Your first TOEFL lesson

Your first TOEFL lesson

Never taught TOEFL before and haven’t got a certificate yourself? How to make the right impression on your students and make your first classes really efficient? 

The first and foremost before you start teaching a TOEFL lesson, make sure you’ve taken a mock-exam yourself – it will provide you with some advantages, you’ll know how it feels and you can share your own strategies how you coped with some particular tasks. Take a look at how the TOEFL changed on August 1, 2019. Major changes to the reading, listening and speaking sections began on that day.  

In this article, we will discuss the plan for the first lesson with a student who wants to take the TOEFL exam. 

I’d set two major goals for your first TOEFL lesson – 

  1. getting students familiar with the structure (or I’d rather say “part of it) and
  2. empowering students’ skills (make them feel improvements since their first lesson).

Step 1 – Present Structure

When it comes to the structure awareness, I’d assign getting familiar with the structure of the exam as a pre-lesson homework (maybe even assigning to do a Reading part) and I’d go for introducing some Speaking and Listening aspects in the first lesson. 

Step 1: Provide your students with a table/ worksheet, so that they could visually see what the sections include and require.

Step 2: Once your students assure to have been aware of the structure, go through the Speaking and Listening sections in the form of the quiz asking questions and eliciting the answers from your students (how many parts are there? Do you have preparation time or not? etc.) Discuss the topics that might be at the exam, ask your student to rank them according to how familiar they are with them so that you know from the very first lesson what topics your student might read more about to get background knowledge (Find the topics in this article). 

Once you’ve made an overview of the speaking and listening parts, you can get down to working on the Speaking Independent tasks 1 and Listening tasks. 

Step 2 – Practice

The way I deal with the exam students in their first classes is using test-teach-test approach. To begin with, we have a look at a typical independent question 1 and the student has to answer this without any tips or strategies on my side yet. Next, we listen to a proper sample answer to find out our essentials to use. Then, I help them elicit the pattern to follow and some key strategies. Finally, the students produce their ‘upgraded’ answers according to the pattern and using tips.

You can record your student speaking. They have to become used to speaking on a microphone as the recording places the additional pressure on the student that they will find during the exam. Moreover, you can use this recording later to track student’s progress, it gives the chance to review and look for errors with their work. 

As for the second slot of the lesson, it might be useful to assess your students’ receptive skills and practise listening. Remind your students one-of-a-kind feature TOEFL listening has – you see the task only after you’ve heard the recording. So, TOEFL is great for developing your predicting skills.

I’d repeat the procedure by presenting the structure of the listening section and focus on tackling the task.

The main point here is making your students familiar with TOEFL question types. As a rule, they outline about 8:

  1. What is the talk mainly about? (So-called, main idea)
  2. What is (NOT) true about dolphins? (details)
  3.  How does the man describe Pyramids in Egypt? (organization)
  4. Why does the teacher list five sensory organs? ( organization)
  5. What is compared between healthy food and fast food? (relationship)
  6. What can be inferred from the lecture? (inference)
  7. What is the student’s attitude towards the fact? (attitude)
  8. Listen again to the part of the talk. Then answer the question:
    Why does the teacher say this? (function)

Step 3 – Feedback and syllabus planning

Discuss your Action Plan – when your student wants to take an exam, how much preparation and practice tests should be done, apps that the student might use during the preparation,  etc. Students should understand that they need to do an incredible amount of work in order for them to get the score that they require. As homework, give writing tasks to be completed. This task should be done within a time limit and submitted to the teacher before the next lesson.  

Anyway, be honest with your student. If you doubt a student’s ability, inform them that perhaps a lower level of English course may be beneficial to them to prep them for the TOEFL exam.


Мария Нифонтова

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