My First TEFL Class or Foreigner Follies TEFL edition

As I left my building to walk to the library where my class would be held, a swarm of termites like a massive cloud in a sci-fi film had descended on the grounds surround the library. I had been warned by the hubby as I exited the apt.

When I got to the Biblioteka (Library), I saw that most of the people there were now the landing pads for a ton of the flying critters. Initially, I tried to brush them off the unknowing people, but I gave up quickly. I saw I was fighting a losing battle. Throughout the entire class, I watched them crawl all over people. To be sure, there must have been some on me as well.

Once the librarian got them all in order with a list of their names and what schools they came from, and then she handed them over to me, left the room and shut the door. They were all mine. All twenty of them with only 3 boys in the group. I was a bit stunned as we had agreed 10-15 would be good for my first time teaching. But it really doesn’t matter. I am thrilled to have them and the opportunity.

I began with an alphabet game and followed up asking for words in English that began with each letter. It was a good warm up for me and them. I was able to see who knew the most English from this exercise, and leaned on the stronger students as interpreters when I couldn’t get my point across with English and my limited Serbian.

I had done a practice run with two of my neighbor kids who are the same age as the kids in my class. I will practice with them again too. I need the practice more than they need another English class.

One of the things I thought I learned in my practice class was the two songs I planned to teach, my young neighbors already knew. They thought the other kids would as well. I was gutted, but decided to use the songs as a base point as they were already introduced to them.

It turns out only two of the students knew one of the songs. For the rest of them, it was all new material! OMiGosh! So, I went about teaching them the songs way too quickly because I was so nervous. I really need to go slower and have a bit more confidence. I began with Row, Row, Row Your Boat. And followed up with Eensy Weensy Spider.

I plan to sing those same songs every time so they get to know them well, and to understand the meaning of the words. That’s the plan at least .;)

Next I told them that all the fingers have names in English….

The middle finger story

I told them there is the Thumb, the Pointer, Tall man A.K.A the middle finger, Ring finger, and Pinky. I went about teaching them the song that helps them to learn the names. ย I put up the ย words to the song and an outline of my hand that has the names of all the fingers. I sing a bit of the song for them and ย then have them follow along. This requires you to bring you hands from behind your back with only one finger sprouting from your fist. All went well till we got to the middle finger. I bring my middle finger out and they won’t follow along at this point, and I realize it looks like you are giving the middle finger. I assure them it is o.k. but they still won’t follow along.


It became really funny and we all laughed big belly laughs, because we couldn’t help ourselves. And it is a relief. The stress of my first time teaching and nerves all relax and we sing the rest of the song skipping the middle finger.

I think I shocked them at the end of the class by asking if they had any questions or if there was anything they wanted to learn. Blank stares all around. At the end I gave them my email address if they have ideas to send me. I think they were all interested in having a way to contact me, though no one has yet… it is now 4 days later.

I am excited and nervous about preparing for my next class. One little boy came up to me when most of the kids had gone and gave me a note in Serbian with an idea for the following class. He said he didn’t understand verbs. I am thrilled with the idea of teaching verbs. I must find some games to help me.

Three hours after my first class and even later, I was still on a high! To have found something to work at here in Serbia is a dream come true. Plus, I love the kids. They are so sweet, and more respectful than I expected. I am sure this will wear off when the novelty of the foreigner status in a small town dulls my allure.

I am excited for the following weeks. I hope I do well. I really want them to learn from me and be happy they spent time in my class.

I read a quote and immediately thought of sharing it with my kids, then I realized it was just as much suited for me!

“The expert in anything was once a beginner.”

Helen Hayes

If you have any advice, I am all ears!


13 thoughts on “My First TEFL Class or Foreigner Follies TEFL edition

  1. So proud of you, T! The first class is the toughest. Sure, you’ll have new challenges once the kids relax around you and once you’re not a novelty … but I think getting the first session over with is half the battle. So, hooray!!!!

    On another note, I decided recently that it was time to fulfill a long-time wish — learning Russian. Have been fascinated with the sound of the language and with Russia’s history. Well. I’d be doing a lot better if I weren’t so confused with Cyrillic! You have my respect, m’dear!

      • Thanks for the tip, m’dear! Starting to put some of the pieces together … turns out that I have to write things down to learn them … I can’t rely on just hearing things. Sooooooo….. will be writing. And writing. And writing.


        omg, T — I did the basic Russian alphabet lesson at LiveMocha and already feel like I’ve learned more than with Rosetta Stone. THANK YOU!!!

  2. Congratulations! As jrosenberry said, the first time is the hardest – I still shake a bit before I start with any new group and I’ve been doing this for over 4 years now! One idea you might like to use is animals and the noises they make. It’s a great ice-breaker and usually has everyone in stitches laughing by the end of it!

    You can start by having them brainstorm all the animals they know in groups. Then put up pictures (there are some really cute clipart ones) of 8-10 animals on the board. Give the students post-its with moo, baa, miaow, woof etc on them (different colour for each group) and they have to come to the board and stick the sound to the animal they think makes it. It’s really funny when they stick the wrong noise to the animal and you’ve got sheep saying quack etc ๐Ÿ™‚ Give each team points for each one they get right and then they can ask each other in pairs – what does a sheep say? Baaa. What does a … say? etc! You can also ask them what noises the animals make in Serbian eg. in Polish, dogs say ‘how’ ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s usually fun!

    Then you do Old McDonald in 2 groups. The first team sings the first part and chooses an animal, then the second side has to sing with ‘with a ….. here and a …. there’ part. I’ve found that pretty much all nationalities are familiar with the song but you might need to go through the words a bit first or give them handouts or something!

    Hope this helps and best of luck with your next class – sounds like you’ve made a great start! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That is a great game idea, I will use it next class. In Serbia, Dogs say “av av” most of the dogs are on the smaller side. When I told a friend dogs in the U.S. say Woof they said that sounds like a bigger dog. Keen observation, huh?

  3. Congrats, the first lesson is always tricky!

    I agree with Linda (and kind of like I’ve mentioned before) that it’s great to get them up and moving as much as possible so they gt out some of their crazy kid-ness. But it does sound like you’ve got the ideal class… at least while they’re still a bit afraid of you.

    • Thanks, I think they are great and I can’t wait to get to know them better. I will do more games next time and I will let you all know how it goes! ๐Ÿ™‚ This is such a great new adventure!

    • It is just for 8 weeks before I take a month trip back to the U.S. with the munchkin. This is my first attempt with no training. I am just volunteering at the moment but I am hoping it will lead to a job. I think it will. I am having a great time while I am at it! ๐Ÿ™‚

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