Articles for TESOL Students: Practicums

TESOL Programs -
ATC - Advanced College of Languages and Training Canada
© Alex Shenassa. Permission is granted to individual teachers to make copies of the article below for classroom teaching.

Terrified of your first TESOL practicum? Here are 5 tips to help you do your best!

By Alex Shenassa

You're not alone! That first practicum when you have to teach the class all by yourself is a nerve-wracking time for most teacher trainees. Here are 5 tips to help you overcome your fear:

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Action is the cure for fear, and in this case, the necessary action before your lesson is to prepare thoroughly. Don't leave your preparation for the last minute. Start early and prepare well. The more you prepare, the more confident you will become.

2. Take the spotlight off yourself and let your students shine.

In his practical book, Learning Teaching, Jim Scrivener recommends that for your first lessons you plan student-centred activities that take the spotlight off you and place it on your students where it belongs.

Remember that the main part of your lesson should be the activities when students are working in pairs or groups or sometimes individually.

This means that you should put a lot of effort into your preparation to make sure you have engaging activities that give your students the opportunity to "learn by doing". It also means that you shouldn't worry about having to stand in front of the class and talking for an hour (which would put students to sleep anyway).

3. Remember the basic components of your lesson.

Most lessons have the following structure:

1. Objective (your job)
2. Introduction (your job)
2. Instructions (your job)
3. Activities (mostly your students' job with you monitoring the class)
4. Wrap-up (everybody can be involved).

Your job is to have a clear objective (what the goal of your lesson is), do an introduction (generate interest, lead to your topic, and present the relevant vocabulary, grammatical structures, or functions), give instructions (put students in pairs or groups or individually and tell them what they should do), monitor the students during the activity, and wrap-up the lesson.

4. Visualize your lesson before you teach it.

Do what great athletes do: they use the power of their imagination before a competition and "see" themselves go through each part of the race successfully and win.

Visualization works best if you mix it with positive emotions. The day before your practicum, run the movie of your lesson in your mind.

You might find that you'll need to make adjustments in the way your lesson should run. Run the movie again, until you can see a successful lesson and mix it with feelings of confidence and a job well done. You will be using the magic of positive thinking and visualization!

5. Boost your energy and confidence before your lesson.

In his book, The Magic of Thinking Big, considered a classic by many, David Schwartz gives us an amazing strategy we can use to boost our confidence and perform at our best.

Here is how you can apply it to your practicum: Start a few days before your lesson and make a list of all your positive qualities as a human being. Forget about the negative for now. We're focusing on the positive. For example, your list could be something like this: Kind, smart, good with people, etc. Write everything that you can think of on your list. Next, write down your positive statement of yourself. Make sure you include your name.

For example, your statement could read something like this: "Maria, you are a kind person. You're smart and you're good with people. You have good imagination. Use that imagination in your preparation. You have a lot of energy. Use that energy and let it show while you teach your first lesson..."

Now what you need to do is read this statement to yourself three times a day. This is a great habit you can continue after your practicum to stay positive and be at your best during your teaching career - a career which will help you grow as it will always demand your best.

Alex Shenassa is a writer, teacher trainer, and the director of ATC Advanced College of Languages and Training Canada.