By Katie Baxter
Guest blogger from onlinetefl.com

Essential Equipment for an English Lesson

By Hannes Grobe (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

So you’re going to spend a year abroad teaching English? Full of enthusiasm, you pack your bags with tons of books, resources, teabags, so that by the time you’ve finished packing, you’re three times over the maximum luggage weight allowance.

Or perhaps you’re a travelling teacher who has decided to backpack around the world, and you need a rucksack that you can carry. With limited space in your rucksack, do you actually need all of those heavy books to teach English? Remember, the only really essential item is you!

If you are lucky enough to teach in a state of the art language school, where they have everything from satellite TV, video cameras, DVD players and an interactive whiteboard, then fantastic! But even if you are teaching in a small impoverished village, with little in the way of resources, don’t panic. Here are a variety of suggestions of essential equipment to help you prepare for your time in the classroom.

Ideas, Preparation and More Ideas

Creating your own lesson plans, will not only build your confidence, but prepare you mentally for teaching English. Spend a little time thinking through lessons, and writing your ideas down. Free lesson plans on the internet will often disappoint, and are usually not much more than a grammar table, and will suggest few, if any activities.

First, make a list in a notebook of a variety of games, songs and activities, and the age groups or levels you think they are suitable for. These will prove their weight in gold, and can be adapted and used as supplementary materials for every lesson. A few simple lesson plans and activities for beginners, will give you space and time to organize yourself, and ensure you don’t panic when you first start teaching English.

Visual Prompts

Bring plenty of photos of your family and friends, or if there are printing facilities, download these onto a memory stick. Students will certainly find pictures of your home, the city or village you live in, trains and buses fascinating. Take pictures of yourself and your friends participating in a variety of activities, items of food and drink are also useful, and anything else that is visually stimulating. Paraphernalia such as timetables, leaflets on local attractions will be invaluable items for role plays and essential item in any classroom.

Teaching children?

Hand puppets are small, light, and a fun addition to the classroom! You can probably buy something from the local pound shop, or if you possess an artistic bent, they can be easily made! Make up stories, games, or simply start a simple conversation between the puppets. Make sure you always have a ball in your classroom, an indispensable item in numerous TEFL games.

Blu-Tack?

Yes, blu-Tack! Some of the cheapest objects aren’t always easily found abroad. And it is incredibly useful material. Much loved amongst teachers, it is recyclable, moveable, and stick-able to almost any material. Even if this material is readily available, would you know the word for this in a foreign language

What about Gadgets?

A few years ago, this might not have made the list due to the prohibitive price tag, but with the relentless march of technology, and prices falling quicker than ever, I would say an MP3 player/recorder is a well worth investment! Not only is it a brilliant piece of equipment, but an item you can secrete in your inside pocket, and it won’t add stress to that weight allowance. Record a scene off East Enders, news items, a children’s program, or a discussion on radio 4, and –that’s just a few ideas.

On one of these nifty gadgets, you’ll be able to carry round songs for every age group, and record your students’ role-plays. Cheap and portable, it is a really useful gadget, and a great way of bringing interactive multi-media into any classroom and tapping into your students’ creativity.

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