How to Ace an Open Door ESL Class: The 5 P's!

An 'Open Door' lesson is an opportunity for your children’s parents to view a regular class which showcases what the children have learned highlighting the standard class structure.  'Open Door' classes are usually rated by the parents and can have a dramatic effect for your pay and review if done incorrectly or could potentially showcase incorrect material, causing the parents to question if their children are learning enough in your class. 'Open Door' Classes in China are usually held mid-term or more usually at the last class of the course. This is the big chance for Chinese parents to see their kids in action and what they have learnt in your English classes. A strong and fluid Open Door class can really push up re-sign rates in your classes, making you look super cool and possibly get you re-sign bonuses if you have that in your teaching contract.
What are the Five P’s to ensure a perfect Open Door lesson?
1. Preparation – Lessons need to be setup to make use of all the time in your class appropriately. For example, including book work in your Open Door lesson is frowned upon because it doesn’t showcase what the children have learned and isn’t very interactive for the parents to see their children learning or using the English Language. Your Open Door class will be silent and weird, so avoid using the book too much or even at all. Give your students the opportunity to speak with you, each other and their parents in English.
2. Practice – To ensure the children show how much their English has improved in your English course, co-teachers and you should prepare students of the Open Door lesson during the classes leading up to the final Open Door class. This will allow your class to be given more time to practice the material, know what they are doing and give that really polished good impression to parents. It is imperative to avoid highlighting weaker students at the start of the Open Door class.  If you have taken over the class at the end of the term and don’t really know who your weaker or stronger ESL students are, then ask your Chinese co-teacher or the colleague you’ve just taken the class off of. They will know. If all your weaker students go first, parents may think that most of the students aren’t learning the material and maybe you aren’t a good teacher yourself. Start off with one or two stronger students and get off to a belting start! The parents will be impressed and you will look good.

Lastly, practice makes perfect.  As understanding of the material increases, it will be displayed more naturally. Practice any language activity or game you want to use in the weeks leading up to the Open Door class. Very importantly, go through your Open Door lesson plan with your co-teacher if you have one in the class. Be on the same page together and both know what to do at all times.
3. Patience – Although you have setup material and have identified the stronger/weaker students, patience is needed during the Open Door lesson because all students must participate equally. Parent(s) with the weaker students may be aware their child struggles, but will be delighted when their child tries and that you have spoken to their child just as much as the stronger ones. Be prepared to help weaker students and finish off sentences with them if they are struggling with everyone watching. Care for your Chinese students always. Sometimes, as a teacher, it is challenging to have the child say the wrong thing but feedback provided has indicated that parents appreciated their child was provided ample time to succeed and participate.  
4. Parent Involvement – A sure-fire way to make parents happy during class is to have them participate in the class. For example, during a lesson naming body parts, have the parents stand next to their child and say, “Leg to Leg” (gesturing the child to put their leg next to the parents’ leg).Personally, I enjoy this part of the class because it shifts the focus to the parents and could get the parents laughing if the activity is fun.  In addition, having parents speaking English is the best part because it allows them to learn and get involved in their children’s education.  This is especially true if they have been busy at work and haven’t had the opportunity to do so. However, I believe the key is to provide them the opportunity to participate but do not require that they do so. If they refuse, don’t insist because they may feel that their English ability inadequate and are hesitant to be embarrassed. Every teacher needs to be aware of varying abilities before picking random parents in the class. Importantly, make yourself available to speak to parents after the class. They will have questions for you as you would have for your own children’s teachers back in the west. Respect and understand this and make yourself available. If that means missing your coffee in the office before your next class, then so be it. Help your school always and be there for kids and parents.
5. Put on a smile – Regardless if the class has the best and brightest students or the occasional lazy and unmotivated, smiling is the best picture in class. If you are smiling it shows everyone that you are excited and enjoying your job.  Your body language speaks more than verbal communication, especially when being focused upon by parents who may not have significant English knowledge, but can tell whether you are having a good time. SMILE no matter what and always make light of a bad answer.At all costs, have a good time while ensuring your students are as well.
I hope these steps make your ESL Open Door a success!  Learning the 5 P’s helped ease my mind and tension. Good luck with your future lessons and teaching and feel free to contact me anytime.
by Dominick “Venice” Inzerillo

Venice was in marketing for ten years before he became an English teacher. He taught in the US for two years, before moving to China to teach English in 2014. He invites you to add him on WeChat and you can do that by scanning the QR code above.

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