How To Teach with a Teaching Assistant

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There aren’t many jobs that provide you with an assistant to help you do your job, but being an English as a Foreign Language teacher is one of them. Not all TEFL positions will provide you with a teaching assistant but if you are teaching English in a non-English speaking country then you very well could find yourself sharing a classroom with an assistant.

What does a teaching assistant do?

This varies from school to school. Teaching assistants are basically there to help you conduct your lessons. They are usually put in Young Learner classrooms. They might not speak English at a very high level themselves, so they can’t necessarily help you with teaching, but they are on hand to help with discipline issues or situations which require the mother tongue.

Of course, we can’t forget the saying Too many cooks spoil the broth and it can be true in this situation too. Having an assistant can make the classroom a very crowded place and if you don’t know how to work with your assistant it can actually be more hindrance then help.

How to teach with a teaching assistant

Even though they may not be able to help you teach, they need to be aware of what is going to happen in the lesson so they can help with classroom management. At the beginning of each lesson, spend five minutes with your assistant explaining what activities you are going to do and how you expect them to help you. Be clear on their role so that there is no confusion or stepping on each other’s toes during the lesson.

If your assistant is up for it, you can give them more responsibility in the classroom by letting them lead activities. This can be good for the students too to have a change of pace and teaching style. As you get to know each other, this will get easier as the assistant will get to know the activities you do and how you like to do them.

In all your communication with your assistant, be sure to bear their English level in mind. While you might have an assistant, who speaks English to a very high level, if you don’t you must remember to speak clearly to them and use simple English. Remember that assistants may not feel that they can say no to you – because you are the teacher – be sure to ask concept checking questions to ensure comprehension.

Above all, teaching with an assistant should be helpful. You should look forward to working with your assistant because together you should make a good team. If this is not the case, look at the relationship you have with your assistant and see if you can communicate better. Teamwork makes the dream work!

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