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.
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.
With my last blog post, I shared my induction surrounding the technology related to the online pre-sessional course which I am involved with for eight weeks this year. However, with this blog post, I wish to share the induction from last week and what was covered in preparation for the course in general as well as for the first week. The induction itself lasted two days, Tuesday and Thursday, and it was effectively a full day, morning and afternoon, of preparation and training – via Zoom of course.
The morning of Tuesday, aims of the induction covered an overview of the online course, the pedagogy of an online EAP course, the role of the online EAP tutor as well as channels of communication for tutors. Tutors were introduced to the online course – which had been organised by the a number of individuals who put in a great deal of work to ensure that the course was available. One of the concerns I had for the course was the amount of synchronous teaching being conducted during a week. However, this concern was misplaced as live teaching sessions would be organised twice in a week (Tuesday and Friday), with the majority of student work being asynchronous. I decided to conduct my live sessions in the morning, as we had to consider the time difference for students. The majority of the students are in South East Asia and they are around eight hours ahead. One of my colleagues mentioned that students in the Middle East would have to have their live sessions before the afternoon, so this made sense to place them in the morning.
Obviously, the curriculum places more emphasis on guided discovery and self-study. Therefore, tutors have to use the Canvas site to engage with students online, while also engaging with and prompting students to ensure they are following the course. If you are unaware of Canvas, it is a platform used by many higher educational institutes and facilitates online learning. You can include a discussion board, quizzes as well as set assignments. We were introduced to the site the week before and it is all intuitive. Anyhow, we were suggested that tutors upload an introduction video for their assigned group of students, so I decided to record, edit and upload it.
It took a while for the video to be uploaded to the Canvas site and to embed within a discussion post – they don’t make it easy. Anyhow, I got there in the end and I hope that some students create their own video self-introductions but I expect that they will write them though as it is more convenient.
Nevertheless, tutors were randomly placed in breakout rooms to discuss experience of online teaching and share advice for teaching remotely. It was really interesting to hear about the experiences of teaching online as well as advice to offer each other. Some advice shared included:
Expect technology not to work
Mistakes are likely to happen when using technology or Zoom
Don’t spend too much time preparing for the live sessions
Don’t respond to university emails outside of your office hours (09:00-17:00)
Get away from the screen/computer with regular breaks during the day
The next part of the induction was to consider the role of the tutor during the online pre-sessional. Most tutors agreed that they regarded themselves as a ‘facilitator’ rather than a teacher, while also responding to student queries and emergent language during the course. Teachers also considered their own teaching environment: I am currently working on my kitchen table and have a range of documents stuck up on the wall, so that I can keep an eye on my schedule during the week.
The next part of the induction looked at schedules for tutors. Within the week, there are a number of sessions that students have to complete themselves with a range of recorded presentations for students to watch. I also need to watch the presentations and predict questions that students may ask, so effectively I am also doing the course at the same time. It was highlighted superficially there may appear not much ‘real teaching’ going on, but there was consideration that tutors are responding to questions on the discussion board, organising Zoom meetings, providing pastoral care/tutorial sessions as well as marking assignments. Anyhow, it was a very interesting induction over the two days and a lot was covered: copyright issues, the firewall with China and students not being able to access some content as well as planning for the first day of teaching.
I hope to share my experiences of teaching a pre-sessional in future posts and also reflect on how students are learning given the greater autonomy required for them as well as how my live sessions are received. Although my students may be placed anywhere in the world, I am looking forward to meeting them and hopefully this physical distance will be reduced in via technological platforms.
In this quick post, I share five tips to make your reading more engaging and entertaining for your learners. I have also supplemented the post with a video for those that want to watch something for 5 minutes.
Should you enjoy the video, please leave a Like and Subscribe if you haven’t already.
A few days ago, I decided for the first time ever to deliver a grammar auction activity to my group of learners. I had never done this activity before but had done variations from it: awarding points for correct answers, etc. In this blog post (and video below), I would like to share my tips to ensure that you are able to deliver a fantastic grammar auction lesson.
In this episode of TEFL Tips, I share my five favourite word games that I like to incorporate in my classes at those final ten or fifteen minutes of the lesson when you don’t know what to do. It is an essential skill to know at least five games that you can start using with minimal preparation or planning required.