Tips for Teaching English Online

Every student that starts learning English has a different background and a

different motivation.

This means that you can’t just send the same lesson materials to everyone in

the same week. The lesson won’t be productive and the student won’t get all

that much out of it.

There are several online platforms for teaching conversational English. iTalki

and Preply are just a couple of examples.

The primary reason students choose iTalki is to have a conversation. It’s

a platform for conversational English and students (generally speaking) haven’t

signed up to master the TOEIC or IELTS tests.

Doing grammar exercises and correcting your students every mistake will not

make you a popular teacher. They are there to practice speaking and listening

primarily.

Talk about what your students are interested in and not what you are interested in.

What are good topics for conversational English?

Everyday topics of course, but it’s best to find out what they’re interested in

and plan accordingly.

Everyday topics may include:

  • Family – nothing too personal of course. Do not make them feel uncomfortable
  • Work – same as above. Don’t ask intrusive questions related to money, etc.
  • Interests
  • Travel

A lesson about family can be as basic or advanced as you tailor it.

For example, Beginner: “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” vs.

Intermediate/Advanced: “Tell me a story from your childhood about your

brother or sister.”

You should always send or assign lesson materials to students in advance. This

will give them extra confidence, show them that you’re prepared, and give

them something to look forward to. It will also help you retain students longer.

If you aren’t guiding and leading them, they’ll quit.

How are you different?

What’s your special sauce? How will you help them more than other teachers

will? How is your lesson different from other teachers?

Differentiate yourself by creating and providing lesson materials that stand

out.

Tell them how you are different and how your materials and method will help

them to progress faster than other teachers.

Simply sending them a PDF with 5 -10 questions will not pique their interest or

motivate them.

You don’t need to follow the lesson exactly, but use it as a guide for the

student. Give them something to prepare and look forward to.

Beginner to upper-intermediate students often prefer something more

structured. It’s important to show them that you have a plan.

For example, “We are going to work on small talk, pronunciation, and follow up

questions in tomorrow’s lesson.”

Upper-intermediate to advanced students on the other hand may prefer

something more natural and unstructured.

I’ve touched on feedback and evaluations in past blogs. However, it’s important

to point out quickly again that you shouldn’t current every mistake beginner and intermediate students make.

Listen and identify what types of mistakes they are commonly making and correct them. Be careful not to overcorrect.

It’s sometimes more challenging to do with advanced students. However the

same goes for them. They’re there to practice speaking because it’s not their

native language. Therefore it’s absolutely necessary that you correct them and

give them more natural phrases and expressions.

You should be jotting down notes during the lessons in order to give them

feedback at the end. This will show them that you were paying attention and it

provides tremendous value.

Your students should be talking, not you!

Student Talking Time (STT) vs. (TTT) vs. Teacher Talking Time

Many teachers feel uncomfortable with silence and start filling it with rants.

This isn’t going to make you a popular teacher! They are paying for this lesson

and they’re paying to practice speaking. You need to facilitate that in every

way possible. Yes, listening is another key skill, but talkative teachers aren’t

generally popular ones.

Just like many things in life the 80/20 rule applies here. Your students should

be speaking 80% of the time and you 20% of the time.

If you’re asking them questions and they’re answering with one-word answers,

then you should be prompting them to elaborate.

What types of things can you do to get them to speak?

Create a follow-up question wheel.

Just a simple wheel with questions words around it: what, when, where, why,

how, and who. Ask them a question with each.

Create a conjunctions wheel (be careful that the conjunctions are within their

level. For beginners this should be limited to: and, so, because, or)

For intermediate and advanced, you can add more conjunctions according to

their level.

Just point to a conjunction to encourage them to continue speaking.

Listening: play a short (and I do mean short) video and ask them questions

about it.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, give them quality feedback.

Include examples of things that you spoke about, constructive comments

about natural expressions, and hint at something that you might cover with

them next time. Make sure you give them an idea and sense that you have a

plan. This shows them that you understand what their strengths and

weaknesses are and most importantly that you have a plan on how they can

improve.

Final thought…

No matter which platform you’re using, give your students feedback via chat

throughout the lesson.

We have a ton of awesome materials for conversational English. Attract and

retain students with engaging, quality content and students accounts that will

keep them motivated.

We give away lots of conversation material on our Facebook, Instagram and

YouTube channel. Follow us!

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