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What You Learn During a TESOL Practicum

Updated: Sep 24, 2023


Teacher and students in classroom

During the theory portion of your TESOL certification, you learn a ton about lesson planning, best practices for teaching reading, writing, and more over a short period of time. But what do you learn when you're actually in the classroom?


I learned a lot about classroom management, pacing, teacher presence, and English grammar during mine. In this blog post, I'll be sharing some of the tips, tricks, and strategies I learned for these 4 areas in practicum.

 

English Grammar

I spent the last 6 years of my Bachelor's in German, my second language. I did not study English in university which is the case for many TESOL teachers.


You may think that since you are native English, teaching English wouldn't be difficult. However, being a native English speaker does not mean you are well equipped to teach English. This is because the way native English speakers learn English is often not the way students learn English as a second language.

confused student

Questions such as "Why do adverbs change positions in a sentence?" can be difficult to answer. Many of us will say "I'm not sure, it just sounds right". While that may be true, it is not helpful for ESL students.




In your practicum you will learn a lot about English grammar. I remember there were times when I was learning at the same time as my students. I know "We canceled the picnic. Because it was raining" is wrong. But I didn't know that it's wrong because of what is called a fragment error.


I taught a lesson on cause/effect keywords & phrases and while I know how to write cause/effect, figuring out how to teach it was a struggle. Why is it okay to write "Because I wanted to travel, I studied abroad" but wrong to write "I studied abroad because of I wanted to travel"? Both because and because of are cause/effect keywords & phrase, but one sentence definitely sounds wrong.


I did research online, looked through TESOL books at the library, and asked my professor before I fully understood how to teach this lesson.


I found, it's figuring out the why, then being able to explain that, and answer any questions students might have to be the most difficult part for native English TESOL student-teachers.



Classroom Management

Classroom management is about creating an organized and functional environment for the students as well as yourself, the teacher. This involves both the physical and digital environment.

Students listening to a teacher

The physical environment is more than just the classroom layout regarding desk placement, decor, loud hallways or neighbouring classrooms, and temperature. It also involves managing different student personalities, levels of understanding, backgrounds, cultures, and so on. It is essentially managing anything that exists within your classroom's physical environment.


Teacher helping a student

Managing the digital environment can involve how the modules are laid out in the online classroom, what resources are available to students and when, deadlines for online quizzes and assignment submissions, etc. During my practicum, this involved uploading my power points and handouts for students to use during and after class.


Experience in a management position is definitely helpful when in your practicum, but it isn't necessary. You will learn different strategies to manage your physical and digital classroom.


In the expandable list below are some strategies I learned during my practicum:

Classroom Management Strategies


Teacher Presence

The one piece of feedback I always got from my professor was about my presence as a teacher.

Frau Hannah teaching in a classroom

She would tell me how soft spoken I can be and how I need to enunciate more clearly. She would tell me that students would often talk while I was talking or not pay attention while I was talking. I didn't feel any of that, but it is possible she saw things I couldn't see.


I have been told by others, especially during music lessons, how I need to work on projecting my voice. I've also been told by my friends and family that I tend to mumble. So, the feedback definitely does ring true.


This soft spoken nature of mine makes me seem shy instead of an authoritative presence. How you develop a teacher presence will depend on your teaching style. What kind of teacher do you want to be? What do you need to do to project that presence? Give it some thought. It will also come out naturally as you teach. In your practicum is when you can experiment with it some.


Click here for teacher presence tips if you're close in age with your students (hyperlink).



Pacing

Remember being nervous to give a presentation as a student, and so you spoke really quickly to get it over with as soon as possible? This same instance may happen when teaching.

Managing pacing is really important when teaching. If you are too slow, you won't get through all the material during class. This puts you behind in your schedule which may lead to your students learning less than expected.


If you are too fast, students may feel rushed and not understand the content. You will also be left with extra time at the end of the lesson that you will need to fill in as you often cannot let students go early.


If your activities are too challenging, students will need more time to complete them. If the activities aren't challenging enough, students will need less time to complete them.


I remember creating activities thinking they will be challenging for my students only to find out They weren't. Many of my students finished earlier than I was expecting. If you need to fill in time when taking up an activity, you can ask "Why?" to test their understanding. Ask questions such as "Why did we make this change? Why was this incorrect? Why was this correct?".


When practicing your lesson, time out each section to get an idea of how long it will take. The more experience you have teaching and the better you know your students' level of understanding, the more you will be able to judge the pace of a lesson without needing to time it.

 

Share any tips, tricks, strategies, and any questions you may have on TESOL practicums in the comments below.

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