So, how can you be a really good online English teacher? What is the secret sauce?
I’ve been an online English teacher for four years now and I know that teaching English online can be a tough skill to master. There are so many things to juggle in the online classroom, and when you are live, you are LIVE!
To prepare yourself for teaching English classes, you don’t have to plan precisely what you say in each slide. That would be silly!
However, there are some best practices that will aid your teaching skills and help you stand above the rest.
Note: these strategies are recommended by the big and popular online ESL companies, so if you can get these right, you’ve got the job!
How to Be a Good Online English Teacher
Follow these steps to teach more effectively and impress your students.
These tips are particularly suitable for young learners or beginner students, but can also be incorporated at more advanced levels.
Model what you mean. Explaining is not always enough, and you may have to get creative to show, not tell.
For example, you can show your students how to complete a matching exercise by taking out your whiteboard and showing them what to do by doing one example.
Say the word and do the action. You say “circle the number 2” and show them the act of you circling the number. Then you can say “circle the word” and show yourself doing that action too. Then tell students to draw a line to match the numbers. Draw the line to match the numbers on your whiteboard, then ask the students to try it too.
Do it with the student until they get the hang of it. Then the students should eventually be able to do it by themselves.
You can also get the stronger students to model so that the weaker students can follow along and learn from them.
The more you model, the faster the students learn. It also keeps them engaged.
Another teaching tip is to bring your own rewards. Some online teaching platforms have their own built-in reward systems, but you can use your own rewards too.
By bringing your own rewards, you introduce some variety as the built-in rewards system can get repetitive, especially if you teach the same students all the time. It can be an excellent way to keep the class interesting.
For young children, you can use rewards such as colors or animals.
For older students, provide a more interactive reward system, like an activity, or group reward.
For example, every time the students get a star, they could have to guess a letter in a hangman-type activity, or maybe if they get enough stars before the end of the lesson, they get to play their favorite game or share something with the class.
They could sing, play a musical instrument, a trick, or share something personal.
This activity should be short and sweet. Rewards are an effective part of the online classroom because it gives the students something to work towards.
TPR (also known as Total Physical Response) needs to be used a lot in the classroom, especially the online classroom. This is showing through body actions and facial gestures, what we actually mean.
There are two types of TPR; educational and instructional.
Instructional TPR helps students understand what to do, such as draw, point, circle.
Educational TPR is everything else, for example, showing what a bunny is by making bunny ears.
Check out our post about TPR for further information on the subject.
4. Talk at an Appropriate Speed
Vary your pace of speaking, depending on the students’ level.
A common complaint that students have is dealing with teachers who talk too slow or talk too fast. Find their level, what they are confident with, and adjust your speaking speed accordingly.
If the student is a beginner, then, of course, you’re going to have to speak slowly. If the student is upper-intermediate or advanced, you can talk at your normal pace.
If you talk slowly when there is no need, students might be irritated or offended.
Another point I want to make here is to embrace awkward silences.
Make sure you wait extra long for students to answer because they are trying to figure out what you said and what they will say. Also, don’t forget the internet time delay.
5. Use Language That Your Students Can Understand
To avoid that look of confusion, we need to use language that students can understand.
If you want to be a good online English teacher, you will have to master the art of adjusting to the student’s English level.
When we make sentences, we want the sentences to be grammatically correct but not too hard to understand. We still want students to know what we are saying.
Help students make full sentences with the correct structure. Use simple language with short explanations.
6. Prepare Extra Activities for Your Stronger Students
We must challenge all the students in the class, including the more advanced students. We don’t want the more advanced students to get bored, and we don’t want the weaker students to feel overwhelmed.
You could get stronger students to model for other students and be your teaching assistant.
Don’t let the weaker students feel inferior, however. You need to adapt the class for both strong and weaker students without letting them feel divided.
Encourage them just the same, but ask the stronger students more challenging questions and tasks.
7. Repeat a lot
Make sure you repeat the word you are trying to get the student to learn.
You can say the word a few times and encourage them to repeat until they can say the word.
Say with me “ banana.”
“What color is the banana?”
(encourage them to repeat)
Make sure you get them to repeat keywords three times and even ask them a question that includes the new word they’ve learned. This helps them retain the new term.
8. Stick to the Teaching Objectives
Know what you are teaching and stick to the teaching objectives.
Preview the slides before you begin teaching. Know what to expect when you are teaching, such as the student level and course material.
For example, maybe you have to teach phonics, make sure the students know the sounds by the end of the lesson.
Try to cover the teaching objectives in the allotted time. This may mean skipping a slide, depending on how the students are performing.
9. Ask Them Questions
For successful online English teaching, ask students questions to make sure they understand the material.
You can ask them comprehension questions based on the text or work you’ve completed.
When you are thinking of questions, you can use the 5W1H model.
For example, who can you see in the picture?
For example, where are the children?
For example, what are they doing?
For example, when is the football game?
For example, why is she sad?
For example, how many giraffes can you see?
10. Correct Their Mistakes Without Being Discouraging
If they have a missing article, such as ‘the’ or ‘a,’ correct it.
If they pronounce a word wrong, correct their pronunciation.
If something doesn’t sound natural, correct the sentence.
However, still, give them props for trying.
Let’s say the student says, “ I want dog.” You can say something like “very good! I want ‘a’ dog. I want A dog.”
So while you are still praising them for saying the sentence, you always offer the corrections they need to make their English even better.
To be a good online English teacher, teachers must recognize the importance of being present in the lessons and deploying strategies like TPR and modeling while still having an enjoyable lesson.
Teaching online can be demanding, but with these tips, you are sure to not only pass your ESL interviews with flying colors but give your students everything they need to understand and enjoy the material.
Do you have any other teacher tips that enable you to be a good online teacher? Let me know your best teaching practices in the comments section below!
For more tips, please check this resource for Effective Online Teaching.