Creating your own Online ESL Demo Lesson

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So far in this series, we have covered 10 top tips to help prepare you for your online demo lesson. For part 3, we will focus specifically on what to do when you are required to create your own demo lesson. The demo is a key element to any online teaching application and, when done well, can lead to great benefits related to pay as well as highlight your resume for further opportunities within the company.


If you missed the first two parts of this 3 part series, you can check them out here:

Top Tips for Passing your Online ESL Demo Lesson (part 1)

Top Tips for Passing your Online ESL Demo Lesson (part 2)


Most online ESL companies provide you with their lesson materials and access to their teaching platform if they use one. However, there are a few companies where you are required to showcase your teaching skills, without providing any materials.


For many, this can cause alarm bells to start ringing and send you into a frenzied panic!


Trust me, I completely understand. I felt this way when applying to UUabc and realised I had to come up with my own lesson content and materials. But honestly and truthfully, it didn’t hurt, I did a great job receiving a high hourly rate AND came out the other side gaining experience.


Not only did having to create my own demo lesson build my confidence to be able to say, ‘Actually, I am a pretty good teacher and know what I’m doing!’ It also means that I have first-hand experience to be able to help you guys out, sharing my knowledge and holding your hand through your application.


When it comes to having to create your own demo, most of the points from part 1 and part 2 of this series are still relevant. You need to think about demonstrating and using:

  • TPR
  • Demonstrating a friendly and positive manner
  • How you would incorporate props
  • Reward Systems
  • Correcting errors and giving encouragement


You also will need to think about a number of other factors such as the age and ability of your demo student, choosing an appropriate topic to teach and how you are going to present the lesson within your demo. In order to support you in these areas, I talk about them in more detail below.


Tips to create your own demo lesson

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Top Tips to creating your own online demo lesson for your teaching application

But first, here are some general tips to follow when creating your own demo lesson materials:


Don’t Over Complicate It

It can be challenging to know where to start when all the information you are provided with is ‘to create your own demo’. You are not sure what topic to focus on or how much content to include. It can be easy to plan out an essay’s worth of material to make you feel confident that you have included every angle possible. Do NOT do this.


Honestly, keep it simple and concise. Don’t create yourself an extra tonne of work unnecessarily. The demo isn’t focused on your ability to create your own lesson content (unless that’s the type of online ESL position you have applied for). Generally speaking, most companies provide their own materials. But not every company wants to showcase their materials to people who do not yet work for the company. Hence why you might be asked to create your own demo lesson materials.


The demo lesson focuses purely on your ability and approach to teaching. They want to see confidence, passion and skill. You don’t need a fancy pants award-winning lesson. You don’t even need to create anything like a word document or slide show if you didn’t want to (though I do talk about this a bit later on). Focus on a topic that you are confident in teaching, which can showcase your teaching ability at its best.



Trial Run

I know this point seems quite obvious, but, you would be surprised how many people DON’T do this. I urge you to have a trial run using whichever program your demo lesson will be using, this is typically Skype or Zoom. Both are free to use and you can practise setting up your camera and sound before your class.


Most importantly, you can go through your lesson on camera. You will be practising exactly what it is you have prepared, can see yourself using TPR and how you come across visually. Even better, if you can record your call to watch yourself back will benefit you greatly. You will be able to evaluate whether you would hire yourself as an online teacher, checking for the areas your company will be focusing on. This will really help you to iron out any part of your lesson where you feel less confident or if it doesn’t come across quite how you planned.



Supporting Materials

However you choose to teach your lesson, whether it be using a document/powerpoint or just verbally, I still highly recommend including additional materials.


  • This can be as simple as using a small whiteboard, to write down keywords you are focusing on teaching your demo student.


  • Incorporating props as a visual aid for students to look at and support with their understanding of the language you are using. E.g. if you are teaching fruits, you can show flashcards or even better, real fruit from your kitchen.


  • Adding a reward system to show how you would provide your demo student positive praise and encouragement.



Now we have covered a few basic pointers of your demo lesson, here is where we get into the nitty gritty of what to create and how to create your demo lesson materials.



Choosing a Topic

A great place to start is if the company have already told you the age and ability level of your demo student. If they have advised you that your demo student will have an intermediate level of English, don’t plan a lesson teaching the ABCs!


As mentioned above, choose a topic that will highlight your best teaching ability and that you can teach with confidence. You don’t have to make it complicated, focus on one key learning objective. At the end of the day, your demo lesson is going to be 10 minutes, 20 at max. For a lesson you have created yourself, they probably won’t expect you to teach for 20 minutes. As an example, my demo lesson with the company UUabc was around 10 minutes in length.


To aid you further, I would like to share with you what I taught for my demo lesson with UUabc. Personally, I am a very lively and visual teacher. I like to use a lot of motion and encourage my students to get involved with making different sounds and actions. I feel this helps support their memory as they not only have the word but also an action/sound to go along with it. In this case, for my topic, I chose to teach animals, specifically pets. I picked five common pets – dog, cat, rabbit, bird and fish.


Now, I was informed prior to my demo, that I would need to plan a lesson for a member of staff acting like a 7-year-old with a basic level of English. This information helped me immensely. Even though my lesson contained just 5 animals, as I was able to focus on what my learning objective was going to be. For me, I chose to teach animals at the park and for the student to use a preposition within a given sentence phrase e.g. I can see a dog. The dog is on the grass.


If I wasn’t provided with the age and ability of the demo student, I still had a wide range of lessons I could have focused on using these 5 animals. Here are some examples:

  • Young beginner learner – focus on naming each animal, making the animal sounds and the sentence It is a …


  • Young more able learner – introduce colours and adjectives to create full descriptive sentences e.g. This is a yellow dog. The dog is big.


  • 7-9-year-old Intermediate level learner – covering that they can complete the above two lesson content as an introduction, then focus on full sentences with either prepositions or conjunctions (and, or, but).


As you can see, you really don’t have to plan out a huge amount of content for your demo lesson and can keep it very focused.



Map Out Your Demo Lesson

I know, I said earlier you don’t need to plan for hours and provide an essay worth of content. But, you do need to know what you are teaching and have some sort of plan for HOW you are going to teach your lesson. It’s fine to say you are focusing your lesson on pets (using the above example). But how are you structuring your lesson, how will you introduce the topic, what props do you need to support your teaching, are there any key phrases you are teaching, which animal will you be starting with?


You need to plan enough material that will last a maximum of 20 minutes. Ensure to have written down a rough guide for each of the following sections:

1) Introducing the topic

2) Key language introduction and demonstration

3) Opportunity for students to practise within an activity

4) Review language learnt and provide student feedback


Here is an example relating to the topic of pets at the park:

1) Tell students we will be meeting 5 pets today who are visiting the park. Can students guess which pets independently? If not, add animal sounds.

2) Introduce and show each animal at the park. See if students already know the word, if so encourage correct pronunciation/animal sound and add sentence phrase – It is a…

3) Play guess the animal game. Take in turns with the student to make an animal sound and other person guesses the animal correctly. Bonus points for saying the correct sentence.

4) Ask the student what 5 animals we have learnt today. What was their favourite animal? Praise student on what they have done well with today. Include one area of improvement to focus on.



Presenting the Lesson

Are you going to provide something visual during your demo lesson or just verbally teach? What I mean by this is that most online ESL companies have lesson materials on the screen for students to look at and help guide them through their learning with visual aids. It also helps maintain their attention if there are lots of different things to look at, they can see keywords and sentences written down and it just overall improves their engagement.


Creating a word document or Powerpoint to refer to in your demo lesson is something I really recommend. Not only does it support the above points for your student, but also helps give you a teaching reference for if your nerves get the better of you.


Having something on the screen in front of you means that your demo student will not just be looking at you. They will also be focusing on the material you have provided to support your lesson. It helps to give your lesson a clear structure and shows you are willing to go the extra mile. By providing additional materials, you look organised, professional and it will give your application an edge above other teachers.



Tips for Using a Powerpoint

I strongly suggest using a Powerpoint presentation during your demo lesson. It is easy to share, supports your lesson and aids your student as mentioned. You don’t have to be a technical expert, keep it simple, relevant and focused. Only use a couple of slides if you choose to create a Powerpoint. Within each slide, try not to add too much wording. There is nothing worse for an ESL learner than seeing a whole screen full of sentences.


You can make your Powerpoint really visual and get creative by using pictures and stock photos. Be careful if you are going to use these, however. If you are thinking of creating a lesson, which you wish to sell on a site such as Teachers Pay Teachers, you must use images which have the appropriate licence.


Personally, I would play it safe and professionally from the onset. There are 1000s of images and photos you can use legally online. Here is a list of 10 sites where you can access images and vectors (some of these sites require payment per picture or membership):





Creative Market



Stock Unlimited


Depending upon my project, often I do choose images and vectors that I pay for, just so that I am able to access individual images, rather than them all on one sheet – see image below as an example of a free vector used, but I was unable to download individual animals, so have a pink background around each animal. As this is for a demo lesson, I might not be too fussed if it isn’t perfect and I as applying for a company that actually provided lesson materials. However, if I was providing my own lesson material, I would definitely use paid for images and vectors for those individual picture downloads.


Just to show you how simple and quick you can create a Powerpoint to use within your demo, I have created this visual within 10 minutes.



Park with animal pictures. Attributions to Freepix

Attribution to Freepix for the use of their vector images



This included searching for vectors within Freepix, editing sizes and further editing it within Canva for demonstration purposes within this post.


Here you have it then, the end of my 3 part series for Top Tips to Ace your Demo lesson. Above all else, just remember to bring your personality into the demo. It is your opportunity to be given a higher hourly rate, which for most companies is so important from the onset as pay rise opportunities aren’t always common.


Following the top tips within this 3 part series, will really help you focus on exactly what skills the online ESL company are looking for in an applicant. After you have completed a demo lesson, most companies then send out contracts for you to go over and sign via email. You then complete their onboard training and are ready to start your career, working from home as an online ESL teacher.


Do you have any questions or need support with your demo prep? Write your questions in the comments and I will be more than happy to answer them.



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