Apr 14

So You Are Going to Teach English Abroad

by in How To's & Lessons Learned, TESOL

de l'Isle globe, 1765 by Minnesota Historical Society, on Flickr, via Creative Commons

Teaching English overseas has been the travel ticket for many throughout the world for generations. Popular places like Japan are now no longer show up and land the job type destinations, you have to be prepared.  Even after you checked out sites like the Publications of  the Japan Association of Language Teaching, O-Hayo SenseiWestgate, and the Japan Association of College English Teachers you still had no luck. Then you realized that there are still many other popular destinations where the job market is hot for English teachers.


So you go off and explore resources like TIE, Teaching International, Joy Jobs, Transitions AbroadTeachers Without Borders heck you even explored the Department of Defense Education Activity site (which is more of teaching on a military base) and you eventually found a job. Now what?

You teach, duh! But maybe that TESOL crash course didn’t adequately prepare you for the classroom. That’s OK because I have a few recommendations that will help you prepare. Everything that I recommend is geared towards travel purposes, if it is a book I’m recommending, throw it on an E-Reader to save space. The other supplies are small and lightweight and some can even be made or purchased once you arrive.


Learner English – This book helps identify common difficulties English learners have based upon their L1 (first language). Additionally it also has IPA pronunciation charts to help you understand what part of your mouth is used to pronounce certain vowels.

Merriam-Webster’s Pocket Thesaurus – This little book can be a lifesaver when all you can think of is one, maybe two, synonyms for a word. Dictionaries are good to an extent because they break down pronunciation but often I found a thesaurus is more helpful.

Finger Strings/Cat’s Cradle  – now I don’t expect you to buy a book or even the strings online. You can go to a hardware store buy string and use a candle to join the two ends. But this is a simple and interactive tool that you can use to engage your students. Teaching them ordering sentences (First, Next, Then) and giving instructions in their L2 (Second Language) while designing a cat’s-cradle because doing is more fun than reading it out of a book.

Inflatable Earth Globe Beach Ball – I really wish I could remember the post I read about a traveler(s) who brought a globe with them and how it was a great simple resource. If you are reading this and know which post I’m talking about comment below I’ll be sure to place the link. This, like the string is a classroom tool that will make your lessons more engaging and can be used a variety of ways.

Classroom Stickers – Not just for elementary kids, even Jr. high and high school kids can get into stickers. Especially if they say little words or phrases in English like “Good Job” or “Way to Go”

I also recommend locating a teacher store nearby (yes there are stores just for teachers) and try to find some other great resources that can help you. Often they’ll have plenty of suggestions for you, all you need to do is figure out what is worth taking up space in your luggage. Also knowing what age group you are working with will help you in what level English language resources you’ll need.  There are also plenty of online resources like Purdue OWL or ESL Site to give you a start and from there you can really just Google any ESL lesson plan ideas and probably get a dozen free examples. There are also a few blogs that you may want to check out like Wandering Educators, Grammar Girl or TEFL Newbie.

So why should you listen to me, well because I said so. There.

…That and I’m half way through earning a Master of Arts in Teacher Education specializing in Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). You can get into details about consonant clusters, intonation, and other over complicated strategies but to be honest as long as you are genuine and really work at trying to help your students instead of using it just as a free travel pass you’ll likely find your own rhythm and end up doing fine. That and make sure you quickly set up some classroom management rules as Sasha learned when teaching in China. My two biggest tips, be careful about over-correction not every mistake they make will become fossilized (permanent) the point of learning a second (or third) language is for communicative purposes, so let them communicate. Read below about the acquisition of grammatical morphemes to see what I mean. The other tip, learn to distinguish between local errors and global errors. Local errors are mistakes that do not hinder the comprehension of what the speaker is trying to say. Global errors are mistakes that alter the speaker’s message so much you are no longer able to distinguish or it alters what they are trying to say.

Lastly, as Brown (1973) discovered in children learning their first language there is a set order in their development of grammatical morphemes. This has been found as also being true with second language acquisition.  What this means is, there is no point stressing over a student’s misuse of a certain morpheme if they haven’t already developed those that precede it.

  1. Present Progressive
  2. Prepositions
  3. Plural
  4. Irregular Past Tense
  5. Possessive
  6. Regular past tense
  7. person present tense, regular and irregular
  8. Auxiliary

EX: “I be gone to the store tomorrow.” It would be better to focus on correct use of present progressive ‘going’ vs ‘gone’ over correct use of the auxiliary ‘be’.

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One Response to “So You Are Going to Teach English Abroad”

  1. From TeacherPort:

    Teachers and new graduates who are interested in teaching abroad should also check out TeacherPort (http://teacherport.com). TeacherPort is a free online resource for teachers and graduates to find teaching jobs overseas. Good luck!

    Posted on 2012/12/05 at 3:13 pm #

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