6 Top Tips for Engaging Online English Students ✅
In the current climate, more and more EFL teachers find themselves teaching English in an online environment rather than in a traditional classroom and it can sometimes be a difficult transition. It is also important to remember that online learning is often a new concept for many students and they too might find it difficult to adjust in the beginning. Online English students can easily become distracted by a range of outside forces, or simply become tired after spending long periods in front of their computer screen. This can be a natural occurrence when working online and is not necessarily a reflection on your teaching or the content of the lesson. However, in order to avoid these issues as much as possible, there are several things you can do to engage your student’s attention and to ensure a successful outcome to your online lessons.
1. Keep online English students involved
One of the most important things an online teacher can do to avoid their students drifting off during the lesson is to ensure they are actively involved in the learning process. Regularly asking questions throughout the lesson is one simple way of keeping your students focused. Using interactive activities is also a great way to keep students engaged and interested in the subject matter you are teaching. Teaching groups of students can be particularly challenging online, although there are ways to increase individual participation. Breakout rooms are an especially useful tool in this environment as they allow students to have discussions in pairs or small groups, in isolation from the rest of the class. When using breakout rooms it is a good idea to switch up the groupings regularly to give everyone the best chance of getting involved in discussions.
2. Ask students what THEY want
As well as keeping your students involved throughout the actual lesson, you should also try to include your students in the lesson planning process as this can be a very effective way to get them on board. Rather than dictating the agenda for every lesson, ask the students what subjects they are interested in covering. If you plan lessons on the topics your students are interested in or specific areas that they want to work on, you have a much better chance of keeping everyone happy and engaged. This also applies to any homework assignments you plan to set. It can be hard enough getting online students to study to their best ability in your presence, let alone expecting them to complete boring extra work in their own time.
3. Variety is key
If your online lessons revolve around you delivering a lecture or simply having a chat with your students, you could be in for a rough ride. To keep the students’ interest (and your own sanity for that matter) it is vital that you mix things up in every lesson. Central to this is often sharing your screen with the group so they can watch videos, presentations, have a sing along, or even play games connected to the lesson point. Another useful idea for when things become too vocal and your ears need a rest is to switch to chat mode. As well as calming things down a bit, it can be a very effective way for the students to practice their writing skills which can sometimes be overlooked in an online environment. Although some of these methods involve a bit of forward planning and some additional work, the results you achieve should be more than worth the extra effort.
Also Read: How to Use Videos in Online ESL Lessons
4. Know your students
Whatever environment you are teaching in, it is vital that you get to know your students in order to keep your lessons current and meaningful to them. If you are teaching young learners, you need to know the things they are into and you should be willing to involve yourself in those areas. If all they can talk about is a particular TikTok video, embrace that and make it a part of the lesson. Similarly, if all your online English students are from a specific country or culture, it will certainly help to have some insight into important goings on in that part of the world. By keeping up to date with the interests of your students you will always have plenty to talk about and plenty of extra material to work with. When teaching English online you do not need to be the best of friends with your students, but having a good rapport goes a long way to making the learning process smoother for both the students and the teacher.
5. Maintain motivation
Whatever the age range or cultural background of your students, motivation is a key element to successful learning in any classroom environment. The simplest form of motivation, particularly for younger students, is to give rewards for achieving a good standard or reaching specific goals. In traditional classrooms this can take the form of stickers, badges, or even sweets. When teaching online, you might need to be a little more creative, but it is still possible to incorporate a reward system if your students respond well to it. Another method for increasing motivation, particularly with adult learners, is to ensure they are always aware of why they are actually learning English in the first place and to relate their progress to real-life applications. Most adult learners have chosen to learn English for their own reasons and to be shown they have moved forward and are capable of communicating in English speaking environments can be all the motivation they need to keep going.
6. Don’t expect too much
As any online teacher will tell you, sitting in front of a computer screen all day can be a draining experience. This equally applies to your students, so you should not judge them too harshly if they are not on top of their game during every lesson. To avoid online burn out it is a good idea to set your students some work that can be done away from the screen. This could be in the form of homework that involves reading books or magazines, or simply talking to other people. It can also help to mix things up during the actual lesson by introducing different methods such as peer to peer teaching, for example. This could involve setting each student a grammar point to learn about for homework and then have them teach it to the rest of the group during the following lesson using any form of activity or games they wish. Always remember that your online English students might be learning other subjects online, so if they turn up to your lesson tired or less than enthusiastic it is up to you to use your own energy and enthusiasm to make the lesson work.
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