Working in Japan

4 Tips to Improve Demo Lesson Preparation

Getting ready for the dreaded demo lesson doesn't have to be a nerve wracking experience. Follow these 4 simple tips to master the demo lesson and get the job!

Scoring that English teaching job interview is the first step to a new career. The next step? Preparing a demo lesson. As the name suggests, a demo lesson is where the prospective teacher will demonstrate to the interviewers how the teacher will interact with and engage students throughout the lesson.

These usually last for about 15 minutes. While it may seem intimidating to create a lesson plan from scratch, especially if you’re a first-time teacher, there are numerous ways to prepare to prove that you’re the teacher interviewers are looking for. In a world where much is online, it is possible that you may be doing your lesson over video call. Here are 4 ways to prepare for your demo either in person or online.

1. Learn about the school’s clientele

In many circumstances, the school will proactively inform you which age groups they cater to, their approach to education (i.e. fun and conversational or business-professional), and the level of the students you will do the demo with. However, often those who are recruiting new teachers are quite busy and could potentially forget to include important information. To ensure you’re preparing an appropriate lesson, be sure to ask for the students’ age group and level, recently studied content, as well as the school’s teaching philosophy.

2. Set realistic expectations

At first it may seem counterintuitive, but you are not there to teach. It is not expected that the students will retain the information you provide to them that day, nor will anyone follow up on it. Interviewers are looking to see whether your attitude and energy are class-appropriate, that you can manage a classroom, and if you can engage a room. It’s okay if the kids already know the words “carrot” and “radish” – your performance is the focus point, not the introduction of new information.

There’s also a possibility that your demo lesson will not be with actual students at all but with fellow candidates or the interviewers themselves. At first, it may seem inappropriate to speak to adults as children, but from the interviewer’s point of view it will appear very professional. Whether with adults or kids, natives or beginners, remember that this is the opportunity to show you personality as well as management and organization skills.

3. Bring out a mirror or laptop

Mirrors are incredible tools for interview preparation and vital for demo lessons. Let’s say you’re teaching a kid’s class, ages 4-5 who have been learning about numbers, colors, and animals the past few months. The school wants the children to have fun and enjoy being in an English-speaking environment more than anything else. You will do the class in-person. This is more than ample information to create a fun and engaging lesson.

But will your physicality translate? Here’s where the mirror comes in. It’s easy to overestimate how demonstrative or expressive gestures are until looking in a mirror. What you thought could be a single-handed gesture will be more memorable as a full-bodied one, like an outstretched neck for “giraffe” and a stomp to go along with “bear.”

If your demo class will be online, open your laptop or use a webcam to get a sense of how much of yourself and your materials can fit in the screen at once. At no point should your face be covered by your flashcards, and you may discover tendencies such as tilting the cards downwards or that your gestures leave the screen. Noticing these small details during the actual demo lesson adds another layer of stress and thought that can be easily avoided through preparation, therefore it’s best to get out the mirror or camera beforehand no matter how uncomfortable it may feel!

4. Practice speaking less

In most cases, English teachers are not lecturers, but rather conversation facilitators. This may be a rare opportunity for the students to speak English, and it is your job to support them. While practicing your demo lesson, try to cut out any unnecessary instructions that are generally intuitive, and prepare follow up or open-ended questions related to the activity. Learning how to communicate efficiently will not only give your students more time to talk, but it will also cut down on any confusing or colloquial phrasing that may be used when speaking on the fly (a natural phrase for us but mystifying to many learners).

Whether online or in-person, demo lessons take a lot of energy but are worth the effort. This is the time where management can get to know your personality and determine whether you’re a fit for their brand. Going in well-informed about the company, setting realistic expectations for the lesson, rehearsing the visual aspects of your lesson, and practicing effective communication will show the interviewers that you’re a serious candidate worth sending to Japan.

Richard Scheno is a freelance writer, master's student, and music producer who divides his time between Tokyo and New York City

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