If you’ve never taught English before, it may be nerve-wracking to know how to prepare for your teaching English abroad experience. Even if you’re a skilled educator with years of experience under your belt, you may still not know what to expect! While we can never be completely prepared and confident for an endeavor like this, it may help if you pack the right supplies. What are these supplies? Glad you asked.
1) The Curriculum and Expectations:
Ask the organization or school you’ve partnered with if they can send the curriculum you’re expected to teach ahead of time. Some will be regimented and expect lessons to be done to the letter, others merely offer books as a suggestion. Obtain a hard copy if you can. (It makes great reading material during a flight layover!) Knowing what is expected of you and what you’re to expect of your students greatly reduces fear of the unknown.
2) Photos to Illustrate Your Life:
The reason that you were hired as an English teacher instead of an English-speaking local is because you have personal experience with the English language and culture. Bring photos to represent different aspects of that. If you’re going to a country that celebrates different holidays, bring some photos of things like your family’s Thanksgiving turkey, your town’s annual Easter egg hunt, or your childhood Christmas tree. Bringing family photos allows students to get to know you better, and reinforces words such as “mother”, “uncle”, “sister”, and “son”. Even pictures of your house help with naming rooms, and also gives insight into how people in your country live. Don’t forget your vacation pictures of visiting national monuments!
3) A Recipe or Packaged Food:
Most people agree that the best of the five senses to use when learning is taste! Bring a food that represents your home country that your students may have never tried before. If you want to bring something, but are afraid it will spoil or won’t pass customs, bring a recipe instead. Using local ingredients may make it taste a little different than it should, but making a recipe as a class teaches a skill that they can continue to use.
Putting things to song is a great memory tool. Bring a playlist of music where the singers speak English and live in an English-speaking country. You can have students listen to a song and make a lesson out of it, or just play it quietly in the background during work times. If you’ll be in a more rustic setting where music players may not be available, think of other creative ways you can share music. If you know how to play an instrument (even if it’s just the recorder you learned in third grade), bring that with you!
5) Computer and Accessories:
Your computer will be essential for many situations, whether you need to look up a word or keep track of students’ progress. In small classes where AV equipment like projectors or speakers are not available, you can introduce your students to language and culture by playing videos or showing slideshows on it. Of course, this will probably be your best tool to keep in touch with people back home! You may want to bring accessories for your computer like headphones, speakers, or an external hard drive. Definitely don’t forget to bring appropriate cords for all of your electronics and an adaptor if your home country’s current is different than your host country!
6) Traditional School Supplies:
Some countries may be as technology-dependent as your home country, but most countries are not. Expect the power to go out, the WiFi to be spotty, and websites to be blocked. In some regions, low-income students won’t even have supplies like pens and paper, so bring extra just in case. Bringing school supplies can also allow them to see how different school supplies look from your country compared to theirs, and they make excellent visual objects to teach new English words.
7) Your Favorite Book:
Depending on the age group and skill you’ll teach, this can be either your favorite novel or your favorite storybook from childhood. You can read it as a class, or loan it out to students who would like some extra studying. This may be useful for you too, if you’re feeling homesick or just need a mental vacation.
8) Your Clothing and Personal Effects:
Don’t get so caught up in packing for your English lessons that you forget vital items like your passport or shoes! See our Essential Travel Packing Tips and List here.
In addition, there are a few things that you should bring with you, but can’t pack in your luggage. Become familiar with at least one of each of these. (If you need inspiration, just visit a daycare or summer camp!) You can use them in case a lesson goes too quickly, or you want a fun way to apply the English language.
-A fairy tale or other children’s book
-A group game
-A partner or solo game
-A story of personal experience
-A lesson on another subject, such as a science experiment or history lecture
-An activity that involves hand motions or body movement
-A positive attitude that’s ready to tackle anything!
Words by Jessica Lippe.