2021 Online ESL Classroom: How To Plan Effective Online Lessons


Hello guys, please let me know in the comment section that you can see me clearly and you can hear this video so that I know that my equipment works smoothly. I'll be very thankful for that. To start with my name is Liza and I’m an ITTT TEFL expert and an online English teacher and today we will talk about one of the most important things in TEFL teaching, online lesson planning. Well we will talk about lesson planning in general, but as I’m more specialized in online teaching I'll try to share my personal experience in planning online classes.

Thanks for joining me, I hope that you are having a great time especially after your long winter holidays. Let me know where you are from. I’m located in beautiful Yekaterinburg, Russia, which is in the middle of the country. Today it is quite chilly here, it's almost 30 degrees below zero, just imagine that. But I stay in the comfort of my home office so it's quite good. So if you guys are ready and everything is set, let me ask you this question. Where are you in your teaching career, have you already been teaching for a while or are you just starting this job? Let me know please and I would also like to know about your TEFL experience, are you guys TEFL certified or just beginning to get into this sphere? Let me know and I’ll share some of your answers.

Just a quick reminder, please don't forget to like us and subscribe to our various social networks. At ITTT we always try to share useful stuff related to teaching and TEFL certification so make sure you follow us and keep in touch. Also, at the end of this session I will share a special offer which will help you to get a nice discount on any of our TEFL courses. Let me just quickly check the chat box. So there are some people from Thailand, nice to see you guys. There is a teacher from France who has been working in ESL for 29 years, wow that's awesome, thank you for joining us. It's a great pleasure to have you here. We also have someone with a CELTA certificate and someone who is just beginning their TEFL classes. What a great mix. If you're thinking about TEFL or TESOL certification I hope you will find a lot of useful things in this session.

Let's get going with the main topic of today's live session. I want to share my experience of planning lessons and to be more exact I'll show you the way I plan my online English classes because I have switched to this mode of teaching recently and I suppose it's really vital for many online teachers and just teachers in general. This session isn't going to have any standard presentations, but I'll show you my screen so that you see a tool I've been using for my online English classes. Let me start sharing it so you guys can see the board. If you joined me a couple of weeks ago you should already be acquainted with this online tool I've been using, it's called Miro. It's a really useful collaborative online board that I find really convenient for planning and organizing my classes and sharing stuff with my students.

One of the most important features of this board is that there are a lot of tools that help to connect different ideas and add visual aids to the presentations, so it's really cool. If you don't know it, check it out and if you prefer to use any other tools or platforms it's absolutely up to you. If you like other online boards or just stick to Zoom or something like that it's absolutely fine, but I just want to give you some ideas on how you can boost your online teaching. Right now you can see a part of my work with my 12 year old student. She is preparing for a B-1 preliminary English test and we work on her skills in different areas of English. I usually try to organize my lessons just based on some particular skills or tasks related to this exam and here is a little disclaimer as well. I prefer to stick to course books or any other related literature because I find it quite challenging to plan my lessons from scratch when I don't have any materials. Course books help to find clues and ideas on how to organize lessons and how to build the whole course for a particular student. What I do as a teacher is add some more visual aids and some helpful lead-ins and maybe video content that helps to expand the whole content of the course book.

As for this lesson, I have already mentioned we've been working on the B-1 preliminary English test and this lesson was devoted to the reading section. The main purpose of the lesson was to learn how to skim texts and how to fill in the gaps quickly. So I took some ideas from the course book and from the teachers book by Cambridge and created this first activity related to the topic of migration and English learning. I encouraged the student to think of some ideas how these people can be related, what do they have in common? And I also set a timer and asked her to type in her ideas into this chat box. Miro is really convenient for doing different types of activities like this. She shared some ideas, she brainstormed some ideas how these people are connected and then we expanded a little bit more and discussed the whole idea of being non-native and native speakers.

She couldn't come up with the idea of migration, she just thought about the fact that they have English and English learning in common and maybe living in different countries and being famous, so I gave her this clue and asked her to remember a word related to this definition. When she struggled to come up with an answer on the left and on the right there was just one word and I asked her to expand on this word and to think about the reasons people migrate. She also brainstormed and we wrote it down. She didn't know some words in English so I gave her this word in English and the translation in Russian. So as you can see from time to time I use different methodologies for lessons, although my preferable methodology is to follow the ESA: engage, study and activate method.

If you guys have taken a TEFL course you will know that ESA is one of the most convenient methodologies which helps to make lesson planning easier. This part of the lesson is related to the Engage stage and a little bit of the Study stage. So after we talked about this word we got back to the task from the textbook and it was skimming, but before we started I again used an idea from the teacher's book and I asked her to think of the questions and to think of some answers related to the questions here and to these pictures. Then I said that there is such a thing as skimming and this skill is vital for doing different English tests when you read quickly to save a lot of time. I pre-taught how to skim and then I asked my student to skim this text in 15 seconds. So I gave her a limited amount of time to practice this skill, she skimmed the text for answers and then we discussed the whole thing about this woman and moved further with the reading activity.

In this part we focused more on gap filling and how to do it correctly. I explained that sometimes we have just a gut feeling and it is okay to fill out the gaps during the reading and maybe when you have read the text a couple of times you have to make sure that all of the words make sense and so she tried to fill out the gaps. When she was ready with the task I just opened the options here and I asked her to self-check and then we discussed some gaps where she was doubtful. We tried to understand why this word is okay for this gap and that word is not. I also tried to use elicitation to help her think for herself and it was quite successful because the student found out the way to approach this task.

In terms of this class there was another activity I prepared in advance in case she was really fast with the previous activities, but we actually couldn't get to it. We talked a lot about skimming and gap filling and we quickly recalled all of the ways we approach this task and I assigned this activity as homework. The purpose of the activity was to refresh the knowledge of present simple and present continuous and I asked her to use a chat box again because it's a really fun way to structure ideas and to organize the homework. A really important task to fulfill at home was to do the same text with gap filling, but I have to say she didn't like skimming that much. I actually feel like this skill is not liked by many students, but they get used to it in terms of preparation and as a result start using it more often. So that was the whole idea of planning the lesson around one particular task, around one particular type of skill.

From my point of view organizing the lesson this way is really convenient and obvious in terms of following ideas. It was quite easy to start and go from one stage to another, so it helped me to make sure the lesson flowed smoothly and the student doesn't get bored or doesn't feel the whole lesson is too difficult. I think that is all about this particular lesson, but as for planning in general I should say there is no one particular way to plan lessons, especially when you start practicing it quite often. There are still people who ignore lesson planning completely, especially in online teaching, but I believe that’s a bad idea because it helps us to understand the goals, to understand the student’s needs and to be well organized as teachers. What do you guys think, is lesson planning important or is it overestimated? Let me know in the comments box.

I can see that there are a lot of things happening in the chat box, so I’m going to check it really quickly and if you guys have any questions related to lesson planning or to some other planning ideas let me know in the comments and I will try my best to answer. So there are many questions related to TEFL certification. Here is one question about the platform I have been using. It is called Miro, you can see it right here in this section. So it's not called Mirror, it's called Miro. It's really helpful and it's so convenient to organize your work. Let me show you the way it looks. So Miro is like an infinite whiteboard or something like that. You can zoom in and zoom out to make your visual clues bigger or smaller. This is the whole course with this student and this one is just one of the lessons, so it's really convenient. I recommend it.

Do you use the same method when teaching a group of students?

Thanks for this question. I don't normally work with groups of students, but I do run English speaking clubs and I use the same tool for this purpose. It's really convenient to work on this board in collaboration and I usually organize visual clues in the same way because it's really easy to follow and it's easy to give clues to students. I know a lot of English teachers who work with huge classes and they create a lot of cool lessons on Miro as well. And as for the methodology, I suppose ESA is the most convenient one because it helps to create particular lesson stages, so when you stick to one particular methodology you can choose ESA because it gives you a lot of flexibility. But there are still opportunities to mix different methodologies in your teaching. For example in this lesson, the whole lesson was structured according to the ESA method but I also used some grammar translation because my student couldn't quickly understand the word. I think it's quite normal when teachers mix a lot of methodologies and try to approach their students in a personalized way.

Okay, I can see that you guys are really into lesson planning and it's great to know that. There are people who are also interested in TEFL teaching, so if you guys have any further questions related to TEFL let me know. In response to this question about course books. I have primarily been using Cambridge course books. To be more exact, with this particular student we work on Cambridge Complete. It is called the complete key for the preliminary English test. It's a really cool course book, but there are also more materials on their website so you can basically use free materials from their resources and just organize your lessons in a different way. I prefer to buy books so I can plan lessons during my office hours and I don't like online versions of those books, but I still use them. And when I need to show it to my student I just take pictures of some activities and attach to this board.

If you are interested in the ESA method I encourage you to check our YouTube channel as there are a lot of useful videos related to teaching methodologies. And as for teaching groups, ESA is absolutely convenient for this matter, you just need to get acquainted with this methodology and try to implement it in your lessons. Generally speaking, it's a really nice methodology to use with groups and as for students ages, they can be young children or adults as the methodology is quite flexible and there is no particular age group.

Another question here. I've taught for two years in a face to face setting with inlingua. Now I wish to go online but I'm not sure where I can get a course plan and resources.

At ITTT we have a lot of materials on our social networks so you can start from there. We try to share useful tips about online teaching as well, so feel free to check out the resources we have. There are also a lot of online websites which give different ideas about organizing English classes online and frankly speaking it's more about starting out than planning when you find your first students. It will be much easier for you to plan your online English classes later because you will get to know your students, you will understand their needs and their interests and you will be able to create your online course just for them.

I’m a freelance teacher but I also tried to work for an online school and it was actually a great experience at the very beginning of my online teaching career because online English platforms provide you with all the materials you need. You don't need to plan any lessons from scratch, you don't need to plan anything at all as they provide you with everything. You just need to show up and deliver your class. If you're worried about finding students on your own because you are not sure about lesson planning you can start teaching for an online platform or an online school and after you get some experience and understanding you will be good to start freelancing.

I have already mentioned that my favorite resource is, but I also use some others. For example, when I teach my young students I use Maple Leaf Learning. I believe they have an online website but I usually just take some pictures and videos from their YouTube channel. If you work with online English students who are younger you can choose between such platforms as Maple Leaf, ESL Kids stuff and others. I can't think of any other resources because I usually work with teenagers and everything I need is on I think these are the three resources I've been using most because they are really well structured and they provide you with all the ideas you need. Especially Cambridge because they have this long-term deep understanding of English teaching and I suppose it's just gold for teachers all over the world.

Alright, we have a question about online platforms that let non-native English teachers teach.

I know for sure about Preply and in a couple of days there will be a blog post on our TEFL course website. It will be an interview with a teacher who is not a native English speaker but she works on the Preply platform, you can check it out. As far as I know it's really easy to set up your profile there and there is no particular competition between native teachers and non-native teachers because students can choose according to their needs and preferences. For example, if a student wants a teacher who can speak Hindi and who can speak English they can input this into the filter and find teachers that possess such skills. I also know italki, but with this platform it's a bit more difficult to set up because they don't have openings for English teaching right now, although they have openings for other languages. If you guys are professionals in teaching other languages like for example Hindi or maybe French or whatever, you can check for openings on italkI.

Next question. Can I get an English teaching job abroad as I’m over 60 years old?

It's a great question, thanks for that. I believe it depends on the country that you want to teach in. There are some countries that restrict teaching jobs to under a particular age, so you need to make sure you look for the guidelines and requirements on the country's embassy website. But there are still chances to find a job online as well. If you are a professional English teacher and you want to work with ESL students, feel free to start an online job at whatever age you are, it's absolutely normal.

Thank you guys for your feedback, I’m glad that you joined me today. I hope the session is informative and you can find ideas that will help you in your future job or that will help you right now. If you have any further questions let me know, but right now I would like to share a special offer with you. So we are giving a 30% discount on all ITTT TEFL courses today and if you are interested in taking a TEFL certification feel free to copy this link and make sure you apply using this link because it will help you get this 30% discount.

Okay, there is another question. I've been working with young learners up to B-2 level and I’m interested in getting more experience in teaching more advanced levels. Any advice?

It's a great question. I have been teaching at the same level as you and I think that when you want to up the level of your students it should start from you first. For example, you could consider preparing for exams. If you have students at B-2 level you can offer to guide them towards an English test at C-1 level or maybe IELTS or something, so that they would be encouraged to learn English further with you. It will also help you to move from this intermediate group to the advanced group. I believe exam preparation is in great demand, especially this year. I think it's a great idea to change the group you want to teach, you can try this and I also think that your further education is also important. For example, if you have a C-1 certificate you have proved that you are at this level and if you want to teach C-1 students they might consider it unreasonable because you are at the same level. So maybe you should continue your English learning as well and get a C-2 level certification.

Thanks guys for joining me today. I hope this lesson plan session was interesting and you found it applicable to your online teaching. If you get any other ideas related to English teaching feel free to share them with us on social media. We will try to use your ideas for further live streams in the future. Don't forget to use the coupon link as it will help you to get a 30% discount which is really valuable.

One more question. Is TEFL necessary for teaching abroad as I already have a teaching certificate and a degree?

TEFL certification is proof that you are eligible to teach. In some countries it's a general requirement to possess a TEFL certificate, but there are some countries which don't check your certification and they are okay with just your bachelor's degree. It is important to check the requirements of the country you want to teach in. For example, I used to work in China and there it was a must to possess a TEFL or TESOL certificate so I took a course with ITTT and the certificate helped me to find a job. But there are still some countries that have different regulations and different rules so just make sure you check before you apply for jobs.

Thanks for your questions. I hope to see you next time. It was a really productive session, so thank you for all of your questions. Have a great week, see you next time.

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