It’s early 2020 and most of the world is in lockdown due to Covid-19. That means that more and more people are teaching English online than ever before. Keep on reading for the top 20 tips for how to teach English online, including activity and resource recommendations, things to avoid and a whole lot more.
25 Tips for How to Teach English Online
Let’s get into the top 25 tips for teaching ESL online.
#1: Consider Specializing in Something
It’s possible to make a living teaching ESL online as a jack-of-all-trades. However, you may also want to consider specializing in a 1-3 things. For example, the IELTS exam, business English or English job interviews. You’ll be able to give your students a better learning experience and see some excellent results.
#2: Ask Students What they Want
One of the best tips for how to teach English, whether online or offline is to ask students what they want to work on with you. Their answers will sometimes be very different from what you might think.
For online teaching, many will say that they want to work on free-talking or conversation for at least part of the class. My recommendation is to have some conversation starters to keep things fresh and interesting instead of just the same old small talk. Of course, if you’re teaching children through a platform like VIPKid, then the curriculum is largely already set for you.
#3: How to Teach English Online—Invest in some Good Equipment
If you’re trying to teach English online with crappy equipment, it’ll be an exercise in frustration! At the very minimum, make sure you have:
- A good desk and a comfortable chair
- A high-quality camera and headset/microphone
- A nice background behind you
- Small whiteboard with markers
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to have a backup option. Headsets and microphones are especially prone to failing at some point in time so have your old pair at the ready just in case. It’s far better than having to cancel a class due to this technology fail!
Companies such as TwoSigmas will have specific requirements for this so please read the fine print carefully for whatever company you’re considering.
Find out How to Teach English Online
#4: Become Familiar With English Proficiency Exams
There are lots of students who want help preparing for a specific English exam like TOEIC, TOEFL or IELTS. If you can specialize in one or more of these and get your students some serious results, you’ll have students lining up to learn from you!
#5: Talk about Expectations with your Student
When asked for tips about how to teach English online, many teachers mention the necessity of talking with student before beginning to set the expectations both parties have with each other. For example, you might want to talk about:
- Cancellation policy
- Types of activities
#6: Students Come and Students Go
When teaching online, you’ll need to have a bit of a thick skin. Some students will stick with you for years while others will stay with you for only a very short time.
In some cases, students had a very short-term goal like preparing for an English proficiency exam or an English job interview. However, others may find another tutor that they like better. This is okay and a normal part of the online teaching experience so don’t dwell too much on it.
That said, if you’re constantly losing students and having a difficult time filling your schedule, reflect a bit more deeply on this. If possible, get a recording of yourself teaching and ask a trusted colleague to review it for you and give you some feedback.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 50 Pages - 01/21/2016 (Publication Date)
#7: Manage Time Well
Another tip for how to teach ESL online is to manage your time well. Stay organized and be sure to give yourself enough time to prepare for classes, evaluate tests or homework and rest as well.
If at all possible, try to schedule blocks of classes with small breaks in between instead of an hour here and an hour there. This will give you time to have a social life too!
#8: Have Some Fun
Just because you’re on your 10th, 30-minute class that day doesn’t mean that the student is! It’s probably their only session. Yawning, frowning and looking bored certainly won’t get you more booked classes so be peppy and upbeat and if you’re not feeling it, take a break for a day or two or consider teaching fewer classes.
Be encouraging as well! Praise even small improvements regularly.
#9: Be Prepared
When teaching any sort of ESL class, preparation is required! Have at least a basic lesson plan as teaching English is more than just chatting with the student. If you only do this, students will soon wonder what exactly they’re paying for and their English ability may not really improve that much!
#10: Use a Variety of Activities
One of the top tips for how to teach English online is to use a variety of interesting, engaging and student-centred ESL activities. Sure, it’s tempting to just do the same old thing but it’s better not to! Here are some of the best options:
#11: Don’t Forget About Assessment
Good teachers regularly assess how their students are doing in order to tailor their lessons more specifically. This is especially easy to do in a 1-1 TEFL class.
Almost all students have a weakness or two among the following things:
#12: Consider Various Online Teaching Platforms
There are a number of online teaching platforms to consider which can help make the transition into this easier. You’ll get a feel for how it works and pick up a few tips and tricks along the way.
But, not all online teaching platforms are created equal and of course, each of them has their pros and cons. Another consideration is that you may not get accepted to all of them so be sure to apply for 3, 4 or even more when you’re getting started.
Some of the best ones to consider are the following:
- First Tutors
- Take Lessons
- Amazing Talker
If you don’t have a university degree, some of these companies don’t require it. Find out which ones here: Teaching English online without a degree.
A quick tip is to teach for at least two of them. Although it can take a bit more work to coordinate schedules and payments between the two, it’s a redundancy in case one of them goes under so you’re not left entirely without income. Here are some of the top options:
How to Teach ESL Online
#13: Or, Venture Out on your Own
Another option to consider for online English teaching is doing your own thing. The main reason to consider this is that you’ll get to keep all the money instead of a percentage of it. However, you’ll have to do all the work of scheduling, managing payments and finding students.
#14: How to Teach ESL Online—All About No-Shows
One of the most annoying things about teaching English online is to deal with no-shows. Have a firm but fair policy that you explain to the student before getting started and stick to it. If you’re using one of the online platforms, they’ll likely already have this policy in place.
#15: Consider Zoom Instead of Skype
A few years ago, everyone was using Skype for online teaching. However, these days, Zoom seems to be more popular as the connection is more stable and it’s just more hassle-free. If you haven’t tried it out yet, it’s free for a 1-1 lesson and a few bucks for the ability to host sessions with more than one student.
#16: Repetition and Review
When people ask me how to teach English, online or offline, one of the first things I tell them is to not forget about review! This is key if you want students to retain what you’re teaching them. Review throughout the lesson, at the end of the lesson and then at the beginning of the next class.
Here are a few ideas for how to do that: All about ESL Review.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 88 Pages - 01/19/2016 (Publication Date)
#17: Be Patient
A quick tip for how to teach ESL online is to be patient! It’s quite rare that you’ll be pulling in the big bucks when you’re just getting started with online teaching. Be willing to accept a lower rate to get some experience and loyal students and then you can charge more later.
#18: Consider Using Props
A nice tip for how to teach English online is to consider using some props, especially with kids. Have some puppets for example and do your best to bring them to life. This will help your students to pay close attention to what’s going on.
#19: How to Teach English Online? Consider Using Breaking News English
One of the best resources for teaching ESL online is Breaking News English. There are so many great articles at a variety of different levels and the lesson plans that go along with them are perfect. You can opt for
#20: Reduce Non-Target Language
When teaching, it’s not uncommon to say things like:
- Let’s move onto the next thing.
- Okay then, how about . . .
- Can you say, “. . .”
- All right everyone, let’s turn to . . .
Instead, just be more direct and try to keep this language that’s not really important to a minimum.
#21: How to Teach English Online—Don’t Forget about the Parents
If you’re teaching English online to kids, remember who is paying the bill! You’ll want to do your best to keep in touch with parents and provide feedback about how the lesson is going with their children.
#22: Close all Other Screens on your Computer and Put your Phone on Silent
Let’s be real here for a second. There’s almost nothing worse than someone who is checking Facebook or their email or texting a friend during an online English class! Close all other screens and turn your phone on silent so that you can focus on the lesson.
#23: Keep Track of your Lessons
Whatever method you use to keep track of lesson topics, homework, payments, etc. use it! Relying on memory for something like this is a recipe for disaster even if you have only 1 or 2 students.
Imagine showing up for a class and pulling out the same lesson plan you did last month? The student will know for sure and will almost always point this out. Then you’ll be left scrambling at the last second.
#24: Mute your Microphone if You’re Going to Type a Lot
Keyboards are usually very loud in someone’s ear. Be sure to press mute if you’re going to type more than a few words.
#25: Be Clear When Giving Instructions
Instructions are on of those things that can be done well, or really not at all! Here are some of the top tips for doing it:
Have your Say about How to Teach English Online
Do you have any tips or tricks for how to teach ESL online? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2021-10-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API