As I’ve said in previous posts, learning to teach is a little like learning to drive; you need to start with some theory but it won’t mean much until you get hands on experience. This is why a practicum is an integral part of any good TESOL program. It gives you a chance to put into practice your classroom learning in a safe and supportive environment. TESOL Practicum experience is so important that TESL Canada requires that you complete ten hours of observation and ten hours of classroom teaching in order to qualify for certification. Many other training programs require you to set up your own practicums, which can be a daunting prospect without connections in the industry. Here at Greystone, we recognize the importance of the practicum. We want you to have the best experience possible so no matter which TESOL program you choose, we will provide you with carefully planned practicum with qualified and knowledgeable sponsor teachers. We’ll do the administrative work so you can focus on the teaching.
Our TESOL diploma offers a practicum component in all three months. In the first month, you begin to look in more detail at lesson planning. Your instructor and peers will give you constructive feedback on a group lesson plan. Not only will this help you improve your lesson planning but you’ll get a chance to practice the language of constructive feedback.
In your first month practicum, you will also be introduced to unit planning and learn how to plan a series of lessons using topics and subtopics. You will be assigned a level and begin preparing a unit plan, which will give you a chance to practice sequencing lessons and incorporating different language areas and skills. This unit plan will also serve as the spine for the classes you will teach in your final practicum component in your third month. Because you work on it during class, your instructor will have many opportunities to give you guidance, feedback and suggestions.
You will also have a chance to explore resources. These will help you with your unit planning. They will also introduce to a variety of resources that you may find useful in your future career.
During your first month, you will also have the opportunity to observe classes at our sister school ILSC. You will have assignments to complete during these observations. The goal is to see a variety of classes and teachers in action and to note different aspects of teaching such as interaction patterns or types of activities. ILSC offers a wide range of classes with many levels. If you have a specific interest, for instance teaching business English or a love of drama, we may be able to arrange for you to observe classes that feed your passions. While this may not always be possible, in general, you will see a variety of levels, a variety of class types and a variety of teachers.
In your first and second month you will also often have the chance to sit in your classmates’ practicum classes. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the role you will take in your third month and what kind of students and classes you can expect to encounter.
In your second month, you will continue to work on your unit plan, the blueprint for your final practicum. You will begin to get more specific about what you will teach each day. Again, your instructor will be there to provide you with feedback, making sure your language level is appropriate, natural and useful. You will also have the chance to explore more resources.
During your second month you will get an opportunity to observe more classes and/or act as an assistant teacher in a language class. This time, you will observe or assist in a series of days in the same class. This will give you a chance to see how lessons build on each other, longer term class projects, how class dynamics change over time and to get a sense of the day to day activities of a class.
THIRD MONTH TESOL PRACTICUM:
By the time your third month rolls around, you’ll have observed several classes and learned a lot of theory and have a solid unit plan to work with. You’ll be almost ready to teach your first class. Using your unit plan as a guide, you’ll begin to plan your daily lessons. You’ll have approximately a day and half of class time to start planning your lessons and preparing material in order to teach your own class. Your class will consist of a total of eight seventy five minute classes spread over two weeks. You are expected to work on your lesson plans and materials independently but your classmates will be there with you to provide support.
The students in your classes come from all over but generally sign up at ILSC. They know that you are a teacher in training and are generally very supportive. The classes run from either 2:45 to 4:00 or from 4:15 to 5:30, which means you have the day free to plan lessons and create material.
When you teach, you will be assigned a sponsor teacher. The sponsor teacher attends your first three classes. They are there to give you feedback and answer questions. They will also attend a later class to evaluate you. The evaluation is done in such a way that it can be used as a reference letter. You will also need it when you apply for TESL Canada certification. One of your Greystone instructors will also drop in briefly to evaluate you. However, you will also have many days where you are the only teacher in the classroom. We aim to provide you with the feeling that this class is really yours.
The practicum component for TESOL certificate is a little different. Because the TESOL certificate program is aimed at those who already have a little teaching experience, there are less practicum components. If you have no teaching experience, we strongly recommend the diploma program as you will have far more opportunities to practice what you are learning and to make sure a career in ESL is a good fit for you. In the certificate program, the majority of the practicum takes place after class time. Therefore, you will need to make sure you can arrange your schedule to accommodate the practicum.
For daytime students, during your month of classroom learning, you will have the chance to observe an ESL class in action. You will complete an assignment asking you to focus on one particular aspect of the class. However, as class time is limited and there is a lot of material to cover, the majority of your observation hours will be completed after the classroom component is up. For evening students, all of your observation hours will be completed after your classroom time is finished. In both cases, Greystone will arrange your observations and the accompanying assignments. If you let us know your schedule, we’ll do our best to accommodate you.
During the last week of your classroom component, you’ll begin unit planning. The unit plan will give you a chance to see how instructors use topics and subtopics to structure their lessons and how they include a variety of language areas in their lessons. This unit plan will also be the basis for your free class practicum, which will usually take place in the month following your graduation. For more information on the free class practicum, please see the third month section in the TESOL diploma information above.
In some situations, you may be placed with a sponsor teacher and teach in their class rather than teach your own class. This is especially true for evening students who often have less daytime flexibility in their schedules. These sponsor teachers may work at ILSC or, particularly in the case of evening students, they may be teachers with organizations such as ELSA or at schools that offer evening classes.
If you are placed with a sponsor teacher for your final practicum, you will do your observation hours with this teacher so you can learn more about them and their class before stepping in. You will work together with this sponsor teacher to create a schedule for your teaching. Generally you will not use your own unit plan but rather follow your sponsor teacher’s lead. You will teach small chunks at a time, working your way up to longer periods. You will have many opportunities to practice giving clear instructions, demoing activities, monitoring students and giving feedback. Your sponsor teacher will give you feedback and answer your questions. Toward the end of your practicum, they evaluate you on your overall performance and your growth. Their evaluation can be used as reference letter later. Someone from Greystone will also drop by to evaluate you.
TESOL CAMBRIDGE Diploma or TKT YOUNG LEARNERS Certificate
During your young learners course, you’ll work on a unit plan that promotes language learning through topics and crafts. We’ll provide a placement for you in a local school, preschool or day camp where you can put portions of your unit plan into practice. The teacher or supervisor at your placement will work with you to create a schedule for times where you can lead activities or teach some of your lesson plans. When you are not taking the lead, you will be that teacher’s second set of ears, eyes and hands. You will have many opportunities to practice classroom management and engage your students. The nature of this practicum varies from placement to placement as it will be up to you and your sponsor teacher to decide how much responsibility you are ready for. The age of your students will also affect what kind of activities you will lead and which aspects of your YL learning you will put into practice. Your sponsor teacher will give you feedback on your performance and to your answer your questions. Near the end of the practicum, your sponsor teacher will evaluate your overall performance. Your instructor will also drop by to evaluate you.
All of our TESOL programs, from diploma to certificate, from Young Learners to TKT, offer a peer teaching component. For each program and in each module the form this takes and the focus is a little different but the goal remains the same: to practice what you are learning and to prepare you for your practicums and for your future career.
During peer teaching you will get the opportunity to teach a lesson, mini lesson or part of a lesson to your classmates. This gives you a chance to practice giving clear instructions, giving demos and checking comprehension in a safe environment. You’ll get comfortable monitoring your classmate students and giving them praise.
Peer teaching is also an amazing opportunity to learn from your classmates. You’ll see a variety of teaching styles and an array of activities.
After each peer teaching lesson or mini lesson, your instructor will give you one on one feedback. As a class, you will also generally be asked to reflect on your performances so that you can identify strengths, weaknesses and ways to improve.
Read more about the teaching programs, ESL industry and teaching experience here.
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