Online teaching has been becoming more and more prominent in recent years, but for many of us, we’ve been suddenly thrown into it due to the Coronavirus outbreak. The conversation usually starts with which apps and platforms to use, but it’s important to remember these are only tools; how you use them is what makes or breaks the class. Once you’ve chosen your software, it’s all about keeping the students engaged and willing to work together online. Here are a few online teaching tips to get you started.
Ease students into working online
With a new online class, don’t throw them into a digital project straight away. We need to make sure that the students can use the software before doing any substantial learning tasks. But let’s be honest, most of us don’t read through instruction manuals, let alone remember anything from then. Instead, design some language tasks that have a duel aim of introducing the platforms as well.
- Using a message board to communicate? Use an ‘order the instructions’ reading task for how to post to it, and then ask them to post their answers on the message board.
- Using ‘break out rooms’? Ask the students to quickly go into break out room and answer a short ‘getting to know you’ or ‘catching-up’ questionnaire with their partner
- Using email to communicate? Start off with a quick introduction or sharing of what you’ve been doing since you last saw each other and make sure they’re remembering to reply all (or not!)
- Raise hand function in your webinar platform? Play a quick ‘Raise your hand if…’ warmer (“Raise your hand if you like coffee” “Raise your hand if you got up before 7 am”) at the start of the lesson
These tasks have clear language aims so the students are still motivated to complete them. The real objective though is getting students used to the systems. If you don’t make sure that they can use the systems early, it’ll become a distraction later and get in the way of their learning as you move onto more complex activities.
Build their confidence online
One of the great features of online teaching is that many people feel more confident to speak out. For many standing in front of a group of people and talking is their worst nightmare, but those same people might be quite happy to post on Twitter for the whole world to see.
But, especially in the early stages, it can be easy to damage this. Without face-to-face interactions, criticism can be harsh and encouraging smiles can be missing. Be liberal with your praise and clear with your suggestions.
- Use a mixture of public and private praise; a short “Well done with…” instant message can go a long way for boosting confidence.
- Avoid correcting in public during the beginning stages of a course (on the spot corrections can be sent as a private message).
- Encourage interaction on the message board by setting tasks that require students to comment on posts: find someone who used a word you don’t know and ask them what it means, or tell two people why you liked their post (and make sure you are as well!)
- Make sure you’ve introduced appropriate etiquette for your students to use online. Simple things like using an emoticon after peer correcting or giving suggestions can soften the tone.
Provide clear instructions
Giving clear instructions may sound obvious, but because it’s a lot harder to monitor your students during online lessons, clear instructions become even more critical during an online class. Take your time setting up activities to avoid the loss of motivation that comes from students feeling like they wasted time doing something wrong.
- Tell the students the objective of the activity. Keep it short and straightforward and aim for a sentence: “let’s circle five unknown words”; “Let’s brainstorm ideas for our poster.”
- Demonstrate the activity. If possible, show the students an example of the activity being done and ‘think out loud’ as you do it: “Here’s a word I don’t know, it’s before a noun so it’s an adjective…”
- Show and say the instructions step by step. Recap the instructions step by step, ideally as bullet points. Keep your language short and sweet.
- Check they understand before starting. Ask some questions to make sure they’re clear: “How long do you have?” “Where do you post your answers?” You can set questions to the whole group to quickly make sure they know what to do and help recap for those who might not (websites like kahoot.com can be great for this).
Please visit our Learn at Home page to find online teaching resources and activities to help teachers, parents and students get the most out of learning at home.
For more tips on getting started with Online Teaching see Part 1 of our Online Teaching series.
David Stevenson is originally from the UK but has been working in Education in China for the past ten years. He is the Senior Professional Development Manager at Oxford University Press, Mainland China and his particular areas of interest are developing student autonomy with young learners and helping teachers take research and apply it to their classrooms.
17 March 2020 at
useful tips but i am a teacher of a vocational school in Palermo, and i’M STARTING USING GOOGLEMEET , BUT IT S REALLY STRESSFUL AND TIRING BECAUSE OF DRAWBACKS OF DEVICES AND STUDENTS’ SHYNESS TO TAKE PART ACTIVELY
18 March 2020 at
Hi Locicero, you’re not alone in this! Many teachers find moving to an online platform stressful, particularly if it has recently become their primary method of teaching. Here’s one of our previous blogs “Bubbling Under: Helping ideas to surface in speaking classes Q&A” which may be of use, and here is part 1 and part 2 of our Online Teaching series, in case you missed them. We have some upcoming webinars that may help, you can find them all here – try “Synchronous teaching” parts 1 and 2 by Shaun Wilden. And lastly, our Learn at Home hub also has resources to support your wellbeing during this time -> https://elt.oup.com/feature/global/learnathome/ Hope this helps, ^Chesca
Pingback: Online Teaching Part 3: Tips to Engage and Motivate Students — Oxford University Press – MICHAEL OWUSU
20 March 2020 at
Thanks a lot for your all suggestions
23 March 2020 at
where is the learning activity?
25 March 2020 at
Boa tarde. Preciso de ajuda para os meus alunos de American English File. Poderiam me enviar um tutorial para passar para os alunos acessarem as atividades online?
26 March 2020 at
Hi there, your local office can help you to find the materials you are looking for! You can find contact details here -> https://elt.oup.com/contactus Hope this helps, ^Chesca
27 March 2020 at
Very useful tips, thanks for your support.
Pingback: Teaching Online- week two – The TEFL Zone
31 March 2020 at
Wonderful suggestions while using online. I knew about “giving instructions” offline, but it was great to know that it is crucial online too. Concerning building confidence is also important, that my students should borrow from other staff too. Thank a lot.
30 April 2020 at
I have yet to teach online but from everything I have read and experienced so far I think engaging students is one of the most important aspects. Online replacements for real-world get-togethers are tending to finish early; it is more challenging to interact and people can only cope with so much. I’m grateful to you and other authors who have been posting articles and instructions to help teachers tackling this new challenge.
1 May 2020 at
this was very useful, thank you!
10 June 2020 at
Great resources, i am kind of diving in the online teaching and Oxford University Press resources are tremendously helpful. I am going to share with my English language teacher collegues from remote regions who do really need support and help.Thank you!
10 June 2020 at
Hi Mukadas, thanks for your comment! Glad to hear that these are helpful. If you’d like more on this topic we’ve created a playlist full of advice for teachers who have newly moved to online platforms -> https://oxelt.gl/2w9J6cw Take a look and let us know what you think! ^Chesca
Pingback: Online Teaching Part 2: Practical Tips for English Language Lessons | OUP