5 ways to show you’re a pro during that online TEFL trial lesson

Ah, the dreaded trial lesson. It’s something that all TEFL teachers have to go through, and these days a whole load of them are online, for web-based learning schools. In this guide, we take a look at just a few of the ways you can come out looking like a total pro…

Trail Lesson

Show your awareness of TPR teaching

TPR means Total Physical Response. It’s a school of teaching that champions being active and kinetic during your sessions. A lot of industry experts believe it’s one of the most important components of successful online teaching, and there’s been a huge shift to focus on the TPR in many of the major wed-based companies. You won’t get long to show that you’re aware of that in your interview or trial lesson, so it’s a good idea to seize upon any opportunity you have to reinforce the target language with an action. That could mean jumping up from your seat to illustrate movement, over-the-top facial expressions to show moods, or something as simple as big waves for hello and goodbye.

Don’t over-talk

There’s a tendency among less-experienced teachers to talk and talk and talk through the interview process. That’s never a good idea, but can be especially damaging when you’re conducting an online trial lesson. The reason? Well…most online tutor sessions are just 30 minutes in length. That doesn’t leave much time for you to set your targets and get learning. So, it’s super important that you plan activities that let your students flex their lingo muscles and don’t take all that time blabbing yourself. We know it can be a challenge with the added adrenaline that comes with interviews, but it’s all part of being in control in the virtual classroom.

Trial lesson skills

Ask the relevant questions

Interviews and trial lessons aren’t just for the school to check if you’re the right candidate. They are also a great opportunity for you to see if the place you’re applying for is the right fit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions prior to your trial lesson about what materials will be available, what level of student you’ll be expected to teach, or what sort of focus in terms of target language your observers are looking for. These are all fair considerations and will show just how well prepped you are.

Do a lead-in activity

Anyone who’s taken a 120-hour TEFL course will know that the lead-in is one of the most central aspects of an ESL class. It’s the activity that breaks the ice; a little bit of engaged fun to get the brain cells working before you delve in. Our advice? Don’t discount the lead-in just because you’re teaching online. It’s an important step that can really help forge a good working relationship between student and teacher. Of course, there is some work to be done. Try to make the lead nice and quick, for example, as online sessions (particularly trial lessons) are often much shorter than their in-person counterparts.

Working on trial lesson

Set clear goals

Schools love their teachers to give good value for money. In the ESL world, that means a high level of learning in return for what your students (read: customers) pay. In order to track all that, you’ll need to set goals from the outset. Otherwise, how would you know you’ve managed to hit those aims? This happens all the time in normal on-site teaching with the target language setting at the top of the class. Do the exact same when you come to your trial lesson, to ensure you observers can see you’re aware of the cost-benefit ratio and have clear goals outlined for each individual pupil.


Have you done any online TEFL trial lessons? Do you have some helpful tips to add to this list? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Alternatively, if you think this is the line of work for you, be sure to check out our in-depth info page on teaching English online.

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