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November 24, 2005

Lesson Planning - Impromptu ESL Teaching Demonstrations

"It usually takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech" ~Mark Twain

Hi friends,

Have you ever been asked to give an extemporaneous speech or to perform on the spot? How embarrassing is this if you don't feel prepared?

Presently, this is exactly what's happening in some ESL schools when job applicants are "invited" to an employment interview. Like the ESL students who are often asked to demonstrate their English language abilities (so that they can be properly placed), potential ESL teachers can also be expected to be held to a similar standard by demonstrating their teaching ability. Plus, if the ESL school has organized these interviews wisely, they could theoretically charge students for a pre-semester session of ESL classes while getting some free labor from their ESL instructor applicants (let's hope that schools aren't really doing this!) . . .

ESL Demo Lesson Plan.jpg

. . . Over on a blog called English Teacher by Aacircle, some advice has been proffered for handling oneself in an ESL employment interview should the "demo lesson plan" ever become a requirement of the interview process. Some good ideas for handling yourself are certainly there, but I won't repost them here. But, do check them out if you have the time.

My follow-up to Aacircle's remarks are less about a critique and more about a desire for substance. The tips can be summed up as, basically, being well-prepared, in advance, to deliver a well-rounded, student-centered sample lesson at some point during your interview and to do it eloquently, gracefully and professionally, of course, with enough student activity and student speaking time to convince your observers of your ability. Sounds easy enough, huh?

A few of Aacircle's commenters thankfully replied with what I had hoped the article itself might have addressed: ideas for this sample interview! One of our regular commenters on ESL-Lesson-Plan, EFL Geek, was happy to suggest:

. . . using an ice-breaker activity or something that is very energizing. The students you see will not be familiar with each other or with the teacher (candidate). An ice-breaker in this case is a perfect exercise - just be sure to preteach some language before beginning.

Poster Harriet Lendien suggested using an "ice-breaker" in the demo by:

getting students to ask their most embarrassing situation. You come up with some great results, and students have a good laugh too.

In an earlier blog post this month (here), I had suggested using the name game (or some variation) as a first day of class lesson plan. Some shortened, modified version of this idea could also be used if its a concept you are already familiar with.

These are all excellent suggestions, I'm sure, but what do you think it might be that our potential ESL employers are looking for, specifically? Personality? A "body of knowledge" as suggested by PD in her ESL School blog? Perhaps some, as of yet, undefined, happy medium between a brilliant rapport with the students and a demonstrable teaching ability?

Surely, if we collectively pool our own ESL interview experiences we should be able to come up with some even more unique (and useable) ideas couldn't we?

Rather than preaching my own style of ESL to you all the time, I'd really love to hear your ideas about a "sample ESL lesson plan" that you'd be willing to present before a class of ESL students on an ESL job interview. Speak up, and share! This should be your forum as well as mine.

May the wind be always to your back in a demo lesson,

Lee Hobbs
ESL Instruct, Editor-in-Chief

Looking for more articles about lesson planning for the ESL classroom? Click HERE!

Posted by lhobbs at November 24, 2005 05:28 AM

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For the record I go by EFL Geek not ESL Geek...

Posted by: EFL Geek at November 25, 2005 11:22 PM


Note from Lee:

My apologies there EFL Geek. This must have been what they call one of those "Freudian typos."

Thanks for being a good sport, I'll correct the spelling error.

Posted by: Lee at November 26, 2005 04:50 AM


Last year in China, I was teaching over a summer break, at the local high school 'camp'. I had a class of beginners, numbers from 12 to 39. The class grew, as the word spread amongst the staff, that teachers children didn't have to pay. A British colleague had the same situation with his seniors.

He was struck down with dysentary one day, couldn't come in. The 'boss' asked me to take both classes!! I liked the principal very much, he had been good to us both, so said yes. No lesson prep on this one!

So sat them all together, told them we were having an English performance at 3pm that afternoon, form into groups of their own choosing, min 3 max 7. I wanted an item of their own choice, English only. 2 hours to practice, break, dress rehursal after that, go home for lunch, come back to perform in front of fellow students, staff.

Hard work to monitor it all but it went so well! nursery rhymes to Shakespare, that it became the prize giving show.


Posted by: maggie galvin at December 30, 2005 04:22 PM

RE: Sample Lessons


I don't have a perfect sample lesson but I have a story about the most difficult sample lesson setting into which I was thrown:

The interviewers sat in the back of the classroom and talked out, asked questions out of turn, made inappropriate noises, etc.

They were creating what they claimed was the real-time classroom into which I would eventually be sent to teach. They were looking for my classroom management style and not my teaching skills, and I left knowing that I did not want to teach their students.

We all learned from the awful experience.


Note from Lee:

Wow, that's some horror story Jeanne. Thanks for sharing that with us.

Posted by: Jeanne at December 31, 2005 11:44 AM

Hi Lee,

I tried logging on to the blog you metioned but for some reason my computer does no seem to like that site very much. Once I am on the ESL Blog It site, "English teacher" option and I keep getting reverted to the same site showing the title about 'Christmas in Japan'.

I would like to read about the teaching demosntrations since I have been asked to do some in the past and will probably have to do some in the future as well. Is there any way that you could maybe e-mail me a copy of the text in that blog? I would really appreciate that. I am interested in comparing notes and seeing what I could improve on as well.


Note from Lee:

Hi Alexa, sorry about that. I just checked myself and it seems the link in question is going to the "top" page of the site. At the time I made the post, this entry was on the fron page. Many entries since then it seems. I'll correct the link on my entry presently. In the meantime, cut and paste the following address into your browser to get to the article in question:


Leave me a remark afterwards and let me know if this helped. Thanks for pointing that out!

Posted by: Alexa at December 31, 2005 01:49 PM

Hi Everyone,

I had the opportunity to get some outside hours work at a local 5-star hotel (Mainland China) training their staff in hospitality English. I turned up for my interview, and was put in front of thirty or so staff to give an "introductory" lesson of thirty minutes. I had never met any of them, had no idea what their current competency levels were, nor was given any topic on which to speak. Being a natural ham, I had no problems filling the time, and I tried to get feedback from them during the lesson, but they were clammed up tight!

I was told afterwards that the general manager appreciated my presentation (he also being an Aussie) but the rest of them had no idea what I was talking about! I strongly recommend that if you are put into that situation, you do a fact-finder first, and if that is not forthcoming, decline the whole process.

I ended up being the choir conductor for their Christmas celebrations!!...and have become good friends with a few of them - but I do not teach them English!

Kind Regards,


Posted by: dcole at January 7, 2006 04:59 AM

Note from Lee:

Readers, for reasons of space, the comments for this post have been relocated to the English-Blog space. To remark on this article, please click on the following link HERE!:


Posted by: Lee at January 27, 2006 10:00 PM