6 practical online teaching tips to kickstart the new school year

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Young students attending an group online class using a laptop.

Starting the new school year teaching online? Explore the English Portal and find all the teaching resources you need.  

New school years are about energy, focus and motivation. Getting off to a good start is a top priority for teachers (and students) everywhere.  

Here are 6 top tips from our education experts to support online teachers in the new term.  

1. Choose the right teaching platform 

If you’re new to online teaching, you might be wondering how the technology works. There are a number of online platforms to choose from – and with new apps being released all the time, it can be a little overwhelming.  

Selecting the right technology for your online classes makes the teaching much easier. When choosing a platform for class delivery, we recommend looking out for the following features:  

  • A learning management system 
  • The capability for all participants to use video and audio to see and hear each other. 
  • A “hands up” feature so students can get the teacher’s attention. 
  • The ability to mute a student or allow just one student to be heard. 
  • A chat box for writing instructions, asking questions and general communication. 
  • An interactive whiteboard that allows you to show examples, write vocabulary and communicate ideas. 
  • The ability to share your screen so students can see what’s on your computer (e.g. slides, an interactive game, an exercise or task). 
  • Breakout rooms which allow for pair and group work. 

Popular class delivery platforms  

Zoom – features breakout rooms, interactive whiteboards, muting, chat and more.   

Adobe Connect – features breakout rooms, drawing facilities, permanent walk-in rooms, polling, and more.   

WizIQ – is a virtual classroom that includes a complete learning management system, eLearning analytics, test and assessment delivery, and more.  

Google Hangouts – is a simple class delivery system that includes optional subtitles for speakers, background blurring, screen share, chat and more.   

Microsoft Teams – is a conferencing platform that features an immersive reader, a whiteboard, breakout rooms,assignment delivery and tracking, and more. 

Webroom – is a no-download virtual classroom for up to 12 participants, featuring a media player and optional learning management system. 

2. Make sure communication is clear  

Successful online classes require effective communication. While it is more challenging to communicate in an online environment, we have a number of practical tips for you to try.  

Firstly, make sure that your microphone is working correctly and that you speak slowly and clearly. If necessary, try to dictate words slightly more than you would in the classroom so learners can see as well as hear you speak.  

Secondly, make sure to use the features you have on offer with your online teaching platform. For instance, you can communicate instructions both verbally and in writing using the chat box or interactive whiteboard.  

Moreover, when teaching a group of learners, you can ask students to write questions in the chat box if they do not understand something. Likewise, they can use the “hands up” feature to communicate that they want to ask something.  

This way, you’re ensuring that both sides are effectively communicating and following the class.  

3. Focus on engaging students   

One of the most crucial aspects of online teaching is making sure that students are engaged. Learners may have more difficulties concentrating, participating and interacting in an online environment. This can be caused by video fatigue or lack of social interaction. 

There are a number of tools  to help overcome this. You can use them to engage and inspire your students in class. Some of these include:   

  • Kahoot – a free student-response platform which uses gamification techniques to encourage participation. 
  • Sli.do – a Q&A and polling platform that crowdsources top questions and engages students with live polls and quizzes.  
  • Padlet – an interactive noticeboard where learners can add photos, text, documents, links and audio recordings. 
  • Flipgrid – a place to create a video community. Record a video posing a question or setting a task, and learners respond with their video. They can then communicate with each other in the same way. 
  • Actively Learn – add questions or notes to an article on a website, share the link with students, and they read it and respond. You can see their answers. 
  • Quizlet – a tool which allows both you and your students to create flashcards to help them learn new vocabulary.  
  • Storybird –  develop your learners’ writing skills by creating short stories with them.  

These platforms help students to learn English in a fun and interactive way and help you when planning and preparing your classes.  

4. Try a flipped classroom approach 

A flipped classroom approach to teaching involves reversing the traditional roles of the classroom and activity setting. 

In a traditional setting, you present a task to students and they work on it during the lesson. Many of the practice activities (e.g. grammar, gap fills, reading and vocabulary building) take place in class. 

In a flipped classroom, you set activities through videos, documents or other materials for students to read through and compete at home. They then bring their work to class to discuss with the teacher or the rest of the group.  

Productive activities (e.g. discussions, roleplays, presentations, debates, etc.) take place during the class.  

This approach works well in an online environment as it frees up more time for you to spend helping students with corrections or questions they may have, as well as further practice around the topic. This may be just what you need to help your learner reach their goals this academic year.  

If you’d like to try a flipped classroom in your next lesson, here are some activities that work really well: 

  • Project work  
  • Written assignments  
  • Language quizzes  
  • Reading comprehensions  
  • Listening comprehensions  

If you’d like to learn more about flipped learning, check out this Pearson English podcast episode with teacher trainer Ollie Wood. 

5. Use a range of diverse content   

You can engage online learners using a range of diverse content in your lessons. 

Just as you might choose to do in the face-to-face classroom, you can use various visuals such as cartoons, storybooks, photos, and other realia. Although students cannot directly interact with these objects, they will help to explain vocabulary and give a context to the topic you’re covering.  

Similarly, for young learners, realia including puppets and toys can be a great way to hold their attention and keep them engaged with the material.  

Finally, you may want to consider other ways of delivering content such as short audio clips and videos.  

YouTube has a range of channels for English lessons, such as BBC learning English or Learn English With TV Series 

Furthermore, singing songs with young learners can be effective. A number of channels such as English Singsing or Super Simple Songs cater their content to younger children.  

6. Provide meaningful feedback  

Alongside information about their grades, try to personalize feedback with specific information about their overall performance and learning. This type of feedback helps to build confidence and trust and may help to encourage them on their learning journeys. 

Peer feedback also helps students learn in many ways. When teaching a group, you can ask them to comment on each other’s work. More than just valuable interactions with online classmates, peer feedback encourages students to develop valuable communication and critical-thinking skills. 

You can use technology like VoiceThread for this purpose. It helps students talk to each other in real-time and asynchronously online.   

Moving forward 

The switch to online teaching may have caught us off guard at first, but there are endless resources available to smooth the transition and support teachers in creating successful lessons in the digital world. 

For more online teaching resources visit the Pearson English Portal or listen to our Pearson English podcast episode on online teaching with Lindsay Warwick.

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