Teaching America in the TEFL Classroom

Using the United States or any other western country as a muse for lessons isn’t merely simple and effective. Students find it interesting. Being able to use what you already know and apply it to teaching can also spice up your repertoire when you’re feeling bored with course materials.

Acting and Role-Plays

As long as you don’t use it too often, one great method to get students actively involved in lessons is by using role-plays. They’re perfect for most group sizes; they can be modified to last 15-90 minutes; and students can be more communicative in English when they aren’t playing themselves. A few ideas:

•    Trending News Stories: Scripts. You can choose one news story for each group/pair or you can have the whole class use the same story and create different endings. Introduce the topic, put them in groups or pairs and have them write the script to ‘perform’ at the end of the activity.

•    Pop Culture Mingle: Improv. Each student gets the identity of a celebrity, some information about their celebrity and a goal. Finding a roommate, for example. They mingle and try to reach the goal. Or you could have an ‘Oscar party,’ where the students try to create a film pitch.


A lot of TEFL teaching nowadays involves some level of business English. Part of that is being able to make presentations in English, and getting your students used to speaking in front of small audiences. Some thoughts:

•    The 51st State Creation: In small groups or pairs, the students have to come up with a 51st American state.  Have them include state: bird/flower/motto/industry/population/geography/etc. and make their presentations to the other groups. At the end, the teacher votes for the best.

•    American Sports Explained: American sports are unique- baseball, American football and basketball aren’t nearly as common in most other countries. Give each group a different sport that they have to present and explain to the other groups. The teacher evaluates the presentation for clarity and the English used.

Mixed Media

Not all schools will have audio or video capabilities in the classroom, but for those that do you can use them for American TEFL teaching. Two notes about music or movies in class: make sure the song or the clip is at the right level for your students and that there’s a clear task set involved. Turning on a film at the start of a lesson and playing it to the end isn’t teaching. Examples:

•    A Song Gap-Fill: The most common way to integrate music into the lesson, you can make it more interactive for the students by introducing the topic with conversation questions. After they’ve successfully completed the gap-fill, they could brainstorm what happened after the song, i.e. ‘Did the couple get back together?’

•       Film Predictions: Play a clip of a scene from a movie, and elicit from students ‘What happens next…?’ or ‘What will they say?’

Clearly this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as possibilities for adding American culture into your TEFL teaching. Don’t be shy about giving your students a taste of back home- they’ll appreciate it.