What to expect from your first ever TEFL lesson

Ah, that first TEFL lesson – it’s a nerve-wracking time. I remember mine vividly. Me, shaking. That group of wide-eyed students gazing up from behind their desks. Yikes, wrong career choice, perhaps? Nope. Just a moment you gotta’ work through. To make your journey from rookie to veteran a little smoother, this guide includes some hints and tips on what to expect from your first outing into the classroom, from beating the stresses to dodging tech mishaps…

You WILL be nervous

First TEFL lesson

Sorry, but it’s true. Every single newcomer teacher that we’ve ever spoken to has admitted to showing some nerves in their first lesson. You could be a public speaker like Barack Obama or a sports icon like Ronaldo but standing up in front of a group of strangers and delivering lessons on English grammar and vocab is always going to be a big ask. The good news is that it’s totally normal to feel stressed at the start of your TEFL career. In fact, it’s a good thing, because it shows that you care about getting it right!

You might not know something

First TEFL lesson

Look, the English language is a big thing to teach. There’s all sorts of ins and outs, nuances, grammatical quirks, and turns of phrase, not to mention a vocabulary that has four times more individual words than Spanish! There’s no one on Earth – not Stephen Fry, nor JK Rowling – who knows EVERYTHING. First time teachers can often feel caught out if something they’re not sure of pops up in a lesson. Sometimes, they’ll even try to cover those holes by winging it. However, you’ll soon see that it’s okay to say you’re not sure and that you’ll check and come back with the answer. Teachers aren’t supposed to know it all; they are supposed to know how to get the knowledge.

Too much TTT

First TEFL lesson

In the industry, TTT means Teacher Talk Time and it refers to all the time that you, as the teacher, are talking during a lesson as opposed to your students. Too often do we hear that TTT is a bad thing. It’s not. It’s just that too much of it is a bad thing. See, the whole idea of native language tutoring is for you to act as a catalyst to get learners speaking more fluently and accurately. That can’t really happen if you’re the one chatting from start to finish. The generally accepted ratio of TTT to STT in the perfect lesson is about 20% to 80%. That’s not likely to be the case on your first outing, though, since it will take time for students to gain the confidence to talk more freely.

Equipment doesn’t always play ball

First TEFL lesson

Not all English schools are made equal. Some have nifty smartboards and AV projectors. Others simply have textbooks and the odd pack of biros. If you happen to be in one of the former, then you need to prep for a whole other learning curve – the learning curve of you getting used to the tech. To be honest, we’d recommend making your initial lessons less tech-heavy on the off chance that things do go wrong. Ease your way into the audio players and the video streams, to give yourself time to get used to how things work in your new institution.  

Students can be quiet

First TEFL lesson

Remember it’s not only your first lesson with this group of students. It’s also the students’ first lesson with you. That’s important because it means that you should have some sympathy if they’re not so quick out of the blocks as you’d expect. On top of that, there’s a good chance that it’s the students’ first time in a class with each other, which means they might also be a bit tentative working in pairs and groups. Again: This is normal. Work through it. Persist. Things will begin to flow pretty quick.


If you’ve got anything more to add to this guide to what to expect from your first TEFL lesson, we’d love to hear it in the comments below. Alternatively, get over to our courses page to start you TEFL course right now!

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