British Councils’ teachers top 10 tips for online classes

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Monika Zaczek / Foto: Arhiva personala
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Make sure you have good lighting so your students can see your face clearly; face an open window or put a lamp next to your computer. Check if all your settings are correct, and make sure your platform and operation system are updated. Run a check of your mic and speakers before the class. Have all the documents you are planning to use in the lesson opened, and check links to websites or videos work correctly. Send students some activities in advance in case of technical issues.

2. Collaborate

Not everyone is a whiz online and many of us feel overwhelmed by having to learn many new skills in a short time. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to your colleagues for help and support. Remember we’re all in this together, and it’s highly likely that someone you know has had the same problems you are having and will be able to help you.

3. Remember students are learning more than just a language

There are developing a lot of other skills, from technological literacy to keeping their social life active online, and those things take time. So don’t worry if you haven’t managed to cover as much as you might have wanted from an academic point of view, and bear in mind that as always, our lessons are about developing the students as a whole, not just linguistically.

4. Assume nothing

Don’t assume that because they are teenagers, students are comfortable with technology, have the latest laptop and an uber-fast internet connection. Remember they have other responsibilities while in the lockdown, such as school work, chores, helping with siblings or pets, preparing for exams, etc., and that during online lessons, unlike in the physical classroom, it might be hard to disconnect from all of that and they might get interrupted. Some are shy and might feel uncomfortable speaking on the camera; don’t just assume they are unwilling; it might be worth talking to them outside the class about their reluctance to use the camera.

5. Ask for feedback

Bear in mind that it is important to give yourself time to learn how to do it well. Students can often come up with amazing exercises or activities which can be incorporated into lessons. You don’t know how what you do looks like on the other side of the camera. Ask your students – and remember, you are there for them, so what they think and feel should influence the process.

6. Keep it simple

While we should aim to make the lessons engaging and fun, to help students stay focused and motivated, remember they don’t need to have a million different tech tools and special effects all at once. Experiment with new options to give yourself and the students variety, but don’t try to use it all in one lesson, as you will overwhelm both the students and yourself.

7. Allow silence

In online lessons much more than in the physical classrooms, silence often feels uncomfortable and we often try to fill it in. Remember that sometimes there is a technical delay between the question and answer, and that silence doesn’t mean students are not doing anything – they might be thinking of what to say or processing your instructions.

8. Ensure interaction between students

Bear in mind the language is all about talking to others and try to make lessons as collaborative as possible. Use breakout rooms, googledocs, share screen, kahoot, Padlet, polls, chain stories, quizzes, team games, anything that creates a sense of community and interaction.

9. Manage yourself

Don’t expect to be the same teacher that you are in a physical classroom. Your attitude toward teaching and learning will change, the tools and techniques you use will change, and your classroom persona may have to change too, to fit the new learning environment you are working in.

10. Manage the parents

Although for child protection reasons there should be an adult in the house during online lessons, the parents should not participate in the lessons in any active way. They might come in to help their kid if they have a technical problem, but don’t encourage them to take part in the class. If they have questions and comments, they can send you an email after the lesson or set up a meeting with you on ZOOM.

Bonus tip: use an ergonomic chair! We know this has nothing to do with teaching skills but we’re not in our classrooms anymore, moving around from table to table and doing running dictations! If you want to deliver more than one or two online classes a day and stay healthy, you have to protect your head, your neck and your back and you can’t do that if you’re using your kitchen chair or your beanbag.

Article contributed by Monika Zaczek – Academic Manager British Council
  • This analysis is part of a series provided by British Council educational experts who share their own experience related to teaching in digital environment with the whole community of teachers, parents and students in Romania:
Online lessons: Challenges faced by British Council teachers
Top 10 sfaturi de la profesorii British Council pentru cursurile online
Cursurile online: Provocările profesorilor British Council
British Council publică cursuri online gratuite și videoclipuri interactive pentru învățarea limbii engleze de către copii și adulți, care pot fi folosite de orice familie
Experiența predării online, împărtășită de British Council: Cum decurg cursurile, care sunt provocările și cum se descurcă profesorii? (Partea I)
Resurse gratuite pentru profesorii de toate specializările, puse la dispoziție de British Council
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