If you’ve passed your TEFL, got a degree or just fancy volunteering then this article provides essential info as to what to take that will help you teach abroad.
The English language is the ultimate travel aid. Not only is it becoming more and more accepted as the world’s lingua franca, it’s also the most taught second language in the world. So deciding to teach English abroad is becoming an increasingly popular choice amongst native English speakers, especially with the ever-fragile economic situation at home.
In addition to the life-changing decision of leaving home, travelling to meet people you’ve never met before and see a place you’ve only seen in photographs, people who decide to teach abroad also have to consider the actual teaching part. Sounds obvious, right?
Whether you’re an experienced teacher or neophyte volunteer, it’s reassuring to take some teaching aids with you on this leap into the unknown. The problem is, books are heavy. The second problem is, airlines positively enjoy charging exorbitantly for heavy luggage.
But there are a few extra bits and pieces you can take with you that will help your teaching efforts and break the ice with the kids, without pushing you over the luggage limit.
Just remove the year’s supply of M&S socks your mum cunningly stashed in your rucksack and stuff them in – they’re worth it, promise!
After you’ve taken airplane restrictions, country restrictions and Best By dates into consideration, you still have a lot of gastronomic teaching tools choose from. For example, sweets are bound to be both an ice-breaker and a way to teach new vocabulary. As anyone who comes home from the U.S with a suitcase of Hershey’s will tell you, sweets and chocolate preferences remain curiously localized and so will be a novel addition to your class. Taking it a step further- though this will depend on the availability of ingredients locally- you could teach your class some basic traditional recipes, and get them to teach you theirs in a culinary cultural exchange. If you have access to a kitchen, you could even pencil in a cooking class, with all the attendant vocabulary. Just make sure the first word you teach them is hot to avoid any accidents.
Photos from home
Bringing photographs from home works on many different levels: firstly, it will show the kids you are in fact human and not just a scary teacher and secondly, you can teach them family related vocabulary – father, mother, brother, and so on. Putting a noun to the face will help the vocabulary sink in. If they’re more advanced, a family Christmas snap could spark off a discussion on celebrations in different cultures or a photo of the landscape could be the starting point for a whole range of geography-related vocabulary. However, choose carefully. Taking pictures of your 2nd birthday party, the one where you threw that almighty temper tantrum, or your 18th birthday party, the one where you threw up everywhere, may not be the best idea.
Although English language music has seeped in most places in the world, music is still a great language learning tool. Remember that frankly awful chart-topping song that made you feel like Jack ‘The Shining’ Torrance when you couldn’t get it out of your head? You can sing the lyrics to hundreds of different songs without even trying- Imagine sitting down with the typed lyrics and trying to commit them to memory. Science has proven that the both the rhythm and tune of music helps people retain vocabulary, and listening to music also helps develop good pronunciation (you rarely hear songs sung in local accents) Before you let loose on your iPod, however, go through it with a strict censorial ear, taking into account both the age of the kids you’re teaching and cultural norms. There aren’t many parents who would be thrilled if their kids came home singing Rihanna’s lyrics in top voice, for example.
Films and TV shows
Most people barely leave the house let alone the country without their laptop these days, so the odds are, you’re taking it with you. And most people also have a large collection of -fully legally downloaded, your honour- films and TV shows, which count as a handy teaching aid without putting a strain on your luggage. Watching films or shows in English can help kids get used to pronunciation and, especially if you use subtitles in their own language, help them with new vocabulary. But keep in mind that they will need to have a basic grasp of the language for it to be useful, otherwise everything will just be white noise. Engage your common sense, too: The Godfather II isn’t going to teach them vocabulary you want them to know, even if they did manage to suit through all 3 hours, 10 minutes of it.
Laura learned the hard way that taking loads of books with you to teach abroad is a very expensive decision.
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