Working in Japan

Mastering the Dreaded Demo Lesson

The dreaded demo lesson can be a scary experience for anyone looking for an English teaching job in Japan. In this article learn how to make a good demo lesson that will help you land the job, and prove to yourself it’s really not that scary.

Becoming an English teacher in Japan is an exciting experience. You’ve taken the plunge and set up your interviews. But what’s this? You will need to perform a “demo lesson”? IN this article I’m going to show you how to make a good demo lesson that will help you land the job, as well as prove to yourself it’s really not that scary.

Teaching English in Japan usually only requires a bachelor degree from a university. Therefore many teachers have no formal training in education, and have amassed their skills through hands on experience, personal study and dedication. Whilst this is all very good, how can you give a demo lesson at your first interview before you have ever stepped in the classroom? The answer is to read on!

First of all, any good interviewer understands where you are. The demo lesson from a first year teacher will not be expected to be a work of art, nor to adhere to the latest advancements in education science. The point of the demo lesson is to assess your personality, understanding of a specific part of English, planning abilities, question answering skills, and so forth. There are many skills required of a teacher, and they want to know if you’re really interested in the job. With this in mind, your ultimate goal should be confidence. Confidence in your knowledge, confidence in your abilities, and confidence in yourself. A teacher who doesn’t know what they are teaching will not inspire a desire to learn in students.

What should a demo lesson consist of?

Depending on your interviewer, company and interview stage, the demo lesson could range from a five minute demo to a 30 minute ordeal. Be sure to confirm in what kind of time limit frame you are expect to perform.

A good English lesson can be fundamentally broken down into steps. Therefore, depending on the time limit, you can either demo a full lesson or one of these chunks. Just explain where you are in the lesson, then demo that part. These steps of a classroom lesson are generally;

1. Warm up The lesson should start with something that your students are already familiar with. This warms up and puts students in a confident mood.

Aspects an interviewer will be interested in: Your ability to speak clearly and make a fun stress free activity.

2. Demonstration Next you will demonstrate the target language, and expose students to the material that will be focused on.

Aspects an interviewer will be interested in: This can be a good place to start a demo lesson, as it shows your ability to not dumb down language, but also not overwhelm. It is also important that you actually understand the language concept, not just unconsciously know it through being a native speaker. You can’t answer a question with “it’s that way because it is”.

Activity – demonstration. After exposing the target language, I will usually introduce the activity with demonstrations using team teachers, confident students, then randomly selected students.

Aspects an interviewer will be interested in: This can be a great place to set your demo lesson, because an inability to deliver a patient and well explained instruction is a common weakness in new teachers. Being able to field questions and read the room can also be showed.

Activity. The main activity is done.

Aspects an interview will be interested in: A good activity for your target language can make a good demo lesson, but if you do one, make sure to not skip step 3. Interviewers will be interested in your material ideas, but this step shows less of your teaching skills, so probably not a focus. Interviewers may pick on the flaws of the lesson by role playing student questions and lack of interest. A good ability to notice students lack of understanding, and then moving to correct that can be demonstrated.

Activity – presentations. I will usually end any activity if possible with students presenting the language they have picked up.

Aspects an interviewer will be interested in: This is not the best area for a demo lesson, as the focus is not on you the teacher.

3. Review. It’s always a good idea to go over everything you did at the end of the lesson.

Aspects an interviewer will be interested in: Your ability to summarize and confirm students ability is important, and seeing that you care about this is a plus.
Naturally not all lessons follow such a format as this, but as you can see such a format helps to deliver either a five minute demo, or a full length lesson.

Common mistakes of new teachers

Some of the most common mistakes new teachers make will probably reveal themselves in a demo lesson as well. Be aware of these points, and make an effort to avoid them. These are things a good interviewer will be watching for, so by not exhibiting them you will give a good interview.

Not understanding the structure of English: As native speakers, there are many aspects and grammar of English that we understand without really knowing the science of it. It is not acceptable to tell a student that “It just is that way”. Whilst sometimes it really is just that way, you need to understand English as should be expected of a language teacher. For example, a student might ask when to use “more + adjective” and when to use “adjective + er”. Can you explain it to them without relying on what you just know is correct?

Dumbing down English: It can be tempting to just want to be understood. This leads to speaking with incorrect grammar, or pigeon English. For example, “You, card (point), say word. Go” Certainly students have better chance of understanding such “English”, buts it’s a bad example and habit. Interviewers and experienced teachers alike will cringe at this. Its ok to use simple words and a slow pace, but never speak something that is not English. “Please take a card. Say the word. Let’s go!” is acceptable.

A lack of confidence and other personality issues: A shy or “to cool for this nonsense” attitude will not reflect well on you with the interviewer. Project confidence and a fun attitude.

Pacing issues: Teaching is an interactive activity. You are teaching living people. React to them, read their mood, and don’t move on when things are still a confused mess.

Summary – Key things to demonstrate and show the interviewer

In summary, giving a good demo lesson is all about avoiding the tells of a bad teacher. Know what to avoid, be confident and knowledgeable about what you teach, and present an enthusiastic attitude. Unless you are a highly experienced teacher interviewing for a competitive job, your lesson content itself will be less important than these points to the interviewer.

Good luck with your interview!

Currently living the good life on my little farm in the mountains of Japan. I grow my own rice and vegetables, and try to avoid doing things I don't enjoy! I figure this is the best way to live life. I enjoy writing every day, sometimes songs, sometimes bedtime stories for my daughter, and sometimes articles about Japan.

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