Michael Brand, experienced teacher, and leading teacher trainer for the Pearson and BBC Live Classes project, shares some ideas and best-practices on how to deliver an engaging online English lesson to teenagers. In his highly popular webinar, he looks into the tools and platforms that can be used for online teaching and suggests numerous tips to make the lessons interactive, motivating and effective.
Here’s a summary of his top tips and a chance to watch the recording for even more ideas!
1. Choose a platform
There are a number of free platforms you can use to deliver an English class online. Michael mentions:
- Google Hangouts: Google’s free online video conferencing software. It’s not built for classes, but it has an automatic subtitle feature, screen sharing, a chatbox where you can share links and can host multiple attendees.
- Skype: This desktop application is well known, but is not always reliable. It may be suitable for small groups and one-to-one sessions.
- Webroom: This is an “instant & free virtual room” that allows you to video conference with up to 12 people with full HD video / audio. It doesn’t require registration and offers a number of features to deliver classes including screen sharing, an interactive whiteboard, file sharing, workspaces and more.
- 8×8: is a free HD audio and video conferencing platform that offers no meeting time limits, collaboration tools and a toll free dial in.
- Zoom: In the webinar, Michael focuses on Zoom, which has become extremely popular recently because it can host up to 100 people for free and has a number of useful classroom features, such as a whiteboard, breakout rooms and screen sharing. One disadvantage of the free version is that each session is capped at 40 minutes. However, he explains that you can always restart the lesson if you need to do a longer class.
2. Student technology
Michael explains that your students will need a computer, with a camera and microphone to get the most out of your classes. However, some may not have a computer at home. If that’s the case, they should be able to connect with a smartphone, although they might not get the most out of your classes.
3. Put on a show
Michael emphasizes how important it is to act a little when delivering a class. He suggests using bigger gestures, facial expressions and movement. Your aim should be to bring lots of positive energy to the class, offer praise and encouragement where you can. This keeps your students interested in you and what’s going on. Of course, all these things are relevant to teaching in a physical classroom context. But they become more important online because your students are further away from you and it will be harder for them to stay focused.
Michael also notes you’ll need more patience, especially where technology is concerned. You students will take a while to get used to how everything works – so be prepared to explain things more than once.
4. Screen sharing
Share your screen when you have a presentation or want to demonstrate something on an interactive whiteboard. But when you don’t have something to show them, display the participants’ video so you can see them and they can see each other. It will feel more like a class that way!
5. Muting and online classroom management
An online class won’t work if your students are talking over you or there’s lots of background noise. Ask them to mute their microphones when they are not using them for a task. If students are likely to unmute without your permission, you can take away the right for participants to unmute within the platform.
6. Use chatboxes
Michael explains how chatboxes can be used to brainstorm in groups. You can also have students individually type answers. This offers an advantage over a traditional class in that you can quickly see each student’s understanding because everyone can answer the same question at the same time!
Online it’s a lot harder to see whether students understand you. So make sure you ask them to repeat back what they have to do or type their understanding in the chatbox. This will help concept check students’ understanding of your instructions.
From a practical perspective, you can also paste links, send messages or files to the whole group or individuals – and everyone can speak at once!
7. Explore breakout rooms on Zoom
Breakout rooms – that is, virtual rooms where small groups of students can work together – are a useful feature of Zoom. They are ideal for a number of tasks that you would perform in a physical classroom. For example; pair work, roleplays, reporting answers to a group, group discussions and other activities.
Michael also explores a number of alternatives to break out rooms, which you can discover in the webinar.
8. Keep track of participation
Unlike a regular class, it can be harder to recognize who is interacting the most. Michael suggests keeping a list of who is participating and how many times they communicate with you and others in the class. This will help ensure you call on everyone equally and gets everyone involved.
Watch the webinar for more top advice
Michael covers a number of other helpful tips, including how to:
- Use a digital coursebook with your students
- Structure different types of tasks, such as activities around watching a video
- Get around the difficulty of sharing audio with your students and the tools you can use to do this
- Submit and correcting work digitally
- Do collaborative writing activities
- Teach with a flipped classroom
- And lots more!
Watch a recording of Michael’s webinar now