I have decided to start a weekly livestream which is currently on Mondays at 1pm (UK time) to answer questions that others may have about teaching online, tips for teaching English or address any thoughts or opinions that you may have. Today marked the second week (hence Episode 2) and decided to do something that may resonate with other teachers.
The first week, I had some technical issues which meant I started at a later time – 30 minutes to be precise. I never realised that streaming via my MacBook would be so complicated. I was relying upon using my Sony ZV-1 as a webcam but YouTube Studio had issues recognising this, so I had to end up using OBS to stream. To eventually get everything working took 30 minutes to resolve.
This week, I started Episode 2 of Teacher Talking Time but noticed something quite odd after the livestream. I realised that the scheduled stream did not connect with OBS – I made a mistake and learned afterwards what I must do. However in Episode 2, I was able to share my screen and used this function quite regularly during the livestream. I will use this function in next week’s episode. It was great to answer questions from viewers and share a corresponding website to answer their queries. I also created a countdown timer on one screen but be sure not to watch the timer and skip the first 5 minutes of the video below.
Hopefully from Episode 3, I will be able to use the correct scheduled link for the livestream rather than creating a new link. It would also be wonderful to get another teacher to join the livestream in the future but I will have to see how best to stream a Zoom call or other tool. If there are any other English teachers who have experience of streaming and inviting a guest to virtually join this, then it would be great to hear your advice. Another area that I would like to develop is to share particular questions on the screen asked by those in the stream. I would need to improve my knowledge of OBS and create more scenes in the future.
As ever a huge thanks to all who have contributed past and current livestreams and if any readers have questions about streaming and using OBS, then please let me know.
One of the most challenging aspects of teaching online is maintaining learner engagement and interest. Within a physical classroom, teachers achieve this by incorporating a variety of games and activities throughout the lesson. However, this is much harder in a remote environment. In this post, I will be sharing three games that you could use with your online lessons immediately, which require little to no preparation, to boost student engagement and interest.
Game 1: Pictionary
One popular game with learners of any age is Pictionary. If you are unfamiliar with this activity, it involves sharing a word to a student that has been taught in a previous lesson or has just been taught. The student then has to draw a picture on the physical whiteboard – no words or numbers can be used – and other students have to guess the word that has been drawn. It encourages students to be creative and spontaneous. To add a bit of a competitive edge to the game, you could place students into two groups, add a time limit, and the first group to guess the correct word gains a point. The group with the most amount of points wins the game. But how can this be achieved in an online environment?
With remote classes, teachers could either allow students to use the online whiteboard (if using Zoom) or a shared whiteboard such as Web Whiteboard. Send an individual student a private message with the word that they must draw, start a countdown time (if you wish), and then get the student to share their screen with their whiteboard and other students must use the Chat function in Zoom to send their nominated word. The first student to write the correct word gains a point. An alternative to this is getting students to use a pen and paper to draw and share on their webcam.
Game 2: Odd One Out
This task requires a little more preparation prior to lessons but nothing too different to the classroom activity. You could either prepare a Word document as a worksheet with a range of words or use a PowerPoint with each slide sharing these words (about four to five on each row or slide). An alternative is to use images instead of words. Anyhow, students must work together in small groups to decide on the odd word or image out of all others. Once learners have completed the activity (perhaps with a time limit), then they must describe why certain words or images are the odd one out. Each acceptable description by a group is awarded a point and the group with the most amount of points are the winners.
This activity is a wonderful opportunity for learners to review verbs, lexical sets (fruit, jobs, etc.) or pronunciation patterns. It is best to have this activity at the end of the lesson – the last 20 minutes of an online lesson – while students start to switch off. It will maintain interest and motivation with the class particularly at the end of the lesson, and ensure that learners end their online lesson with a positive.
Game 3: Sentence Maker
The final game that online teachers could incorporate with their online lessons is a familiar for those teachers who wish to review a range of vocabulary from previous lessons. This activity requires just a little preparation from the teacher but if you have been teaching from a coursebook, preparation would be minimal. Choose a range of vocabulary (around fifteen to twenty words) to use and they must have a range of functions (i.e. nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.). Try to create a worksheet which could be shared with learners, so that they can write down their group sentences.
Tell students that they will be placed into groups of three or fours for five minutes and they must use the vocabulary to create a variety of grammatically correct sentences – possibly demonstrate to learners beforehand so that they know what is expected. Share the worksheet with all learners, place them into breakout rooms, and then wait for all to return. Students share their worksheet with the teacher via the Chat and the teachers provides a point for each sentence which is grammatically correct. You could give an extra point to the sentence which contains the grammar form that was taught during the past few lessons. For example, if you had taught the second conditional and a group created a suitable sentence with the grammar form, then a point could be awarded for the sentence and another for the grammar form included – a total of two points. The group with the most points are the winners.
Those are three possible games that you could incorporate with your future online lessons which require minimal preparation. What games have you used in your online lessons? Have you adapted a tried and tested physical game for the online environment? How did it go? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
The International English Language Testing System (also known as IELTS) examination is one of the most widely acknowledged tools of assessment which is recognised by universities, public organisations as well as organisations. With many international students preparing to undertake an IELTS examination as a pathway to universities in North America, Australia or the UK, it is natural for schools and teachers to offer preparation courses with a vast array of publications and material available for such courses.
Prosperity Education was kind enough to send me one such publication to review: their latest publication, IELTS Academic Reading Practice. IELTS Academic Reading Practice is co-authored by Peter Clements who is an academic skills specialist based in an international school in Thailand (also known for his acclaimed website ELT Planning), and Paul Murphy who is currently an IELTS Speaking Examiner, has been teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) in Glasgow and is currently teaching such courses at Mahidol University International College in Thailand. The first two chapters of the book naturally guide the reader towards the use of the book within a classroom environment, include preliminary information about the units, suggestions for speaking activities, as well as introduce readers to the IELTS examination, particularly the Academic Reading tasks.
Summary of the book
The book is organised into 14 chapters depending upon the task focus. Tasks types which are included within the publication include Matching Headings, Matching Information or Summary Completion to name just a few.
After the initial introductory chapters, the reader is introduced to the 14 task types (matching headings, sentence completion, etc.). Each of the 14 task introductions are accompanied with suggestions for completing the relevant task as well as potential pit falls. For example, the first task is Matching headings. The reader is introduced to this task (testing the candidate’s ability to understand main ideas), suggestions on the most suitable approach to complete the task (skim-reading, using prediction skills, guessing meaning) as well as recommendations on what not to do during the exam (not to look for an exact match of words or focusing to heavily on unknown language).
Once readers have been introduced to the various academic reading tasks included in the IELTS, the following chapters focus on individual task types with a focus on a range of topics. Each task type includes discussion questions – always a good opportunity to incorporate with possible lessons, a vocabulary matching activity, followed by a practice activity for the task, then a more exam-focused task.
Each of the task types include extra practice activities (page 110-137) with all answers being included at the end of the book (page 138-151). There is also a glossary of language used throughout the publication with necessary definitions and a reference to the page number. I could see myself using the glossary of terms to help prepare vocabulary review tasks with students.
Who is the book for?
The publication is geared towards either students who are preparing for the IELTS examination independently, or for schools and teachers who are delivering and teaching preparation courses. It would also be a suitable resource for teachers who are venturing into the teaching of IELTS preparation courses.
The great benefit of such a preparation book is the flexibility to incorporate with future IELTS courses – both online or face-to-face. Combined with Jane Turner’s Reading Practice with 28 sample papers, teachers will have a range of material that could be used with relevant preparatory exam courses. It would also be wonderful to see a future publication by Prosperity Education that prepares students for the Listening and Writing elements of the IELTS exam.
The book is an invaluable resource which helps guide and prepare students to complete the relevant Academic Reading activities depending on the type of task. It naturally organises the tasks into comprehensible chapters and will support students seeking to become confident candidates for reading in the exam or to help support teachers prepare IELTS reading classes. The authors have done a marvellous job organising the components of IELTS Academic Reading with the publication. If you are a teacher looking to update your current IELTS material, then this book would be a worth considering.
Finally, here are a few pages that give you an idea should you consider purchasing this book – you will not be disappointed.
If you are using a laptop, then chances are you have a built-in webcam included with it. However, the quality of the webcam is likely to be rather questionable and I would always recommend that you consider purchasing a dedicated webcam that connects to your laptop or desktop for use with your online lessons. Here are my suggestions:
Razer Kiyo: this is a budget webcam which combines the use of a ring light and offering a resolution of 1080p, being priced at £54.99
Sony ZV-1 and Canon G7 X MIII: for those that wish to combine video making and use the dedicated camera as a webcam, then the solution is to purchase the Sony ZV-1 or Canon G7 X MIII, each with a price tag of £694.61 and £649.00 respectively. Each camera could be used if you are keen on photography or taking those holiday snaps or videos too
Step 2: Using A Ring Light
If you purchase a webcam which does not include a ring light (much like the Razer Kiyo), then you will discover that during darker periods of the year will impact the quality of the webcam footage. Should you wish to improve the quality of your webcam footage, a ring light would be ideal. These are some suggested investments for your home office:
Gskaiwen 18″ Ring Light: this is an affordable ring light for those that wish to improve the lighting with their webcam and is priced at £44.99
UBeesize 10″ LED Ring Light: this is one alternative ring light that you could purchase which could be used in conjunction with your webcam and is priced at £95.67
Elgato Ring Light: this is the more expensive alternative of ring light that is available for those that wish to improve the overall quality with a dedicated webcam or camera, but it is currently priced at £176.48
If you don’t wish to invest in a ring light, then the alternative is to get a lamp or portable light and place it behind your computer monitor or webcam.
Step 3: Look at the Webcam
When you start teaching it is natural to look at the computer monitor when talking to others, but people will notice that your sight will be focused either below the embedded webcam or away from the external webcam. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you remind yourself to look at the camera as much as possible when speaking, as listeners will feel that you are talking to them. It is natural to look at yourself on screen when teaching remotely, but the more you train yourself to keep your eye level at the camera, the more you will improve engagement with students.
Step 4: Remote Gestures
If you are standing in the classroom, it makes sense to use a variety of gestures when providing instructions or responding to students. Thus, it is important to maintain these when teaching remotely. If the connection drops a little and you do not hear exactly what the student uttered, then respond naturally and ask them to repeat but using a variety of gestures to accompany such a request. If you cannot hear what someone is saying or they are on mute gesture to your ear and explain you are unable to hear them. Just because you are not in the classroom does not mean you do not have to drop such gestures.
Thank you for reading today’s brief blog post and I hope it was helpful. If you have any ideas about using the webcam effectively in your classroom, please do not hesitate to share in the comments.
Getting students to communicate and practise speaking in English remotely can be quite a challenge. Here is a quick idea for getting students speaking and using questions as prompts.
Step 1: Create the prompts
Go to the website Wheel of Names and type in some questions which could be used as prompts.
Step 2: Share the questions
Share the question prompts with your students using the shareable function on the website, and place students into breakout rooms on Zoom. Tell students that they have a ten minutes to discuss the questions and report back when they return to the main room.
Step 3: Review questions and scaffold
Nominate students to summarise their discussions and possibly select students to share the questions that they asked. It would be a good idea to review question formation and scaffold language where required.
I hope that this blog post was useful for your online classes and gives you some idea for future conversation prompts for your students. If you have ideas that you would like to suggest, please share in the comments.
For the past few months, I have been teaching via the platform ‘Preply‘ tutoring private students in my free-time. When I first registered, back in 2016, it took me 5 years to finally create a profile promoting myself as an English tutor. After my profile went live a few months ago, I thought it would be time to share an honest opinion of this platform.
In this post, I shall share both the advantages, the drawbacks and my overall conclusions about finding students and teaching via Preply.
It has been quite a lucrative time for many English teachers who sought to supplement their income by working with private online English educational providers based in China. I started working with a Chinese-based organisation back in 2015 and continued until last year. However, in the past few months, many Chinese-based English institutes have witnessed a huge crackdown on the English tutoring industry which has affected many.
Online English lessons must be limited to 30 minutes
Online lessons cannot be taken after 9:00 p.m. Beijing time
No online classes can be taken during weekends, holidays and school breaks
Off-campus tutoring (education not happening in the public school system) shall not include overseas education courses
There will be a ban on hiring foreign teachers who live overseas
Companies that offer private instruction will have to register as nonprofits and they will also no longer be able to advertise their programs
Looking at the following recommendations for institutes, it is hard for many organisations to succeed in the Chinese market now – it essentially stops private educational institutes . It has also been reported that Wall Street English in China has declared bankruptcy now with many staff and students being owed millions.
With China implementing many changes and online English institutes closing amid the clampdown, the days of earning a supplementary income tutoring children remotely is currently over. It is unclear where the market is heading for adult education as much of the changes affect young learners. Teachers have already started to feel the change with online institutes closing with immediately and freelance educators, who solely relied upon online tutoring with Chinese learners, suddenly finding themselves without an income. It is unclear how many online tutors have been affected, but it could be within the million, with tutors being conveniently based anywhere around the world with just an internet connection.
However, I like to remain optimistic. Parents and adult learners from China who wish to continue their English education will find a way to seek tutors either in-country or abroad. Having started with Preply four months ago, there have been a rising number of Chinese students seeking an English tutor on the platform. I have received many messages from Chinese English learners or parents trying to find a suitable tutor. For material writers who are involved in the Chinese market, I can see this evaporating due to the policy changes.
Finally, there will be a huge number of English teachers, both in China and abroad, seeking alternative employment. The market has now become quite saturated overnight and I would recommend teachers to specialise so that they are able to tutor particular students or prepare them for examinations, as there are still many students from Europe and elsewhere who are still looking for professional tutors.
A few months ago, I was welcomed with a contract change with iTutorGroup – with the ‘take it or leave us’ approach. Thus, I decided to no longer accept this new agreement but this left me with no alternative subsidiary freelance opportunities. However, very recently, I decided to seek a different path for freelance work via the route of Preply.
For those that are unaware of Preply, it is a platform which connects language learners with language teachers. They offer support and have an environment to help online teachers tutor potential students – whatever the language, not just English. Tutors are expected to prepare their own lessons to suit the profile and aims of the particular student, while also selling lesson packages for the student to purchase with the tutor (more information about this later on in this post).
It is very different to online educational institutes located in South East Asia, whereby these organisations offer packages of language education and tutors deliver in-house lessons. There are advantages and disadvantages to both Preply as well as those online educational institutes and i
I can’t believe it has already been a year that I was sent home and asked to teach remotely. At that time, all I had was my laptop and a pair of headphones which I plugged in. Fast forward one year, and I realise that I have actually added more to my home teaching office.
In this post, I will be sharing what other online teachers and educators can include if they wish to enhance their working environment. Below is a video where I detail more information.
I started studying Japanese a few months ago with some online classes but never really made any progress. I continued classes for a few weeks but my institute cancelled lessons and I thought I would continue studying languages at my own pace. On top of studying Japanese, I have reignited my fears of secondary education by deciding to study French too while also studying some Korean. It seems an awful lot of subjects to study but have decided to take out an hour or two in the evening but what do I want to achieve at the end of studying three languages?