Published 27th June 2019

What to Expect on Your First Day Teaching English Abroad

No matter how well you did on your TEFL course, your first day teaching english abroad in a new classroom is a daunting one. You are starting a new job but you need to act like you’re in charge. You have no idea where anything else, but you need to pretend you know what you’re doing. You’re a bundle of nerves, but you need to act like you’re confident. Let’s face it, you have no idea what you’re doing!

Well, forewarned is forearmed. Here are a few things you can expect from your first day in a new classroom to help you fake it til you make it.

Your learners will be fascinated by you

Regardless of if you are teaching Young Learners, teens, adults or businesspeople, your learners are going to be intrigued by their new teacher. That’s you! They may be a bit shy at first but that’s normal. Before you jump straight into your lesson, set aside a few minutes to let them get to know you. Let them ask questions freely or design an activity that will help them find out who their new teacher is. 

You will be overwhelmed by their names

You’ll probably have a lot of students, which means a lot of names to remember. They’ll only have one – yours. Don’t freak out when you can’t remember everybody’s (or anybody’s!) name, just try not to call them by the wrong name. There is nothing wrong with asking your students to wear nametags or use name cards on their desks for the first few weeks until you get to know their names. Be sure to include activities in your first few lessons which will help you remember their names.

Your lesson won’t go according to plan

As it’s your first day, we expect that you’ll be super prepared! Right?! We hope so! But don’t panic when your lessons don’t go exactly according to plan. It is difficult to accurately plan a lesson when you are not familiar with the learners, the space and the material. Give yourself a few lessons to find your rhythm. In the meantime, focus on having fun and creating an enjoyable learning atmosphere.

Don’t be shy to ask questions

Forgotten where the bathroom is? Not sure how to use the photocopier? Need a password to log on to the IWB? Ask! You’ll be forgiven for asking a million questions the first few days on your new job, so ask away. If you’re too shy and find yourself asking your teaching assistant what her name is a month later it can get a bit awkward.

You will be exhausted

By the end of the first day of teaching english abroad, you will be more exhausted than that time you did a 4-hour hike in 30 degree heat. Teaching is exhausting. You’ll probably be on your feet most of the day and your nervous energy will have you bouncing off the walls. Be prepared to be tired, and just know that it’ll get easier with time – and you’ll get fitter!

Being the new teacher can be frightening, but you’ll soon get the hang of your new surroundings and feel comfortable in your classroom. Expect that the first few days are going to be a bit of a rollercoaster and soon it’ll feel like you’ve been teaching there your whole life.

5 Games for Teaching Young Learners

Teaching English as a Foreign Language to children can be tricky. We need to keep it light-hearted and enjoyable to keep them entertained, but it can’t all be fun and games. Can it? Surely if we play games every lesson then they’re not really learning?

Think again! 

First day teaching english abroad
First day of teaching english abroad

Children learn through playing. For Young Learners, playing games IS learning. Which means that us teachers can spend our lessons playing games guilt-free – provided the games are educational, of course. 

Because we don’t want you to play hangman every lesson, we’ve put together a list of our favourite language-learning games for you to play with your Young Learners so you can relax and have fun!


A classic. If you have flashcards you can make use of them to play charades. Put your learners into teams. Show one person from each team a flashcard. They must act it out while their teammates try to guess what the word is. Whichever team guesses right first gets a point. This can be used for very simple vocabulary items, more challenging vocabulary items or even a grammar point.

All change

Everyone stands in a big circle, with the teacher standing in the middle. Call out a sentence, such as Change if you are wearing shorts. Everyone who is wearing shorts must run into the middle of the circle and change places with someone in the circle. While this is happening you sneak into a place in the circle as well. The student left in the middle of the circle must call out a new sentence.


Divide your learners into groups. Each group must have a piece of paper and one scribe. The scribe must divide the paper into columns – person, place, food, job, adjective. The teacher chooses a letter of the alphabet. The learners must write down a word in each column which begins with that letter. For example, if the letter is l Leonardo di Caprio, Lisbon, litchi, lawyer, light. When a team is finished, they can shout Stop! and everyone must stop writing. Let the teams compare answers. Each team gets a point for each correct answer, unless two groups have the same answer – then that answer is cancelled. This is continued for as many letters as you want.

Alphabet Race

In groups, the students must come up with a word for each letter of the alphabet. The first team to complete all letters wins. This can be made more challenging by choosing a category for each word – for example, food or adjectives.

Simon Says Please

This is the same as the game Simon Says but the teacher says Please. So the teacher gives the students commands but they must only complete the action if the teacher says Please – for example, Stand up, please. If the teacher doesn’t say Please and the student still does the action, they are out.