10 Crucial Teaching Skills Every Online Teacher Should Have
With the advent of online teaching making such a large part of the ESL market, we need to be aware of some teaching skills for that area.
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The first skill to consider which is absolutely important for ESL teachers, both native and non-native is that of pronunciation.
This is a problem for most students coming from non-native English-speaking countries. They suffer by not understanding the teacher’s speech, which can be most stressful. The first skill relates to the teacher developing neutral pronunciation. There are a lot of self-study training courses that help ESL teachers to practice pronunciation skills and these are strongly recommended.
Some native ESL teachers have really strong accents, for example some parts of the British Isles or from some parts of the USA. Students who are at the lower levels of English might not comprehend the content of strongly accented speech, so it is important that you practice neutral pronunciation. The same is obviously true for non native speaking English teachers, to ensure a neutral English accent that is not overtaken by their native language time and tone accent.
It is also crucial that students have pronunciation practice on a regular basis and they have to know how to use their speech apparatus. This means that teachers need to explain how the speech organs produce sounds. Also whenever possible include some pronunciation activities in your lessons.
The next skill to look at is grammar knowledge (sometimes referred to as Language Awareness) again for both native and non-native ESL speakers. It is important to have an understanding of grammatical rules and associated knowledge, so that you can explain these items to your ESL students.
It can be challenging to explain to students the rules of grammar, so you should make sure you practice before each lesson. This is applicable to native and non-native English teachers alike. Try to predict what questions your students might have and to prevent any misunderstanding you absolutely should practice yourself. Before giving any grammar based worksheets and exercises do them yourself and always do examples before asking the students to start the worksheet. Try to make the activities engaging to make your students feel like grammar is actually a part of their speaking skills, or their listening skills.
ESL teachers have to be flexible and we have to know as much as it is possible in terms of teaching approaches. We should as teachers look for the most updated methodology as possible. There are so many teaching communities and so many websites that provide information about applicable methodologies. You should be familiar with both popular modern and older methodologies as well because the more you know the more flexible and you can be. All this knowledge will help you plan your lessons faster and easier and you can also predict some possible challenges, or problems your students may have. It is a good idea once you have read and understood how a particular methodology is supposed to work that you try it out. Plan a lesson using that methodology and use it in a real ESL lesson, to see what work and what does not. In every methodology there are some ideas that work and some that don’t, so be flexible and adapt your lessons using as many techniques and ideas as possible.
During the last few years the style of teaching has changed, so when we talked about classroom management two or three years ago it was pretty clear that we were talking in terms of a traditional classroom setting. Now it is not just about teaching in a real classroom, you must also think about online teaching. Try to think how you can organize your online teaching if you work with your students via Skype or Zoom for example. In such a setting how will you work with a group in a manner so that everyone feels they belong to this community. How do you keep everyone engaged and not separated by the technology? The fact that they are not present in the same room may be challenging for you as a teacher and for them as students, so think about varying your classroom pace and think about some approaches that can help to manage your classroom environment.
Online Teaching Skills
The next skill relates to the previous one, acquiring online teaching skills.
Teaching online does have many things in common with teaching a physical class, but there are some major differences you should be aware of. As the opportunities for teaching online appear to be growing year on year, it is a useful skill to gain which you may be able to put to use in the future, even if you do not feel you want to teach online now. There are no adequate ways to describe the differences between teaching online and face to face, the only way to find these differences out is to try it. This can be daunting at first, particularly if you are not technically minded. However there are some amazingly ‘simple to use’ applications available now, which make the whole transition much easier. You should also be aware that there are a large number of one to one classes taught online. The whole dynamic of the lesson will change when there is only one student and you will need to prepare for such a scenario.
We will bundle three ideas into one skill here, which are, evaluation, testing and recycling which we can call the skill of monitoring.
When teaching online it can be challenging for us as teachers to evaluate tests. You will have to come up with some ideas about how to evaluate your students. In a physical classroom we usually have students do some tests or they write some paperwork and hand it to the teacher.
Then the teacher checks it, annotates it, typically with red color and gives it a grade A, B, or C mark. Often they don't explain anything, they just mark it and then the students don't understand where they went wrong. It would be better to come up with some other strategies as to how to provide feedback and how to evaluate students so that they don't consider it too personal and they don't get worried about their mistakes. They should feel like even if they make mistakes it is okay, even if they write something incorrectly, no one will judge them this is just a part of learning.
It is important to rethink in terms of evaluation and testing and this part of the job is pretty difficult for teachers, especially those who have become used to work in a real classroom and who have done it for years like that. The next thing is recycling, (using the same knowledge in different situations) we often forget that recycling matters especially at the higher levels of English and it is important to give students some time to review what they have done and what they have achieved. Repetition and recycling help memory and is a very useful skill to use in the ESL classroom.
Our next skill is how to develop student motivation. Once again the online teaching mode has changed everything and in this setting it can be difficult to motivate students in the same way as it as it was done in a real classroom. In a one- to- one setting you should try to come up with some other strategies to motivate your students, which could be more personal and may involve just talking to each other. If your students feel safe with you, especially online and they can share their doubts or emotions and their feelings it is helpful for their motivation. It is also normal to talk to your students not as a psychologist of course, you are not, so you can't give them psychological advice or even a personal advice, but listening to your students is motivating to them. So think about some strategies as to how you can change your approach to motivation and it can improve your practice as a teacher.
The next point related to online teaching skills is lesson design. In a real classroom we can use a board and we can use videos, but online there are things can that engage students much more, as there are some very impressive online teaching tools. You should learn about the tools that are present in the online teaching world. One example is a tool called ‘word wall’ which it helps to create fun ESL games in five minutes. Search in the community section of English teaching forums and take those games that other teachers created, so it is helpful for to you as a teacher because you save time and students feel motivated to play those games. It is especially applicable for children and teenagers as they know how to use the technology, so ESL teachers also have to know how to use the technology in your lessons.
Social Media Management
Our next one is social media management. This is one of the skills all teachers should acquire and all teachers should try to develop. For those who want to work for themselves rather than a company, it is important to develop you promotional skills in order to gain enough employment to keep things financially viable. Your personal brand and your connections with your existing students are very important. Social media management is not just about running your personal profile it is more about running your business. As a business owner everything you do online is for something to be sold or for something to be monetized, so social media management is crucial. If you haven't started your personal branding yet think about this idea, before starting your business rather than after.
The last point to mention which again relates to those working for themselves, is your business development. Whilst for many, this may sound really ambitious, it is actually crucial to think about and to plan your years ahead. As an online English teacher why not think about creating your own business if you think of teaching as a lifelong career because sometimes working for others is not the best way to make money.
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