Demo Your Way to a Great Job

Tips for Acing Demonstration Lessons

Don’t forget to smile during that demo lesson.

Multiple choice question:

To get a job teaching English as a Foreign Language you will need to: a) do an interview b) submit references c) do a demonstration lesson d) possibly all of the above.

Did you pick d? (Hint: you should have!)

While interviews and references are normal parts of any hiring process, demonstration lessons are particular to the EFL industry in some countries where people apply locally for their teaching jobs – rather than applying from abroad. This happens more in popular destinations like Thailand, Spain or just about any tropical island! Demos (as they are known) are more and more popular with schools because bosses want to know not just what you’re like talking to them, but what you’ll be like in front of a room full of students.

Unfortunately, because they’re just a demo and not a real class, these lessons can feel awkward and artificial. Your “students” might be school office staff or other teachers who are pretending to be language learners only for the duration of your class. They might be instructed to give you a hard time, just to see how you’ll cope with it. You might get lucky and have “real” students, but perhaps those students are jaded because they’ve already seen four or five demos today.

Demonstration Lessons are a Great Opportunity

For the nervous applicant, demonstrations can seem like a serious roadblock to the glamorous life of an EFL teacher.  But, there’s no need for you to be nervous and no need for you to look at a demo lesson as anything other than a golden opportunity.

The demonstration lesson is a great chance for you to confidently share your skills as a teacher.  And the key to being confident is being prepared.

Be Prepared

When you find out you need to do a lesson at the interview, ask some questions to help you prepare for the demo.


  • Who will you be teaching?
  • What age group is the material intended for? Children? Businessmen? College students?
  • What skill level will they be?
  • What target language should be included?
  • How long should the lesson be?

Armed with these answers, then you can prepare an exciting, interesting, engaging lesson.  Make it fun. Don’t let the fact that it’s part of a job interview drag you down and make the class serious to the point of depressing. When you’re in the lesson, make sure the students are involved and having fun—that reflects well on you.

Smile! You’re an English Teacher

Most schools want to know, first off, if you are going to be friendly with your students. They want friendly teachers. Believe it or not, there are some people who want to teach English who aren’t friendly and this will come out in the demonstration lesson. So, show that you’re good fun, that you can interact with the students and engage them in your lessons.

Is There a Method to your Madness?

Secondly, the school will be checking to see if you use any particular teaching methodology. Are you using PPP or ESA?  They want to know if you are (and they hope you are!) an organized teacher who has reasoning behind the lesson plan.

When you go to give the demo lesson, bring two or more hard copies of the lesson plan so you can give a sheet to the evaluators who will be watching you. On your lesson plan, don’t forget to include sketches of your boardwork and any handouts that you’re planning on using.

When you teach the class, be confident and follow your lesson plan. Practice at home or with friends beforehand to make sure that you’re polished when you go in. That’s not to say that there won’t be any glitches when you do the plan—expect the unexpected and don’t let one minor foible ruin your whole presentation.

Prepare for a Surprise Demo Lesson

Also, even if you are going to interviews that don’t say they want demonstration lessons up front, come prepared in case they ask you on the spot. Some schools will tell you at the interview that you should prepare something in the next 10 or 15 minutes, and expect you to have a flash of brilliance.  My advice is to have a few lessons planned up in advance, and carry the plans and materials with you to any job interview you do. That way, you’ll be ready and confident if they ask you to demonstrate on the spot.  And, of course, just like it never rains when you carry an umbrella, it seems like once you’ve prepared a demo then you won’t have to do one. But if you do, you’re golden.

Here’s a great video by an academic director who does some real hiring based on demo lessons. Follow her advice!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Prepare your demonstration lessons in advance with a full lesson plan, including board work and handouts. Practice before the interview, and bring extra copies of everything so you can give them to evaluators.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Be friendly and be methodical in your teaching. These are the characteristics for which most employers will be looking.






How to Prepare a Demonstration Teaching Video

Lights, Camera…TEACH!

A question I hear a lot from new teachers of English who want to go abroad is, “How do I find a job?”

The answer, of course, is the same for English teaching as it is for many other professions nowadays—you look for job listings on the Internet and through a network of contacts that you build up. But, there’s a larger dimension to this question that I’d like to address in this post. And that is, how do you get your first job as a teacher when your potential employer doesn’t know anything about you?”

We had a recent post on writing your TEFL resume, which gives some helpful tips on how to prepare a knockout summary of the skills, qualifications and abilities that will make you a good teacher. A good cover letter and a decent resume should be able to garner you some interest from schools or training centers in your target country. Letters of recommendation, and a clear, attractive photo of yourself in business attire are all good ideas to send out as well. But, in the last few years, there’s another tool that new teachers can use to show that they’d be a good choice when filling a vacancy: video.

Making a short demonstration video of your teaching and uploading it to the Internet where potential employers can take a look at it is a smart move for any jobseeker in TEFL. When you apply for a job, or when you reach the interview stage, you can send a link of your video to your contact at the school or training center. They’ll be able to see your confidence, hear your voice and experience your delivery style.

A good demo video is much like a good demo lesson, but shorter and sweeter. You want it to be polished and interesting and you want it to show your professionalism with a hint of personality. A video that’s five minutes or less is ideal—it can be tempting to show an entire lesson in your video, but it’s not necessary and will take up a lot of the viewer’s time.

Be careful!  I can’t tell you how many HORRIBLE videos people have proudly sent.  Remember this video is about your TEACHING skills and what you have to offer a potential employer.  It is not about what you don’t like about your current situation. Keep this 100% positive.

Plan Your Lesson

Just because it’s going to be short, though, doesn’t mean you don’t need to plan it. You should plan every minute of the video, and storyboarding it, like feature film production teams do, isn’t a bad idea either.

Because it’s a demonstration, you can choose any topic you want to teach. However, I’d advise keeping it familiar and focused. Teach target language you’re familiar with and don’t wander too far in your explanations.

Think carefully about the activities you want to showcase in the lesson. Pick something that has visual appeal as well as educational value, as it will make a more lasting impression in this format. Remember to carefully consider the “whys” as well as the “whats.” If an employer does watch your video, they may ask you about it in the interview, and you’ll look silly if you can’t tell them exactly why you chose each segment of the mock lesson and how it would benefit your erstwhile students.

Practice Your Lesson

Before you switch on your camera to start recording, you’d better rehearse your sample lesson a few times in front of a mirror or a trusted friend. Take note of your facial expressions, and your teacher talk time. Of course, unless you can rope in some pals to pretend to be students, the video is going to be mostly “teacher talk time” segments of a lesson. However, don’t take this as an excuse to blather on. Keep your teacher talk concise and focused, as you would in a real classroom environment.

Do a Tech Run-Through

Next, do a few trial shoots with your camera setup. Is your video quality good enough, or will you need to borrow a better camera? Does the microphone pick up everything you’re saying, or will you need to find a quieter place to film? Is there enough light to illuminate your face? Is your camera outputting the video in a format you’ll be able to upload to YouTube, your blog or another service? Have you charged the battery and cleaned off the memory card?

Shoot Yourself (With a Camera, of Course!)

Have a tripod (or a friend with steady hands) film your lesson. While filming, be sure to make eye contact with the camera as you would if it were a student. Smile, be confident, and be aware of your hand gestures or nervous movements like adjusting your clothes and hair needlessly. It’s fine if you need to retake a few segments or the whole thing. Expect every minute of video footage to take much longer than 60 seconds to produce, so schedule enough time for it.

Shine and Polish

Once you’ve shot each segment of your video and are satisfied with how you look and sound in each, you’ll want to edit out any extra bits that weren’t quite so polished, and stitch the pieces together. If you’ve never used film editing software before, there are plenty of intro guides and how-to pages about it, and it shouldn’t take you long to figure out the basics of cutting and stitching, which is all you really need to do. Adding an introduction slide, as well as slides that focus on or explain your teaching points are good too. Don’t forget an ending slide or clip that thanks the viewer for watching your video and mentions how to get in contact with you.

Ted’s Tips No. 1:  Keep your demonstration video under five minutes. This should give enough time for a feel of how you teach, without taking up a lot of your potential employers’ time. If you can only expect a hiring manager to look at your resume for about 30 seconds, then in terms of selecting candidates to hire, five minutes is an eternity.

Ted’s Tips No. 2: Don’t be nervous. Get familiar with your lesson plan and practice it until it feels natural. Then, shoot the video.  If you have to be nervous, remember that excited is a good synonym for nervous and be excited about what you are teaching.