Tips for a demo lesson that will blow ‘em away

(or at the very least, help get you that teaching gig)

The tragedy of being a Director of Studies is that I have on more than several occasions, sat through a 40 minute interview, growing to like the candidate and beginning to think I would like to offer that teacher some work, only to find during the demo that sadly, this person couldn’t teach their way out of the proverbial paper bag.

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Fair enough, but that first impression is still the result of a combination of small events contributing to the overall whole. The math for the sum and its parts might just work out in your favour but still isn’t it better to include as many of the good bits as possible, just in case?

Write a lesson plan

Write yourself a lesson plan; even if the interviewer is not requiring it. No one else need see it and it will give you a chance to organize everything you want to achieve in the allotted time and also to work out any kinks before you actually have to teach it. If you plan to use technology, make darn sure it will work when you need it and have a back-up plan for when, heaven forfend, it doesn’t. Make sure you know the language you are teaching, brush up if need be until you know it well and can answer any of the far-flung questions a mean-spirited demo student might dare ask. We none of us, want to see you crash and burn in a demo but there are fewer things less convincing than a teacher who doesn’t know what their lesson target is actually supposed to be. Be a one-trick pony but it better be one hell of a trick!

Introductions

Make sure you introduce yourself and get the practice students’ names as well. Seems like a no-brainer but when you are nervous, you don’t always remember to do the obvious. Demos where the teacher behaves as though they are auditioning in front of an anonymous audience, rather than showing what they are like in front of a classroom, don’t generally go over well. Arguably, the set-up tends toward the unnatural but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to show them as authentic a ‘teacher-you’ as you can. That is why you were invited after all and the quality of student-to-teacher rapport can not be stressed enough.

Watch the TTT and interaction patterns

Yes, they want to hear you speaking but as a facilitator not as a lecturing drone. It is all about you, but a quietly orchestrating puppet-master sort of you. We should hear more from you at certain stages of the lesson but in general shut up and get the students to say it. You already speak the language, right?

Classroom Management

Highlight your classroom management skills and all the fabulous techniques you were taught in your TEFL course. This means pair-work, monitoring when it seems prudent and tidy board-work. Having said this, think long and hard about what really needs to go up on the board. You don’t want to be spending half of your precious 20 minutes having the students stare at your back. That time is much better spent interacting with the class. Also, don’t be afraid of giving meaningful and sensitive error correction; all kinds not just cold. You are the teacher – it is part of the job.

Spend quality time on your materials

You can be that one trick pony but why not be one with a really sleek headdress? Demo lessons are pretty much a given, even when you are already working for a school, so how about taking the extra time to create materials that will show you in the best possible light? Laminate your vocab and discussion cards, invest in colour copies if you plan to use photographs and make sure you have enough materials for everyone. You can re-use them and it helps you to appear serious, professional and prepared.

Lastly, be honest. If the student or interviewer asks you a question and you don’t know – fess up and say so; people are less impressed when they know you are faking it. Coming clean is preferable to speaking off the top of your head. Say something dumb made up on the spot and you’ll be cursing yourself for the whole the train ride home.

Christine Thompson, CELTA, DELTA
Originally from Nashua, NH, Christine began teaching EFL full-time in 1996 for GEOS Japan in Osaka. She eventually moved to Europe.
Christine has worked as a Director of Studies for Threshold Training Associates, Prague since 2011. And witness to some hundreds of both masterful and painful demo lessons later, she’s been Lead Trainer for ITT-TEFL Prague since 2015.