Teaching ESL Virtually: Tips – eLearning Industry

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Tips For Teaching ESL Students Reading And Writing

If you have ever experienced teaching a subject virtually, you’ll be aware of both the unique challenges and benefits that this strategy presents. Though not without its difficulties, teaching via online or remote platforms can provide strategic benefits. It can be highly effective when well facilitated. The trick is learning the best ways to approach virtual teaching to make sure it delivers maximum benefits to your students. Teaching ESL students in virtual environments can create specific challenges that need to be thoughtfully addressed to make sure your students are able to absorb the material. However, with just a bit of effort and creativity, you can craft a highly effective online ESL program. Here are a few tips to help you strengthen the effectiveness of your virtual ESL offering.

Creating The ESL Curriculum: Don’t Reinvent The Wheel

If you don’t know where to start, or if you are looking for fresh inspiration to spice up your current lesson plans or ESL curriculum, you don’t have to go far to find resources that can aid you in your process. Countless websites, blogs, textbooks, and other sources of information exist at your fingertips to provide you with huge amounts of ideas and inspiration.

If you’re stuck, start with a Google search. Try narrowing your terms by including details such as the class size, age, nationality or ethnicity if applicable, or the platform through which you are delivering your classes to get more focused results. Looking at guidance or examples created for your platform of choice can often be a good place to get ideas. Though the things you find might not be subject-specific, they may provide helpful inspiration. They can also reveal tools or features in the platform that you didn’t know about previously, that could allow you to change up your delivery or utilize new teaching aids.

It is also helpful to network and ask other ESL teachers for ideas/inspiration. Though personal contacts can be a great place to start for this, you don’t have to know any virtual ESL teachers, or even a single teacher at all, to connect with other ESL teachers and learn from their experiences. A LinkedIn search can help you connect with other professionals in the space via a simple message. You’d be surprised at how many people would happily help you when you ask nicely. Simply asking for a 20–30 minute video chat or phone conversation to pose questions about strategies that worked well for them can often yield goldmines of helpful information (and sometimes, longstanding contacts or friendships as well!).

Overcome Difficulties Of Virtual Environments

Virtual classrooms can pose difficulties for ESL teachers. Remote teaching can feel distanced from your pupils. If you are teaching a class or a group of students, it can be a struggle to get all your students to stay on-camera or to participate in your lesson plan. If you are teaching one-on-one, it can be difficult to hold students’ attention or keep them engaged (especially at younger ages) for the entirety of the lesson. Technological barriers on either side can also make classes difficult or sometimes even impossible. Being aware of these challenges makes it possible for you to strategize how to avoid or mitigate these risks for your virtual ESL classes:

  • Make liberal use of the chat feature to keep quiet or antsy students engaged during class.
  • Incorporate games or fun activities during your lessons to interest your students and break up the learning in ways that can also solidify current concepts.
  • Invest in good technology so that you can avoid, as much as possible, the frustration of delays, internet outages, and equipment failures. It doesn’t cost much to make sure you have a good webcam, mic, and speakers. These can be considered investments in both your teaching experience and your students’ learning. And if you have the option, do a bit of research on the best online learning platform to use beforehand, to find out which would suit you and your students best.

Capitalize On Their Advantages

A huge part of excelling in online ESL teaching is recognizing how online teaching environments can also create unique benefits for you and your students. Facilitating your ESL classes online can allow for a few advantages that, when utilized well, can greatly enhance the experience:

1. Make Use Of The Features Built Into Your Learning Platform

Did you know that whiteboards, flash cards, games, video players, embedding options, and sound effects are often available at your fingertips in many online Learning Management Systems? Many teachers don’t utilize the full range of features available to them because they aren’t aware they are available in the first place. However, these tools can prove highly beneficial and can add much-needed excitement and variety to your virtual learning environment. Spend an hour or a lazy Saturday afternoon poking around your online learning platform to see what tools are available to you.

2. Use Games Or Activities

Using games/activities can be productive for your students who are learning from their homes. Though not always the case, oftentimes, online learning students have the flexibility to move around, be relatively active, or traverse a room or entire house in ways they obviously wouldn’t be able to do when in a classroom. Can you have your students stand in their room and do jumping jacks or play active games to reinforce concepts? Can you play scavenger hunts or have them use items in their vicinity to make lessons more tangible or relevant? Your creativity is the only limit here.

Don’t Forget Inspiration: Include Something To Aim For

Finally, no matter what format or subject, teaching needs to include inspiring your pupils to get excited about what they could achieve in the future. Perhaps they are interested in pursuing communication-heavy jobs like interpretation, speech writing, or teaching. Or perhaps you can inspire them to dream about the ways English will help them achieve whatever dreams and goals they have for themselves.

Whatever your students’ dreams, including an emphasis on being excited about their futures will inspire your students to remain engaged, focused, and optimistic. Helping your students believe in the possibilities their futures can create for them is a huge part of teaching in any capacity. This is an important part of teaching ESL and should be included in any curriculum you deliver.

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