Originally from Ukraine, Tanya holds a BA in EFL and has been teaching different English courses at all levels since 1983. She began working with Cambridge exams, mostly FCE and CAE, in 2002. When she relocated to the USA, she started tutoring online and currently she is substituting for a language school in Indianapolis. Below is a story of her first success with a TOEFL student.
“I had some random TOEFL students in the past, but I didn’t feel quite comfortable teaching them because most of the students were intermediate. There were so many things to cover and so many gaps in their knowledge. Besides, they required TOEFL preparation in a short period of time and it seemed just implausible for me. The other problem I had at that time was the lack of resources for teaching TOEFL. So, I forgot about it for a while.
I heard about English Success Academy at CO16 WIZIQ, a teaching conference where Jaime Miller was one of the presenters. She was talking about how to create a thriving online business and how to teach exams. It definitely caught my attention, so I decided to join when the course started in May. I hoped that How to Teach Exams would increase my expertise in teaching ESL and would make my teaching TOEFL more effective.
When we met for an orientation session, Jaime mentioned that if the teachers joined with their own students, they would do better. So I started to look for one. I activated all my connections: peers, former students, schools and friends. After some time, I got a student, who might potentially need TOEFL. He was an intermediate student with a target score of 90 and a deadline in 6-7 weeks. Frankly speaking, I was intimidated by these conditions.
When Jaime heard about my student, she had a completely different reaction. She sounded really excited. “To get 90 is easy. We can do it,” she assured me with a smile. I had my own doubts about this but the journey had started.
My student indicated that his major difficulties were in the Listening and Speaking sections. After the pre-test his results were: reading – 26, listening – 13, writing – 10, speaking – 8. Well, it didn’t look very optimistic to me.
We started working with listening questions. The most encouraging thing was his motivation. He was a really hard-working and dedicated student. He was 100 percent focused on the TOEFL preparation, did all the homework, followed instructions and all pieces of advice. So, after three weeks of working with listening, I gave him the first listening test to see what kind of improvement he had achieved. The test showed that he improved his listening score from 13 to 18. In order to be quite sure that he improved in this section, I gave him a second test. This time it was an official ETS test that he finished with a score of 25.
My student was extremely happy to get this result in such a short period of time. Needless to say, that I was happy, too. Jaime’s strategy had worked!
Following course instructions, activity sequences and having Jaime’s personal assistance, I was able to help this student more efficiently within a short period of time. I was really happy about this.
Unfortunately, my student’s application to the program he applied for wasn’t accepted, so he decided to stop his TOEFL preparation. It’s difficult to deal with the bad news. But anyway, I think it was an efficient journey for both of us and I am thankful for this experience.
I don’t have any TOEFL students currently. However, I am applying what I’ve learned during this course to FCE and other courses that I am teaching at the moment. It gives me more ideas about how to structure and present information, and make it more memorable to students. It has really boosted my confidence in teaching TOEFL, it has filled in the gaps in this area and I am looking forward to new TOEFL students to work with.”