Some Quick Ideas about the Essay and Lesson Plan

Unless you have really complicated addresses or medical history, the most difficult and time consuming part of the EPIK application is the essay and the lesson plan. Here are some really quick tips/ideas. You don’t have to follow them, but if you’re really struggling hopefully they can give you some ideas.

The Essay

There is some doubt about the layout and purpose of the essay. Does EPIK care more about content or are they just double checking for grammar and punctuation?

EPIK loses a lot of people because they can’t commit to a year abroad, so they are pretty concerned about the actual answers to their questions. As for proper grammar and punctuation – this is obviously important as well. I think some mistakes will be fine, they won’t be grading it any more than say, a science teacher might grade a report. It’s content first but if there are absolutely glaring errors or if it’s obvious you don’t speak English very well (it’s not your first language) then it could cost you.

There seems to be a small debate on ESL Cafe about layout as well. Some people think the essay should be in true essay format.

An introduction

Body paragraph #1 (why you want to teach English)

Body paragraph #2 (your teaching philosophy)

Body paragraph #3 (your thoughts on cultural…)

Conclusion.

However, an essay this short doesn’t necessarily require this kind of layout. Most English classes I had said an “essay” this short is truly just to answer the questions. I tried to keep like-topics together and put it in paragraph format, but for the most part, no ones essays seem to be right or wrong if they layout is different.

  • Answer all the questions, try to give them all equal amount of space – in theory 200 words each per question. Even if you have a lot of international experience or even if you’re a teacher don’t focus too much on that one answer.
  • Don’t just write the minimum amount of words. If you’re struggling to get to 500 you need to take a step back and think it all through.
  • Proofread, proofread proofread. Have someone else read it. Read it out loud. Read it backwards (one sentence at a time. You will see it as a less coherent piece and can analyze each sentence on its own).
  • If you’re in college, you should have access to a writing center if you need help.
  • Use any examples you have – if you’ve taken a trip and adapted well, if you’ve ever been around children for a few days and thought you handled it well, if you have any ideas – bring them up.
  • Don’t be afraid to work in a positive-tense (that’s a tense now, apparently). Don’t use “if I become an EPIK teacher I would be…” be assertive “As an EPIK teacher I will be”
  • Never be afraid to write a bad draft. If you’re stuck, just put anything on the page, even if it’s horrible. Get it on the page and out of your brain. Then you can pick and choose what you like, then move on.

The Lesson Plan

The lesson plan is probably the trickiest part as it doesn’t say what age group or anything specific you have to teach.

Then there is the million dollar question: do you want to have a fun activity to prove you can be a fun teacher? Or do you want to showcase your skills as a TEFL instructor by teaching intense grammar/difficult topics?

Ultimately it probably shouldn’t be too extreme on either end. Remember, too, why EPIK wants native teachers. The co-teacher is there (in theory) to teach more difficult topics. Half the reason why EPIK isn’t hiring middle/high school NETs is because the Korean teachers do a better job explaining confusing English grammar in their native language. You’re there more to decrease fears of foreigners, to increase speaking practice, to introduce culture, and ultimately to make students sound more natural.

Your first question with the lesson plan should be: what can I “teach” in my lesson plan that would make students sound more natural?

For my lesson plan I picked idioms – only about 5 – as they would increase understanding and make students sound more natural. Other ideas could be working on commonly misspelled/pronounced words, focusing on pronunciation, or slang. Of course you can do anything you want, but focusing on what EPIK wants the most should get you some bonus points (go read EPIK’s mission statement on their website for more ideas).

When you’ve picked your topic, make sure to throw one slightly difficult element in to show you’re not a cushy teacher (and you know what you’re talking about)  and throw in one fun activity to show you can be fun and can teach without lecturing all the time. Doing all this should cover all your bases.

[Edit: October 24th] Now that I’ve been here for 8 months, I still stand by this. Realistically I always have to do boring stuff and fun stuff. The goal is definately getting them to use the phrases, so there has to be time to practice. A game that forces/encourages speaking is ideal (Battleship, Human Bingo, etc). 

The organization is up to you. If you’ve taken a TEFL class just use the same lesson plans you learned how to do (ESA anybody!?) If you haven’t taken a TEFL class yet… You won’t get a job if you haven’t done a TEFL cert.

Including a powerpoint (or a Prezi link) or a worksheet also shows more effort. EPIK says if you’re including a power point you should put it so there are five-seven slides to a page and then include that at the end of your lesson plan. Just don’t go over 5 pages.

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