This year many of us are learning to adjust our classroom techniques to online platforms and teach through tools like Zoom, MS Teams and Skype.
We took a quick look back through the ETpedia series and picked out these 10 techniques, ideas and activities from our expert ETpedia authors which you can apply to your online lessons.
1. Transferable skills
Although there are a number of differences between face-to-face and online teaching, remember some of your classroom-based skills can also be employed online. These will include being learner-centred by letting students control the screen sometimes, varying the interaction patterns by using breakout rooms for example, responding to needs and including task variety.
2. Practise role-plays
Once your students are familiar with a tool like Zoom, you can ask them to record their practice dialogues and role-plays for homework. They can work in pairs and groups and set up their own Zoom meeting to record the conversation and then share it with the class in the next lesson or send it to you for feedback.
3. Online dictations
Most teachers are familiar with dictations where you read a passage and students write down what they hear. When teaching online, you have different options. You could read aloud, and students write what they hear on a document. Then they send you their document. Or as you read each chunk of a text, students write what they hear in the chat and compare their answers as they go along.
4. Workplace tours
If you are teaching business students remotely, ask them to give you and the other students a tour of their workplace by carrying their phone, tablet, laptop around and pointing the camera at different things. They can explain what they are showing and take questions from other students.
5. The Coffee Pot Game (for practising question forms)
To play this guessing game put two students in a breakout room for 30 seconds. The rest of the class choose a verb for the two students to guess e.g. run. Bring the two students back into the room. They have to ask questions to all their classmates in turn until they guess the verb. But instead of using the verb, everyone must use the word “coffee pot”.
Can I coffee pot? Yes, you can.
What equipment do you need to coffee pot? I just use my legs to coffee pot - and a good pair of coffee-potting shoes.
Continue until the pair have guessed the word. Then put another pair in the breakout room and repeat. Keep a note of any problems with question structures or question words to focus on at the end of the game.
6. Excuses, excuses (for practising 'have to')
To practise using ‘have to’ to talk about previous commitments, write the word ‘Excuses’ on a share slide or whiteboard. Tell your students that you have been invited to do something you don't really want to do, and you need an excuse not to go. Elicit two or three possible excuses, using have to and write them on the board (e.g. I have to Zoom with my brother, I have to attend an online class, all my face masks are in the wash, I have to wash my hair.) Ask the students to rate the excuses from 1 to 5, with 1 being extremely flimsy and 5 being very convincing. They can add their ratings to the shared slide/whiteboard using annotation tools or type them in the chat box. Explain that the students are now going to work in small groups in breakout rooms to brainstorm five more five-star excuses using have to. They can use a shared whiteboard or Word/Google doc to write their list. Ask them to remember to make a copy of the list before you close the breakout rooms so they can share it in the main room later (a simple copy and paste onto a slide or whiteboard is probably easiest). When they're all back in the main room, ask them to share their lists and then ask each student to vote for their favourite excuse from all the lists. Again, you can do this using annotation tools or the chat box. Work out which are the top three excuses for the whole class.
7. A vocabulary memory game
This visual activity works with any lexical set. For example, to review clothes vocabulary find a picture with people in brightly coloured clothes, share it on your screen for a few seconds and then send the students in pairs or small groups to breakout rooms where they work together to write down as many adjective + noun combinations as possible to describe things they remember from the photo. Give them about two minutes before they return and list their answers. Then show them the image again to check.
8. Pinterest boards
Pinterest.com lets users upload images and display them on an online noticeboard so it suits online lessons. One activity is to have learners upload some photos from home with a theme like a recent holiday or even ‘life under lockdown’. Then in your online lesson, let them share their pinboard and present their images. Other class members could ask questions about the images using the chat.
9. Hold a meme contest
Ask students to create their own version of a popular internet meme, using a meme generator such as https://imgflip.com/memegenerator. The meme should be relevant to your group and could refer to the content of what you have been studying, or to recent classroom events. Set this as an out-of-class task and then students can share their memes in your online lesson or maybe share them on a Pinterest board (see previous tip) and everyone votes for a winner.
10. Surveys and quizzes
Sites like www.surveymonkey.com allow you to create online surveys and questionnaires. You can write them to find out your students’ views on a topic and integrate them into your online lessons. Once you have introduced the site to students, ask them to prepare their own surveys, polls, questionnaires and quizzes for homework and then share in the next lesson for their peers to visit.
The tips and ideas above are taken and adapted from:
1. ETpedia Teacher Training by Beth Melia-Leigh and Nick Northall
2 & 9. ETpedia Teenagers by Ed Dudley
3 & 10. ETpedia by John Hughes
4. ETpedia Business English by John Hughes & Robert McLarty
5 & 6. ETpedia Grammar by Daniel Barber & Ceri Jones
7 ETpedia Vocabulary by Stacey H Hughes, Fiona Mauchline & Julie Moore
8 ETpedia Technology by Nicky Hockly