New to Teaching the TOEFL? Here's Where to Start
If you are an ESL teacher who has just been given your first TOEFL teaching assignment, you might initially feel as overwhelmed as the students. The TOEFL is a long, high-stakes test and you want to make sure that you are serving your students well. Most natives speakers have never taken the exam themselves, so make sure that you get comfortable with the specifics of the exam before your first class.
Make sure you are thoroughly familiar with the format. Many of the test prep books start with a brief introduction to all parts of the exam, and you can also find an outline of each section here on my website. Students will want to know the specifics, so make sure you know the order, timing, and scoring for each section. Giving this information to your students in the form of a handout and/or placing a poster detailing this information around the room makes for a great resource. Students can use this as a reference sheet, keeping it as the first page of a binder or folder. This also prevents you from needing to memorize this additional information right away, allowing you to focus on the bigger issues.
Anticipate the questions you will be asked. Consult FAQ pages here on my website and from ETS. This will help you prepare for the questions you will inevitably get. Those types of questions could be tricky for new teachers who are new to the TOEFL, but knowing what students want to know will ensure that you do not get caught off guard. Taking a practice exam yourself can also help give you some first-hand experience that you can draw on.
Learn the patterns. In each section, you will encounter repeated patterns, just as you would on any other type of standardized test. Knowing these big patterns, like the commonly used questions for the independent essay, will help you show students how easy it can be to prepare for the exam. This will help them build up their confidence and make them feel like they can take on this tough test.
Select a book that works well for your students. All TOEFL books are not created equal. Make sure you choose the one that is appropriate for your students. Some books are more challenging than others. Some books have more advice and even question by question breakdowns while others are just a collection of practice test. If your school already has a book that is used, make sure you review it so you know what needs to be prepared and what the book is good for. Don't just rely on the book, especially if there are students mixed into your class that . aren't taking the test. Academic English and TOEFL prep goes hand in hand and is often more interesting when it takes place outside of the test prep book.
Clearly tie an English focused lesson to a test prep lesson in order to maximize efficiency. If you are an ESL teacher who has just been given your first TOEFL teaching assignment, you will have to prepare your classes a little differently than what you are probably used to. Instead of having . a thematically or grammatically organized curricula, you will probably need to rearrange your thinking somewhat, focusing on a particular type of question for each lesson (or set of lessons) and then working backward to think about the skills that go into solving that type of question. For example, if you are teaching the detail question (sometimes called the factual information question) on the reading section of the TOEFL, you will want to spend several days letting students practice with just this style of question. The English skill necessary to tackle this type of question is paraphrasing, so have one day focused on finding synonyms, another lesson focusing on changing parts of speech to rephrase a sentence, etc.
As with all standardized tests, the exam does change. Whether the change is designed to better reflect accents of all English speakers, to combat cheating, or to utilize evolving technology, instructors need to keep up with the most current version of the test. Check in with ETS's website regularly. They also produce content for YouTube, so check there, too!. Stay up to date with changes made to the TOEFL.