Published 26th November 2018


If you’re just starting out as an EFL teacher or even if you’re more experienced, there are a few mistakes that you are likely to be making in the classroom. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have, sometimes we all fall back into bad habits. These mistakes could be jeopardising the success of your lessons. Here are five common mistakes made by TEFL teachers. Are you guilty of making them?

Five common mistakes made by TEFL teachers

Talking too much

It’s very common to be scared of silence in the classroom. Many teachers will fill any silences by talking which can be a mistake. They tell their students exactly what is going on in their heads as they are thinking it. This is known as train-of-thought talking. Besides the fact that this doesn’t give any space to your students to speak, it also puts an extra burden on the students to try to understand everything you’re saying.

Instead, try to embrace the silence, even if you feel awkward. By not talking all the time you are giving your students time to think and process and reflect – all very necessary for language learning. Plus, you will probably find your students fill the silence anyway.

Instruction checking

This is important even if you know your class very well and they are familiar with your classroom activities. Your students may not remember exactly how to do the activity or they may not know it by the name you call it. The problem this can cause is that any activity, no matter how well planned, will fail if your students don’t know what they should be doing.

Make sure you repeat your instructions at least twice. Demonstrate the activity and check the understanding of the instructions by asking checking questions.

Focusing on form

When teaching language it is easy to focus on the language structure. However, it is necessary for learners to understand the meaning of the language first, or else it won’t be memorable. Only once they have understood the context of use of the structure and are capable of using it appropriately and effectively should you spend time on the form of the structure.

We’re not saying you should neglect a focus on the form of the target language. But rather make sure you spend time looking at the context of use before breaking it down into its constituent parts.

Sticking to your plan

Lesson planning is important, no doubt. However, lesson plans were not made to be set in stone. Lesson plans are there to act as guidelines for your lesson. Your students should be the ones dictating the direction of the lesson, because they are the ones who know the best way they can learn and what they need to understand what you are teaching them.

Always have a plan, but try to follow your students more than the plan. Look out for teaching moments and tangents that may lead to more exciting lessons and more opportunities for learning. Don’t feel guilty about deviating from your plan.

Letting errors slide

We get it. You don’t want to be the one who is always pointing out your students’ mistakes. Especially if you teach lower level students it can feel like that’s all you do all lesson. But mistakes are important. Your students want you to point out their mistakes – that’s why they’re there.

Don’t feel that you’re being too negative by pointing out your students’ mistakes. Be smart and deal with error correction effectively but respectfully.

So now you know the five most common mistakes that TEFL teachers can make and how to avoid them.