necessary clarification questions. At the end of the hour, students are each given a card with some information about members of a large family. For example, “You are Bob Smith, your cousin is Betty Jones. Your sister is Jane Doe.” Students work together to form the family tree that they are all part of, using questions such as “Do you have a brother?” When students assert that they are all standing in the correct order of relationships for their family tree, the teacher shows them the correct family tree. To check the relationships, the teacher can then ask the students to describe their relationship to individual family members.


For TEFL teachers working abroad, language learning activities can serve as a viable substitute for traditional instructional materials, while introducing students to various enjoyable ways of learning a foreign language. Such activities can provide students with the opportunity to use their imagination and creativity, and can motivate them to learn English.

An Introduction to Teaching English Abroad

Teaching English Abroad: An Introduction.

Each year, thousands of men and women from English-speaking nations go abroad as English teachers through agencies such as the Peace Corps or Voluntary Service Overseas, or through myriad other government, church, business, and academic organizations. For these novice English teachers, the challenge of learning what to do in the classroom is compounded by the difficult process of adjusting to life in a foreign culture. Teaching English as a novice teacher in a foreign country is very different from teaching as a trained professional in an English-speaking country, and knowing how to speak English is not the same as knowing how to teach English. Learning the craft of language teaching by trial and error is a process that can take a long time and involve considerable wear and tear on teachers and on students. This digest offers novice English teachers an introduction to teaching English abroad.


Before leaving home, there are several ways you can prepare to teach abroad. One way is to talk to people who have lived in the host country, especially those who have served there as teachers. Through a local university, you can often locate native citizens of the host country or other individuals who have lived or worked there. It is also a good idea to start looking for books about the culture and history of the host country before you leave. Books in English in the host country may be scarce, and often those that are available provide only a limited perspective.

Another form of predeparture preparation is English teaching experience. Many community organizations and churches run volunteer- taught English classes for immigrants and refugees. Although teaching English to immigrants in an English-speaking country is different from teaching English abroad, the experience can provide opportunities for learning to communicate with people whose native language is not English. One of the most important skills a language teacher should have is the ability to make instructions understood. Practicing in your home country helps to hone that skill. This kind of teaching experience will also put you in contact with people who are undergoing the difficulties involved in adjusting to a foreign culture. Understanding their culture shock experience may help you as you adjust to life in your host country.

A final way to prepare in advance is to collect resources for your classes. This may be difficult, as you may have little or no information in advance about your particular teaching situation. The best solution is to be prepared for a variety of situations; flexibility is key. Because you may be unsure of the teaching context, a general repertoire of useful materials should include one or two books on language teaching, a book on English grammar, a writing text that contains ideas on how to structure a writing class, a book of listening and speaking activities, and a book of cultural information about your home country that can be used for culture lessons. Photographs of your country, family, or hometown are good conversation starters, and a tape recorder and a short-wave radio will give you access to worldwide English news broadcasts and allow you to tape listening materials. The materials that you choose should be adaptable to students of different skill levels, work in large or small class situations, and not require audiovisual or duplication equipment which may be unavailable.


Besides adjusting to your immediate surroundings, your priorities may center around planning the first day of class. No matter how strong the desire is to jump into preparing the first lessons, it is important to devote a day or so to getting a lay of the land. As part of the self-orientation process, it will be helpful to find out as much about your teaching situation as possible. Here are some questions to which you might want to find answers before the first day of class:

Why are your students learning English?

What are reasonable expectations for student progress?

What are the students’ goals? The goals of the school?

What teaching methods is a teacher expected to use?

What learning strategies and styles are students accustomed to?

What kinds of teaching materials and equipment are available?

How readily can materials be duplicated?

What is available in the classroom?

How many students will be in your classes?

How much are teachers expected to know?

How are teachers supposed to behave in class? Expected to dress?

What expectations exist about teacher-student relationships?


It is often after you have made contact with your students that you are able to make good decisions about specific goals and methods for your course. The first few class periods are an important part of the information-gathering process. In addition to learning students’ names, it is equally important to get a sense of their English skill levels, their attitudes toward English study, how easy they will be to work with, and how well they understand explanations and classroom instructions.


First, you should have a plan that gives direction and coherence to your course. Initially, your plans will be very general as you are most likely not in a position to lay out your daily lesson plans for a whole semester. However, having an initial set of goals and plans for materials, methods, and evaluation will help ensure that both you and your students know where you are going.

Goals. The objective of a course will vary depending on the students’ needs, skill levels, study habits, and expectations as well as on materials, facilities, equipment, and institutional guidelines and expectations. Goal setting will depend on the teaching context; different situations call for different kinds of goals. For example, if all participants in the course are high school students preparing for a nationwide standardized exam that determines their opportunity for further education, the goal of the course is clear: help students develop the skills they need to pass the exam. In other settings, students come to class with varied needs, making it difficult to tailor the goals of the course to specific needs. In such a context, the following approaches may work best:

“Focus on developing a balanced, general set of English skills.” It is no doubt desirable to develop all of the language skills to a high level, but time limitations often demand that you make choices. For example, it is usually better if students’ listening skills are more advanced than their speaking skills. Even native speakers of a language can generally understand more than they can say, and there are many situations that depend entirely on listening skills.

Emphasize “basic knowledge and skills.” Rather than emphasizing situation-specific skills, stick with the basics. For example, stressing general communication skills is more important than stressing the fine points of job interviews.

“Include a mix of skill goals and content goals.” Some students are better at memorizing, while others may be better at communication or grammar. By including both skill goals (e.g., listening, speaking) and content goals (e.g., vocabulary, grammar), you give students with different strengths the opportunity to demonstrate their ability.

“Attend to affective factors.” Having explicitly stated goals can make students feel better about their language study, thereby improving the chances they will learn willingly and be able to sustain that willingness over the long haul. General long-term goals enhance student morale by giving a sense of direction; short-term goals let them see their progress in the duration of the course.

Materials. Unlike goals, the choice of materials may be limited. In some situations, the curriculum may prescribe a specific textbook. Other situations may provide a text but allow opportunities for using supplementary materials. In some cases, the available text may be old and uninspiring, and the institution may not require that you use it. There is merit, however, in trying to make some use of the textbook rather than abandoning it all together. Having a textbook saves time in lesson preparation, provides course continuity, makes it easier for students to review, and can help students feel better about their English study.

Methods. The best way to develop a skill is to practice it, and the more the practice resembles the actual application of the skill, the better. Simply put, the way to learn to speak is to practice speaking. This might seem obvious, but often methods are passed down from earlier generations of teachers and students, and the methods do not always fit the goals of the course.

While methods should be chosen on the basis of pedagogical soundness, they should also be acceptable to the students. Methods that are educationally sound may not work in a course because they are too unfamiliar or uncomfortable to the students. In English as a foreign language settings, this is particularly important as students in the class will share a number of common beliefs and customs about language study, and you run into resistance if your methods conflict too much with your students’ ideas. It is important for students to learn how to design and carry out their own language learning plans because this is what they will do when they leave formal instruction. The best study program is one that is realistic given the time and resources available.

Evaluation. Evaluation methods have tremendous power to affect positively or negatively the ways your students study, and you need to make good use of this impact to encourage students to study in productive ways. You need to begin thinking about evaluation when you are planning your course rather than waiting until the middle or end of the semester and then wondering how you can put together a midterm or final exam. In addition, you will need to learn the language and culture of grading of your host country; otherwise, your grades may not communicate what they intend.


During the first few months, your main priority may be getting through as many class periods as possible without disasters, such as exercises that take twice as long as planned or instructions that students completely misunderstand. In a study of one effective reading teacher, Richards (1990) concluded that several qualities were inherent in the lessons: (1) they were designed around the goals set for the course; (2) the instructor made his theories of language learning and teaching explicit to the class; and (3) the lessons had a clear structure–there was an order to the activities, and students were given an idea of the length of the activity in advance. The net effect of constructing lessons as above is that they have a strong sense of direction. Not only were course goals translated clearly into lesson plans, but the connection was made clear to the students.

The best way to make sure you have enough material for a class and that the lessons have a clear sense of direction is to plan each lesson. Two habits help ensure that you prepare adequately. First, set aside a block of time for planning lessons. While time is usually scheduled for class or set aside for grading, lesson planning is often relegated to what is left over from other activities. Second, write lesson plans out rather than memorize them. This forces you to think through your lessons carefully and helps you refine the details. It also provides a written record for future planning.

Another way to give your lessons continuity is to use a set of techniques on a regular basis. Drawing from a set menu of tasks also reduces the amount of time you spend explaining the activities to the class and helps the students relax, as they have a sense of what they are doing (Stevick, 1988).


Adapting comfortably to life in the host country is important for both your well-being and your teaching. You may find that the efficiency or living conditions of your host country or the organization of your host institution are not what you had imagined; careful consideration of your expectations before you enter the new culture is important. It is not uncommon to experience culture fatigue or burnout as part of the adaptation process. Until you have gained a comfortable mastery of life abroad, life in your host country will place considerable demands on your reserves of energy. Learning about the host culture and learning to speak the host language can help speed the adaptation process, while offering you the significant rewards of living abroad and increasing your self-reliance.


Richards, J. (1990). “The language teaching matrix.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stevick, E. (1988). “Teaching an

Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.

How Teach English Abroad


These are great starter reasons to leave your home.

1) No real skills and you don’t have a job.

2) Not married no real ties.

3) You Just need to get away for a while.

Well Maybe you do possess a certain gift that is in high demand abroad. What is it? Yes, your speaker of English, and hay presto that can make you money overseas. as long as you are prepared to pass that skill on to others.

But I can not speak the language in the country I want to teach in. No need your there to teach English, not converse in the local language, and believe me you do not want to ever translate everything you are trying to teach. You find out more about the reason why later. anyway, just because you speak the English as you native tongue, does not mean you can be an effective teacher. There are things you need to know.

What is your motivation to teach English? knowing the reason will help you decide where you go to, although everything will depend on the program you take part in, and location, Salary, benefits,

LOCATION. Where ever you decide to go, consider large cities are more expensive to live in than small places, which doesn’t help if you are trying to save cash, You would think it is better to stay away from bigger cities. But that is not always the case. in my experience big cities offer much better, there are many more job opportunities and also the option of possible doing a little corporate work, to generate extra income.

SALARY. Looking to make loads of money, then look for a different job, Salaries are usually on the low side, but often more than the locals get paid. Of cause there are exception, though few and far between. all of this depends on the country and qualifications you have.

BENEFITS. If you are careful on the jobs you except then these can be really nice. quite often receiving a contract that includes holiday pay, health insurance and sometime accommodation. Bare in mind that many teaching positions insist on a one year contract term.

REQUIREMENTS. What qualifications do I need? Well this is a difficult question to answer, as most position require a degree, but in many many cases this is not always adhered to. one thing you really do need is a TEFL/TESOL certificate. this along with the fact that you are a native speaker, will often get you the job.

Author: Sean Graham


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