So, what do you do?
- Know everything about the exam that you’re preparing
This is probably the Achilles’ Heel to every Native English Speaker. They probably have never seen an English Language exam before. They didn’t see a Cambridge Exam, an Oxford Exam, and they’ve never had to do a TOEFL Exam at TE Academy in Madrid. They learned their language naturally. While we understand the language innately, and we have certifications allowing us to Teach English in Spain, we have to make ourselves experts on the structure and content of the exam we are helping our students prepare for. Read all four sections of the test (reading, writing, listening, and speaking), and the individual exercises. What does each exercise call for, and how can a student prepare for it? Keep the time limit in mind when working with students, as well.
- Build rapport with your students
This is applicable to any type of English Class, but the more you know and understand the needs of your students, the easier the preparation classes will be. If you know how they learn, you’ll know the areas they will need to improve on in order to be ready for their exam. Also, why are they taking the exam in the first place? Are they doing it for work? Are they doing it for school? What do they do for work? What do they do when they have a bit of free time? Are they speaking English on a regular basis? These are important, and practical questions. You’ll also need to know when they’re taking the exam. This will determine the frequency, and intensity of each class. For example, if your TEFL Student has an exam in a couple of weeks, it may be a good idea to see them three times, or even four times a week to help them prepare. With other types of classes, it’s easier, and sometimes necessary for a TEFL Teacher to create new activities. For an exam preparation class, one may need to create activities that conforms to the student.
- Gather as many Exam Preparation Materials, and get to know the content
As one who understands both the TOEFL and Cambridge Exams, I can’t begin to tell you how helpful it is to have these books on hand and ready to go. If you know that your student is having trouble understanding reading comprehension, it will be a good idea to focus on improving their reading abilities by actually going over the reading exercises. Pick a series of books that you enjoy using, and stay with them. It allows for progress to be more consistent. For example, if you want to prepare students for Cambridge Exams, find Exam Preparation Material that prepares TEFL students for Cambridge Exams. The great thing about this is that you don’t have to go from beginning to end. The language is graded to suit a TEFL Student who is getting tested at that level, so depending on the needs of the student, and your knowledge of the book itself, one can go from one section of the text book to another. If your English Class is to prepare a student for a test, it’s important to ensure that the students themselves understand the language necessary to pass.
- Structure your classes
If your class revolves around the various sections of a language test, it’s important to ensure that you structure your classes to either focus on a particular area, or review every area of the test. Keep track of your lesson plans so that you know which sections of whichever test you’re preparing for has been reviewed, and which areas need to be looked at. Teach new words, and test your student’s understanding of those new words. Remember, depending on the level of your student, they may need to use a more articulate vocabulary. Be aware of some of the more common mistakes TEFL students make on an English Test, and how to avoid them. The more organized you are, the more you’ll see a gradual rise in the student’s abilities and confidence.
- Practice Proficiency Exams yourself
Believe it or not, there are TEFL Teachers in Spain who may not be able to pass English Proficiency Exams or even the TOEFL. Don’t be one of these teachers. If a student suspects that you can’t pass the toughest of English language tests, they will not trust you with their own progress as TEFL students. They want to believe that they’re in the hands of an expert. What I recommend for teachers is to buy a Proficiency Textbook, and corresponding workbook, and complete a few exercises in their spare time. It never hurts to do a couple of English exercises yourself, even though you are a TEFL Teacher. One of the great things that is offered at TE Madrid is the practice exam itself. Students are able to practice in their spare time, and there’s nothing written that says that an English Teacher can’t do a couple of exercises themselves. A little bit of that practice goes a very long way, especially in the eyes of your students.
- Always build rapport
What you’re fundamentally selling as an English Teacher living in Spain is you, your natural ability with English, and a growing awareness of English. Even a TEFL Teacher in Spain is still learning their own language, after all. With regards to students, you build rapport by talking to them, getting to know them, cracking a joke with them every so often. English is often seen as a chore for many TEFL Students in Spain, so if you bring a style and a personality to the mix, you’ll give your students something to look forward to, despite preparing them for a serious exam. You’ll also reduce their anxiety, as well. Don’t be too overtly critical, but rather be constructive with your criticism. Positive Re-enforcement after finishing an exercise will certainly compel the student to keep building on abilities they acquire with your help. Always make sure that you put your students in a position where they are answering their own questions, or correcting their own mistakes. See to it that they are always the ones building on their abilities.
So, there it is. There are many tools that can help an English Teacher in Spain do their jobs, and be a positive influence in the community. Be positive. Be creative. Keep learning. Never stop learning. You’ll only improve yourself, and like the tests you’re preparing your students for, you’ll build on your own natural talent.