Forget What You Know and Learn to Teach Again

Forget What You Know and Learn to Teach Again

Waterfall, Heredia, Costa Rica

My Spanish language learner adventures in Colombia inspired my return to the teaching profession. However, this time around I planned to focus my efforts on English Language Learners (ELL).

As a former math and science teacher, 16yrs removed and officially retired from the military, I found myself enrolled in a graduate level ELL degree program without a classroom or ELL students of my own to observe, research, reference etc. There was no turning back, so I found ways to gain an inside look at ELL teaching.

I began my quest for personal professional development by volunteering in an ELL classroom at my local elementary school. This experience provided great exposure to ELL students, kindergarten through 4th grade but 6 months into my degree program I wanted more practical experience and something that might further validate what I was learning.

Why not Costa Rica? The flights are cheap, the weather is great and the International TEFL Academy (ITA) Costa Rica offers a curriculum that complements just about any ELL degree program or U.S, public school ELL classroom, which includes 20hrs of practicums, just enough time to put theory into practice.

My university level degree programs have been rooted in theory and ITA was no different in that regard, only I didn’t find that the ITA course really pushed one method over another. Instead, they really show you how to blend the best of several methods.

San Jose, Costa Rica

For example, the ELL lessons plan developed throughout the course always has a direct instruction component but it is limited to approximately 5-8 minutes. The instruction is always preceded by a language warm-up and introduction and followed by three engaging, language filled practice activities and a culminating production activity.

The methods taught involve direct instruction, which seems to be frowned upon in the ELL public school community but like Krashen’s (2009) acquisition versus learning hypothesis and Natural Approach, the largest portion of the time is dedicated to creating a learning environment and opportunity to acquire new language rather than “teaching” a language. I found this most effective because the short direct instruction moments, that might be better referred to as mini-lessons, gave students the ability to self-monitor, a hypothesis also offered by Krashen (2009).

You complete the ITA course for hundreds of activity ideas that range from beginner to advance ELL. In many cases, if not most, the ideas and activities offered through-out the course are things that could easily be incorporated into the mainstream classroom to improve every student’s reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.

The ITA experience is unlike any teacher training program you have ever attended. Should you decide attend ITA as professional development experience, forget what you know and learn to teach again. Don’t fight the experience by trying to

Countryside, Heredia, Costa Rica

demonstrate what you already know. Learn something new.
I almost forgot to mention…you’re in a beautiful country, take in the sights and the culture so you can share more than just great teaching strategies with your students back home.

If you are interested in attending the International TEFL Academy, Costa Rica you can find more information at

Stay tuned as I post future lessons learned.


Krashen, S. (2009). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Retrieved
December 10, 2017 from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar