Teaching English at ELS Shanghai: an overview of my experience

As of June 26th, 2015, I have officially completed my month-long internship as an English teacher at ELS Shanghai! In this post, I attempt to provide an overview of my experience via general questions so any interested in teaching English abroad can benefit from reading about it! Hopefully I answer any questions might have about this type of experience!


What is ELS Shanghai?

ELS Shanghai is a private language center that helps student improve their English and prepare for study abroad in various countries such as the United States, Canada, Switzerland to name a few. Their main goal is to provide them with rigorous and language-intensive study via month-long sessions that prepare them in vocabulary, speaking, reading, writing and listening.


How did you find out about this opportunity?

 Last summer in 2014, my friend Katie’s stepdad offered me an internship to teach English in Shanghai for ELS. He works on the business side of ELS and knew of this opportunity. I had already accepted a summer job working for Wilderness Ventures so I wasn’t able to. Before this summer, Katie told me she was going to Shanghai for the same opportunity. Thanks to her stepdad, he was able to help me secure the internship for this summer.


What do you do as an intern/teacher for ELS?

I taught two vocabulary classes for the June session. The session began on June 1st and ended on June 26th. Each session is four weeks long. One of my classes was a 105 level, which is upper-intermediate, and the other was 107, an advanced level. Vocabulary classes last for 50 minutes with about ten minutes in between depending on the time of day and they meet five days a week.

As a teacher, I prepared lessons using the materials they provided me with(a vocabulary book for each class with units covering various types of vocabulary and homework exercises). I wrote three vocabulary evaluation quizzes, three spelling tests and gave a few assignments.


Here’s an example of a unit from the book I used:



How did you teach the students if you do not speak Mandarin or Shanghainese?

The students were past the beginner stage so they were conversationally proficient in English. They simply wanted to continue moving up in fluency. Often, I had to simplify my language so that they understand at least 80% of what I said. I think the hardest part for them was memorizing all the vocabulary because on top of what I teach them (around 15 words per unit, 2 units/week), they had to learn about 300+ words throughout the month-long session.


How many other teachers did you work with? How many students were in each class?

There were about a little over 10 teachers total that worked at ELS Shanghai. The most students in a class are about 10 but each of my classes only had 8 students.


Were you paid? What were the benefits?

 I had to pay to fly myself out from the States to China but luckily, I received a generous scholarship from the Honors College that allowed me pay for my flight out, my visa and provide some money for food and transportation. Also, the company generously allowed me to live in a spacious dorm on the campus free of charge(there are only a few and they are only offered to employees at ELS). For the month-long session, I also received a comfortable wage (I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it), which provides me with enough money to live here for my time here, and three weekly Mandarin classes with a private tutor.


What did a typical week-day look like?

 7:20am: wake up, get ready and eat breakfast

8:05am: walk over to the building next door where I teach

8:30-9:20am: teach my advanced class

9:30-10:20am: teach my beginner class

10:45am-12:15pm: work out at a nearby gym

12:30-1:30/2:00pm: lunch

2:00-2:30pm: grades papers/start planning lessons

2:30-3:30pm: Mandarin lesson at nearby coffee shop

4:00-9:00pm: grade, plan lessons and cook dinner

10:30/11pm: go to bed


How much time did you spending preparing lessons, grading papers, creating quizzes, etc.?

It depends! Most days I spent at least two hours on lesson planning, grading papers, making quizzes, etc. I enjoyed it though and expected it going into the internship so it was not too bad.


What the most challenging part?

Finding ways to make sure the students felt engaged and wanted to be in class and learn. One great idea my friend Katie had, who also interned this summer, came up with the title “5 minutes in America” where I found a fun video or pictures related to a topic that would provide a smooth segway into our day’s lesson but also teach the students about American culture. It succeeded in engaging the students and motivating them to come to class everyday.


What was the most rewarding part?

When students talk more in class than you do, when students use what you taught them in class, when students engage with you outside of the classroom or simply, when the confusion disappears and students understand what you’re trying to teach them. These are just a few of the rewarding moments I have experienced as a teacher this summer.


Would you work for ELS again/go back to Shanghai?

Yes, without a doubt. My bosses trusted me and gave me lots of flexibility. The other teachers were helpful, supportive and fun to be around. The students were kind and fun to worth it. I enjoyed my experience and would definitely recommend it to any of those wishing to find an opportunity to teach English, work with a fun, supportive community and learn to grow in the international education field.


Hopefully you enjoyed reading about this experience as much as I enjoyed it sharing it! Feel free to comment with any questions or comments! I’d love to hear about any other teachers out there who have taught English abroad! 🙂





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