Experiences for English Language Teaching

Category: Teacher Tips (Page 1 of 13)

Three Games for your Online Lessons

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.

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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.

Online Teaching Tip: Conversation Questions

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.

You could use some prompts to get students speaking

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.

Sharing the question prompts is pretty simple

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.

Elicit possible full question forms from students and scaffold language where necessary

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.

An Honest Review of Teaching via Preply

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.

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Online English Teaching in China is Over

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.

What are the changes?

The Chinese Government has implemented many changes and essentially this includes the following:

  • 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.

It is unclear where this places those institutes that have partnered up with Chinese institutes, but some Chinese universities have started to cancel their links and joint projects with foreign universities. This is worrying time and begs the question why.

Why is this happening?

If you look at the recommended changes occurring in China, it is not just education which is being affected. There are many policy changes that has been implemented such as children in China (under the age of 18) having a total of 3 hours to play computer games online between Friday to Sunday each week, children being forced to study the thoughts and political ideology of Xi Jinping (the country’s leader), celebrity culture (both foreign or Chinese-based) being banned or Beijing banning western coursebooks from the curriculum. The official narrative is that children in China should not be forced to study at private institutes, and that they should enjoy themselves being children. This is commendable, as I agree that children should enjoy their childhood.

However, I cannot just feel that the changes are a little heavy handed. If I consider the possible implications to forcing children at a young age to study the political philosophies of Xi Jinping or reducing their exposure to Western influences such as music or films, or limiting internet access outside of the country, it is clear that the Chinese authorities are seeking to control what children should learn, what to think, and what to say.

How does this affect English teachers?

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.

Finding Online English Students

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

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One Year of Teaching Remotely

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.

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Online Story Cubes for Online Lessons

Dave Birss and his Story Dice

For the past few years, I have been using Story Dice with my adolescent and adult learners. However, due to the emergency delivery of lessons being conducted remotely, I have had to find new ways of offering similar lessons and activities and was thrilled to learn about Dave Birss offering online Story Dice.

I had written a blog post previously about the use of Story Cubes within physical classrooms with ten lesson ideas. I would recommend readers to view the list of ten teaching ideas to use in conjunction with Dave Birss’s online story dice. Some of the lesson ideas include reviewing grammar forms, presenting topics/stories, rolling stories, etc.

While you are getting remote students to work in small groups within their breakout rooms, you could get them to capture a screenshot of their dice, upload this to the document that they are using to brainstorm/share ideas of their story. Tasks could be extended over a period of time in the form of a class project and then groups of learners could share their final projects together within Padlet or on the class Virtual Learning Network (VLE).

Why not share your lesson ideas using online replacements with the Story Cubes in the comments below?

Six Websites for EAP Teachers

When I first started teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP), I was unfamiliar with any resources, websites or activities. My first year of teaching EAP involved being supported and shadowed by others. After a period of time, I found myself becoming more and more comfortable teaching and planning EAP tasks and lessons. In this post/video, I will share a variety of websites which could aid potential or current EAP teachers access resources and information which will help them prepare and plan lessons for their students.

When considering potential material or planning your EAP lessons, it is important to consider the role of the EAP teacher. It took a while for me to learn that the role of the EAP teacher is essentially there as a facilitator: to guide students towards best or expected academic practice (depending upon their department or specialism), develop the necessary study skills in preparation for their courses (especially during pre-sessional courses), or to provide students with the skills to tackle reading for their courses. The recommended websites below are those that I have accessed and suggested students to access for self-study, and I hope this helps you.

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How I Got Involved in Teaching English for Academic Purposes

I have been very fortunate to be involved in an area of English teaching for the last few years which I find incredibly fascinating and extremely rewarding, especially when you see the progress that undergraduate and post-graduate international students make within a period of time. In this post and video, I share my experiences of how I got involved in the teaching of English for Academic Purposes (also known as EAP).

Before I share how I discovered this element of academic English and EAP, I really need to focus on what started my journey within the field of English language teaching. I first discovered the English teaching profession by chance when I moved to South Korea to teach English to young learners at a small private after-school institute. It was this that ignited my passion within English teaching and motivated me enough to undertake an initial teacher training certificate – the CELTA – after a year of teaching to these wonderful young learners.

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Day in the Life of a Remote English Teacher

I have been teaching remotely for around a year now since the most educational language institutes and higher educational providers responded to COVID-19 by getting everyone to work from home. Who knew we would be still be teaching remotely a year later. In the video below, I share what a usual quiet day of teaching is like.

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I must say as a proviso that I currently have a very quiet teaching schedule and I am fortunate to have time to focus on other things. Perhaps I could share an update when things are a little busier once I am teaching remotely full-time. Anyhow, I do hope you like the video and please feel free to share your current ‘day in the life’ experience in the comments.

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