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Tips for a Successful TESOL Practicum

Updated: Sep 24, 2023


A classroom full of students looking at their teacher

TESOL practicums can be quite challenging at times. There's so much to learn in such a short period of time. If you're worried, I got you!


As someone who recently completed their TESOL practicum, here are my 7 tips to help you successfully complete your TESOL practicum!

 

Tip #1: Bring a notepad and pen

So much happens in the span of a 2 hour long class. It's hard to keep track at times, especially when the unexpected happens.

A notepad with 2 pens

It's helpful to have a notepad and pen in these moments. You can write down any notes from your observations, feedback from professors, reflections about your lesson(s), and/or any questions from students that you might not be able to answer in the moment.


While you could do this on a tablet or phone, a pen and notepad looks more formal and professional. It's not a good look to see a student-teacher on their phone during class. Since technology has so many functions, it's not clear to those around you what you are doing. With a notepad and pen however, it is obvious that you are just taking notes.


Tip #2: Practice in the Classroom

Teacher and students in a lecture hall

If you can, practice your lesson(s) in your classroom. This may mean asking your professor for permission to use the classroom after class or staying late to use the room when classes are done for the day.




Practicing your lesson(s) in the classroom will help minimize the unexpected when it comes to classroom layout. This will lead to feeling more confident in your lesson and feeling more comfortable in that space.


In the expandable list below are a few questions to consider when practicing in your classroom:

Classroom Layout Questions

Being well acquainted with your classroom layout will help you to better plan and deliver your lesson(s).



Tip #3: Practice with the Exact Equipment

Teacher teaching using a projector

Equipment varies from classroom to classroom. It is very important to be well acquainted with the exact equipment you have at your disposal. Spending time during class figuring out how the projector or computer works will take time away from your lesson(s). It is much better to practice with the equipment outside of class time.


In the expandable list below are a few questions to consider when practicing with classroom equipment:

Classroom Equipment Questions

An important tip is that technology is not always reliable. The WIFI may go out, the system might be down. It's important to have a physical backup such as worksheets or the ability to adapt your lesson accordingly.


Tip #4: Circulate

Teacher helping a student

During group work or individual work when you aren't actively teaching, don't just stand at the front of the class. Circulate throughout the class and check in with students. Group work can get off topic at times, the quieter students may not always ask for help when they need it, and students might not always recognize when they need help.


By circulating you can correct some errors or mistakes as you notice them and help students through activities if they are struggling (brainstorm ideas with them, integrate the quieter ones into group work more, etc.).


During my practicum, groups would sometimes end up with 2 or more students with the same first language (e.g. Japanese), leading them to speaking in their first language instead of English. This would exclude the other students who did not share that first language (e.g. Spanish). My professor would go around to these groups and remind them to speak in English, the one language they share, so as not to exclude the other group members.


Circulating also helps you gauge how far students are in an activity. When you ask them if they are almost done, students may not answer for whatever reason. By circulating you can see how far each student is in an activity. This will also show you their level of understanding and what areas you may need to focus more on in class.


Wear comfortable shoes though. You might think that standing and walking around in a classroom for 2 hours wouldn't hurt your feet, but it will. Always opt for comfortable, but still professional, shoes over high heels or dress shoes if possible.


Tip #5: Bring water!

I was never really a big water drinker prior to my practicum. I was definitely someone who would always choose coffee or tea over water. But it very quickly became a staple for me during my practicum.


You might be surprised how quickly your voice dries when teaching, but you are spending the better part of, in my case 2 hours, talking. Raising your voice when talking over students to grab their attention or get them to refocus causes even more strain.


You could have coffee or tea, but then you'll get the infamous teacher's breath, so preparing a water bottle before class is a must for both you and your students.



Tip #6: Wear a Name Tag

It definitely isn't easy to learn 20+ students' names. To help with that, within the first week of classes, my professor had the students create name tags with an adjective that started with the first letter of their name (e.g. Happy Hannah). This was done to help her remember their names and help the other students get to know each other. It's a great strategy! When I joined in the third week of classes, they did this again to help me get to know their names.


Being a student-teacher, it is important to recognize that, not only will you struggle to learn their names, but your students will also struggle to remember your name. While it wasn't required of me, I found it helpful to wear a name tag for the first few classes. I kept it simple with just Hannah on my name tag, though some may go by their last name.


Thankfully, my name is simple and translates into other languages fairly easily (Hannah, 한나, ハナ).


Tip #7: Questions

Possibly the most important tip of them all is don't be afraid to ask questions during your practicum. Teachers love questions! Questions are how we improve.


It is okay to not know everything, you are a teacher in training after all. It's much better to just say you are unsure and ask a question than to pretend you understand.


If you give a wrong answer or teach the wrong thing, your students may suffer the consequences which looks bad on you as a teacher. Remember, you are in the field of education, and learning is what we do.


I wasn't well versed in English grammar before beginning my ESL practicum, and so I asked my professor and other teacher friends many questions. I asked loads of questions when building lesson plans and after teaching a lesson to get advice and feedback on where and how I could improve.


In the expandable list below are a few questions to ask during your practicum:

Questions to Ask

If you need clarification, feedback, and/or advice, your professor is there to help you during your practicum.


Teachers never really stop learning and that's a good thing. The more you know, the more you can pass on to your students, so ask away!

 

A special thank you to two of my best friends! You both helped to make my practicum a success from offering advice on lesson plans, to letting me teach you on your days off work. I couldn't have done this without your support!


Also, a big thank you to my professor for all the feedback, advice, time, and effort she invested in me during this practicum. I have become a better teacher because of her and couldn't be more grateful for that!



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