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How to Pick Quality Online TEFL Courses & What Separates the Good  From the Bad

Online TEFL courses - there are hundreds of them for adults and then when  you consider that not only adults need qualified TEFL teachers, young learners need them just as much possibly even more given their state of development.

Young learners don't have the coping capacities of adults and thus we get and even wider array of TEFL courses that the teacher must choose from to learn how to teach TEFL and  so we will very lightly touch on some core requirements that a successful TEFL program for young learners has.

Online TEFL Courses & Young Learners

Online TEFL Courses and Getting Certified to Teach Young LearnersOnline TEFL Courses and Getting Certified to Teach Young Learners

So before we get into the nitty-gritty of core points in online TEFL courses for  adults, which is the focus of this article, we want to just say a wee bit about an area that most want to be teachers often overlook when they embark on their teaching careers and that is the area  of course selection of  TEFL for teaching young learners.

This area of TEFL teaching is expanding and when we say young learners we mean young. Some of these students may be only 3 years old. Obviously the curriculum implementation and approaches to classroom management are of course radically different from adult oriented TEFL curricula.

Some of the hallmarks of this is a difference in pace, liveliness, fun, games and massive increases  in student to student and student to teacher engagement. At such a young age, teaching verb and subject agreement a clear and ever present area any online TEFL course for adults  has no place in a TEFL course for kids. But studying the unique teaching presentation methods that young learners require does.  Learning how to teach body parts with the Hockey Pockey song does.

Learning how to teach colors and shapes in a fun and engaging way does. Learning how to teach songs that reinforce basic vocabulary does. Plus young learners' needs need to met more clearly. (We'll get into this in more detail in later articles.) This all culminates in an entirely different curriculum the TEFL teacher must take into account to pick the best TEFL course given the teachers' situation. (Class size, rates of learning, age gaps etc.)

Now back to where the bulk of research and comparison teachers must evaluate in selecting  the best online courses young teachers (or those wishing to get a refresher) go through. In short the buyer of the course needs to find the answer to this question. "What makes an online TEFL course a good one and which ones are highway robbery?" 

Online TEFL Courses For Adults - How do They Differ?

Online TEFL courses are not all exactly the same, there are quite a few differences in their teaching methodology, presentation methods and to some degree material covered.

However despite this, the overwhelming fact that can not be denied is the similarities in online TEFL courses far outweighs their differences. It must.

Although the reason enrollees have for taking online TEFL courses varies, the methodology of teaching is fundamentally the same. And if  you think about it even for a minute, it will ring true.

So what are some of these fundamental or core similarities? And how can you tell if you are reading a fake testimonial that simply pumps up the course or one that is the real deal and worth the money you'll pay?

This is where you really have to do your homework.
After all we are all familiar with the caveat emptor - laisse l'acheteur se méfier - Let the buyer beware. So ask penetrating questions, scouring the internet, becoming best buddies with Facebook and due diligence should always be to the fore before you plunk down your hard earned cash. 

We recommend We hear great things about them and their program and their customer service is top crank. These guys go a step further than most of your online TEFL providers. They will give you help with crafting your cover letter and resume to ensure maximum impact if you get an interview.

Our Highest Recommended Online TEFL Course is myTEFL

  • The student must learn grammar. Let's dig a bit deeper. Now just because you know what sounds right doesn't mean you know why it is right. Your students don't know what sounds right. Thus grammar is is the pathway for those who are not native speakers.
    If for some reason the TEFL course you pick doesn't have a decent grammar module, run for the hills.

So your next question may be "Okay but what is typically covered in a decent grammar module?" One it depends on the length of the course. However if you are serious about teaching, you shouldn't be messing around with 60 hour courses. If you're just curious about the world of TEFL and are in the tire kicking stage, a cheap 60 hour course might be worth the satisfaction in curing your curiosity.

Online TEFL CoursesOnline TEFL Courses

Average online TEFL courses usually have several modules devoted to grammar. (Note: this is not true of taster 20 hour courses and short courses.) Here we are focusing on the industry standard which is 120 hours. Points that are commonly covered are: 

Core Grammar - The Backbone of the Language and The Parts of Speech Such as:

  • All verb tenses. Present, past, future, perfect tenses, continuous tenses etc. including the differences of transitive and intransitive verbs.
  • Use of modals or auxiliary verbs like - can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will and would. 
  • Adjectives 
  • Adverbs 
  • Conjunctions 
  • Determiners 
  • Interjections
  • Nouns
  •  Prepositions 
  • Pronouns
  • Conditionals 

Writing Related Grammar - Online TEFL Courses

Writing and punctuation should also be a core element in online TEFL courses.  Because children often have a great deal of trouble getting a grip on mastering writing skills sometimes it causes a TEFL teacher to avoid teaching it.

Sometimes you don't know what age group or groups you'll be asked to teach. For young learners phonics, stroke order of writing letters is critical. Then letter combinations which culminate in simple words. Then actual sentence structures are taught.

And in older students once simple sentences are understood then it is time to bring them together into paragraphs that form a coherent story.  Whenever possible writing should be worked in gradually and combined with other skill sets like listening and reading. This necessitates the uses of punctuation in order to form the story. In general online TEFL courses will teach the following forms of punctuation in their writing modules.

Here is the core at the basic level:

  • but
  • because
  • yet
  • however
  • and
  • so

Here is the core at the more advanced level:

  • Using Apostrophes 
  • Using Colons 
  • Using commas 
  • Using Dashes 
  • Using Hyphens 
  • Using Parentheses 
  • Using speech marks
  • Using Semicolons
  • How and why to use three dots (...)
  • Guidelines for avoiding run on sentences

Your best friend should be a grammar text to supplement and back up certain grammar points you didn't quite get. Here is an excellent site for self study. Grammar Monster.

Online TEFL Courses and Classroom Management
All the grammar and teaching methodology in the world won't save you if you don't know how to manage your classroom and students. So where does it all begin?

  • Lesson planning & preparation -  good online TEFL courses should include modules on lesson planning to include add on activities in case class pace falls off track. Nothing knocks your rep. down faster than not knowing what to do next or fumbling around. Even a quick bulleted list of what you will cover during your class will help keep you on track and boost your confidence. A banner idea is always to prepare more than you need. It is much better to over prepare than try to fill in the lesson by killing time. 

  • Good online TEFL course preparation should touch on things like setting clear rules right away, dealing with disruptive students swiftly and using classroom seating techniques to reduce distractions and disruptive behavior.

  • Of course this is more true of children and younger TEFL enrollees but they need to understand there are consequences to trashing out your class. Other techniques that help the teacher develop a professional relationship with students should also be taught. But basically the end goal is as simple or complex as this:

     The end purpose of effective classroom management is to optimize the students’ learning experiences by creating and sustaining an environment conducive to providing the best learning experiences.

We highly recommend myTEFL. Excellent Course and Customer Service

Online TEFL Courses and Reading

It goes without saying that when teaching ESL, reading is a key element. So TEFL courses must include this critical element. The basics of teaching reading from the ground up should be taught. After all if you can't read how can you use a text book? It should be taught to the TEFL teacher in a systematic way. If it were to be taught from the ground up, typically it should be:

  • Teach the alphabet followed by phonics.
  • Teach 1 syllable words and then progress into multi syllable words.
  • Then irregular words that don't follow phonic patterns called sight words is the next step.
  • Build up vocabulary which the culminates in whole sentences.
  • Reading practice and testing reading comprehension should also be part of the TEFL course curriculum .

Online TEFL Courses and Writing
Just like other skills that are typically taught in online TEFL courses, writing skills are critical and these skills need to be taught early on (L2) level. So your TEFL course should have several modules that address this acquired skill. 
The issue with writing is that it is not a naturally acquired skill like speaking is. And like reading it progresses systematically.

  • Letter formation is your start point and then spelling.

  • The TEFL course should touch on ways of making writing more approachable to the student. 

  • The writing part of the TEFL course can and should touch on real life value oriented things in the beginning stages.Tasks that have a real function that gives them the chance to practice writing. It could be anything like what they want for dinner.
    Write it down and then write a shopping list for their ingredients. Your online TEFL course should have a treasure chest of creative ideas for taking the sting out of teaching writing. A good TEFL course should provide information on how to blend writing skills in with reading and listening and whenever possible

Online TEFL Courses and Listening
Of course any TEFL course should have multiple modules on listening that teach core skills and sub skills.

  • Top down and bottom up are core TEFL strategies and should be present in their programs.

  • So the course should cover teaching the ESL instructor how to teach students to listen for core concepts as well as listening for details in the conversation. Make sure there are quite a few modules in this area.

Common Teaching Materials Available to the Teacher
Although teaching materials vary from school to school and most definitely from country to country some things just don't change. Show me a school that doesn't use text books and audio/visual aids and I'll show you a place that should be turned into a parking lot.

  • Part of your TEFL training should include the most common tools of the trade used in the classroom and tips on how to get the most out of them. How to creatively use them to nail down your objective.

    They should help you get acquainted with the different types of tools available to you and what their function is in the learning process not limited to just text books but also to include multi-media.

Curriculum Planning
What exactly is it? By definition it is defined as 
"Planning courses of instructions. It serves as a guide for the teacher as well as for the students in creating conducive atmosphere for worthwhile learning and purposeful activities".

  • If you are new to teaching having a "canned curriculum" is often seen as a blessing. You will probably already have your plate full with cultural adjustment, language barriers etc. But to the more seasoned ESL instructor it is often seen as meddling. This is especially true if administrative types with zero teaching experience have had their hand in the development of the curriculum the school is running. 
  • Some schools hardly even have a curriculum. Therefore solid online TEFL courses usually have a few modules to deal with this. ESL instructors should be taught how to assess program goals, student proficiency, analyze and select course materials, and how to create a teaching schedule.
  •  There are three basic types of curriculum design. Subject centered, learner-centered, and problem-centered design. 

Testing - A Critical Part of Online TEFL Courses
Ah yes, tests. Teachers like them more than the students.

  • Proper testing procedures should be taught in the course. Honestly how do you know what your students know if you don't implement tests.  Of course your program should have modules on this.

    In these module(s) enrollees should learn about the various aspects of testing and how to balance validity, reliability, appropriacy and practicality of a testing methodology. Also testing should be done soon after something is taught so as not to overwhelm the student if the curriculum allows it and a good curriculum won't bury the enrollee in information and then whip out the course final exam.

  • It's no easy task to construct a test that accurately measures how well the student has learned what he or she was taught.

    A rock solid TEFL course should also teach you how to work your tests into curriculum and make adjustments in the curriculum based on test results. So for example if they can not understand use of perfect tenses then you need to make room in the curriculum for a review and consolidation lesson.

Online TEFL Courses and A Word About Customer Service and Support

Good customer support is very important in selecting your course. Quick response time, help with finding new work when your old job is winding up can not be underestimated.  It can get a bit whacky when you are so far from home, friends and family.

We would say that if when you are inquiring about their program and don't get prompt responses, what is it going to be like when you're overseas? A last bit of advice would be if you are inquiring about sales any course provider will call you back right away. There is cash involved. The real test is to ask a question about their program contents. This doesn't involve profit. If you get a courteous and quick response then you know the program cares about its customers and is a solid company. 

Online TEFL Courses and Speaking
Although speaking courses are much less defined and rigorous  than teaching writing and reading.

  • One thing that the TEFL course of your choice should make mention of steering clear of uncomfortable or controversial topics or topics that your students genuinely dislike.
  • Your TEFL course should provide you with measures to take to avoid the above crash and burn scenario like grouping your students together to have them decide a topic that they want to talk about and not you push something on them that they could give a hoot about. 

  • A decent course should also educate the TEFL course enrollee on counter measures to take when conversations are stalling. This is especially true of Japanese students who are quite shy. 

  • For example if you broke them into groups that are too big the student might feel like they are "on stage" and then won't speak for fear of being judged. Other reasons could be that the student lacks vocabulary to carry the conversation. 

  • There are many possible reasons for this problem and the point of this article is not on how to teach ESL but rather what you as the TEFL course buyer who parted with your hard earned cash can get the biggest bang for your buck.
  •  Hopefully this little article will give you an insight into what makes for a good TEFL course.  Again the hallmark of a great TEFL course is how packed with ESL goodies your treasure chest is when you walk out that door with your certificate. If it is a rock-solid course you won't take your treasure chest out the door by hand; you'll have to rent a forklift first.

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