Experiences for English Language Teaching

Tag: Online English

Online Teaching Tip: The Webcam

In my last online teaching tip post, I looked at the use of Wheel of Names for developing student conversation skills. In this post, I will be looking at webcams and how best to make the use of it with your online lessons.

Step 1: Buying An External Webcam

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:

  • Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam: this is a good quality webcam at 1080p that can be doubled as a microphone, and it is priced at £59.99
  • Logitech Brio Stream Webcam: although the C920 webcam is at 1080p, the Brio webcam is at 4k but is currently priced at £159.04
  • 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

Using gestures need not be difficult

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.

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.

What Makes An Excellent Online English Teacher?

In 2020, many teachers around the world were forced to teach online. However, many were unfamiliar with this area of teaching and spent most of the Spring and Summer terms learning. Personally, I spent the whole of the summer teaching a university pre-sessional course to students resident in numerous countries and I would like to share with you my ideas on what makes an excellent online English teacher. It would be great to hear your thoughts on what makes a great online English teacher in the comments.

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What Book Do I Need For Online Teaching?

In my previous post, I recommended one book for online teachers which really helped me gain the confidence for online English teaching. In this post, I look at another book which will provide an opportunity for students to interact online via a platform which has been developed to coincide with either their digital online or face-to-face lessons. This book has been co-authored by Lindsay Clandfield and Jill Hadfield and is published with the support of Cambridge University Press, under the series of the Cambridge Handbook for Language Teachers.

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