Hi everybody. First of all, I hope you’re all doing well and not feeling down. These are very strange times and we have to do our best to adjust to the new reality..
Like many of you, I’m also transitioning to online teaching. It was something I wanted to do sooner or later anyway. I just never thought I’d have to do it overnight!
I’ve just finished my first week teaching online and wanted to share some tips and ideas which I hope you’ll find useful. Here they are:
1) First and foremost
Choose how you’ll communicate with your students. Some teachers email or WhatsApp their students, others use Google classroom. It doesn’t matter, just make sure you have a way to message them. Why?
- to tell them if they need to prepare something for next class
- to assign homework
- to return homework
- to allow them to ask you questions they might have
- to share links or files they’ll need for next class
2) The platform
There are a lot of platforms to choose from. Most schools use Zoom, Skype or Hangouts. We’re using learncube at my school. It’s a pretty straightforward platform and worth having a look. It’s browser-based, so teachers/students don’t need to download it. It’s got an interactive whiteboard, you can upload materials, like pdf, ppt, audio, image, etc. There is a free plan for those impacted by coronavirus.
3) How to use the chat box
Every platform has a chat box. When you’re teaching a group, this might be the quickest way to get short answers from everyone. Here’s how I’ve used it:
Warmers. At the beginning of the lesson, ask students questions and tell them to type their answers in the chat box. With lower-level learners or children, this can be a smoother start than directly asking them to speak.
- What did you have for breakfast this morning?
- How do you feel right now?
Guessing content . You can quickly elicit some guesses about texts or recordings.
- What do you think the text is about?
- What kind of text is it?
- What words do you expect to hear in this recording?
Brainstorming. This can be useful before an essay or a speaking activity (individual long turn or discussion). Ask students to brainstorm ideas. They can later use ideas from the chat box and try to expand their answers.
- Do you think video games are a waste of time? Why?
- Write some advantages of home-schooling.
4) Fun whiteboard ideas
Ask learners to play hangman and let them draw blank lines or the parts of the hangman. I’m not very fond of hangman, so I draw seven steps and a hungry shark waiting at the end of the “staircase”!
Ask one student to start drawing something. For instance, if you’ve just taught animal vocabulary, ask one student to draw an animal. The rest of your students are watching as the drawing takes shape and start shouting out answers. Young learners love it!
5) Websites and tools
There are a lot of online tools we used in our face-to-face classes and we can still use.
Love this one! You can modify it and add previously taught language which you want to review. Use it as a warmer or cooler at the end of class.
You can also use the wheel of fortune to give them points for right answers. My adults loved it!
You can now upgrade to premium for free. This allows you to use more features, see screenshot.
Another thing you can do is create challenges and students can compete against each other whenever they want. All you need to do is share the link with them.
If you’re at home and don’t have digital versions of your books, quizlet is an amazing tool. You can create your sets of flashcards or search sets by title; other teachers might have already created something you can use.
I used flipgrid for the first time when doing DELTA Module Two. Our tutor gave us some topics and we had to record a video response. We also replied to each other’s videos. I enjoyed using it and introduced it to my students; however, some are reluctant to record themselves. The shy ones can just flip the camera and only share their voice.
If you are using skype and sharing your screen and you don’t have a “whiteboard“, you can use this one. It’s got some nice features like a timer with a bell, random name function, drawing and so on.
6) Use PowerPoint
It’s the easiest way to prepare and share your lesson. Add photographs, tables and matching activities, to make it as interesting as possible. Avoid long explanations, use more examples instead. Less is more.
7) Use Google Docs
There are quite a few things that I do with google docs.
stop the bus-online version
This is a very popular warmer/cooler. I’ve mentioned it here . I used to play it almost everyday when teaching face-to face. Why stop now?
Share this document with students before class. Make sure everyone with the link can edit, not just view. When it’s time, tell them to play the game by filling in the fields that correspond to their names. It will be edited simultaneously , so it’s a lot of fun! Download my copy here. Feel free to edit it, e.g. make it easier or more challenging, depending on the level you’re using it for.
Give learners questionnaires/ surveys that they can all complete at the same time. You can use questions that include your target language. It’s interesting and fun because they can read each other’s answers at the same time. Download my template here.
8) Grammar teaching/ reviewing ideas
I’m going to use this method next week. I’ll ask learners to read a text/ watch a video and do a comprehension task before class, so that we can focus on language during class. The reason is that most of our classes are now shorter than before.
Rules to reasons approach:
Once they’ve done the reading ( before or in class), you can take a screenshot of the text and highlight the target structures. Zoom in and show each example one at a time. Ask learners to think what the examples mean and why the author is using them in that context. It worked wonders face2face, why shouldn’t it work online? Read Norrington-Davies’ book for more lesson ideas.
Where possible, show pictures and ask learners to describe them. Then, feed in the target structure and have students redo the task by using the right structure. For more practice, show new pictures to elicit similar examples.
Reverse translation to review grammar:
First part: tell your students you’re going to dictate some sentences and they have to translate them directly into L1. Don’t show them the sentences. When they finish translating them, tell them to put this sheet aside and go on with the lesson.
Second part: A bit before the end of class, tell learners to find that sheet and translate the sentences back to English. Reveal displayed sentences on the “whiteboard”. Learners become teachers at the end of the activity, when they notice their own mistakes
|English||He must be crazy|
|Translate to Spanish||El debe estar loco|
|Translate back to English||He must to be crazy|
|Notice error||He must
Watch this great video to find out more about this technique.
9) Song worksheets
Create song worksheets with embedded audio clips that students can do in class or for homework. It’s a good back-up activity. If they do it in class, mute their mics, so they can hear the song without disturbing each other. Read this post to get ideas and worksheets.
10) Giving feedback on language.
When your students are speaking in pairs/groups and you want to record some language errors, you can mute your mic and type what you want to address in a word document. When the speaking activity is over, you can copy and paste the list on your “whiteboard” and go on with your feedback routine.
This is a slightly different version of a template I created for my Delta experimental lesson on Dogme. I borrowed the idea from Meddings and Thornbury. You can use it to organize your notes for the feedback slot. E.g, what you want to drill, what they said that you can upgrade, what was correct and you want to praise, etc.you can download my assignment PDA_experimental_practice_.
11) Teaching pronunciation
- Most online dictionaries have audio pronunciation. You can click on the audio icon if you want to model pronunciation.
- Quizlet also has an audio pronunciation feature.
- Record yourself and play the audio or embed it on a PowerPoint.
- Just model the word/phrase clearly and look at the camera.
- if you like using the phonemic script click here. Transcribe words or phrases and show them to your students.
12) Teaching Listening
Download the audio file and email it to your students a few minutes before class. If anything goes wrong during the live listening, tell your students to check their inbox and play the recording themselves. Mute their mics until the they’re done.
These are rough times. Make sure you connect with your students on a personal level first. Ask how they are dealing with all this, what they do to cope with this new reality.
Don’t make your classes too hard. Scaffold your lessons by using visual aids, allowing thinking time and pre-teaching vocabulary. When you give homework, tell them it’s optional (if possible) so as not to overwhelm your learners.
I’m struggling with my young learner classes, ages 6-8. I’m very active and energetic when teaching them face-to-face and include all kinds of games. Unfortunately, it’s so much harder to motivate them when they’re just sitting on a chair. Any ideas would be welcome.
Thanks for reading. Keep your spirits up and take care of yourselves!
Kerr, P., n.d. The Return Of Translation. [online] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ReVwucwF-s> [Accessed 22 March 2020].
Meddings, L. & Thornbury, S. Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language Teaching, Ernst Klett Sprachen GmbH
Norrington-Davies, D., n.d. Teaching Grammar. Pavilion ELT.