Published 30th March 2020
If you think teaching English as a Foreign Language online is sitting on your couch in your yoga pants all day chatting on Skype, you’re not far wrong. Just kidding! Although there are definitely opportunities for teaching conversational English over Skype or another app which would mean you cold possibly get away with working in your pants, it’s much more likely that setting up an online classroom is something you will have to do. Don’t let this put you off. It’s not hard to create a space that’s conducive to effective teaching and learning, and you don’t need a lot of space or money.
Here’s how you can do it.
Find a quiet corner in your house which has a table or desk and a wall behind it. If you have a separate office space or a spare room that’s brilliant, but if you don’t it can be a corner of your living room or TV room. The important thing is that it needs to be somewhere that can be quiet during your lessons. If you live alone or with a partner this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you have kids or fur-kids you will need to make a plan. Also make sure your space is light and bright.
Good equipment is vital to your success as an online teacher. First of all, your computer should be up-to-date. You will probably need to raise your computer so that it’s at eye level, so you may need a laptop stand. Your internet connection needs to be quick and reliable. If your connection is not stable, make sure you have a back-up option available to you. Your headset, if you need one, should be comfortable and functional. The table or desk must have enough space for your computer and a few props (we’ll talk about those later), and your chair should be comfortable – you’ll be sitting in it for a long time each day.
The wall behind your table is very important. You want the background of your classroom to be striking but not overwhelming. Teaching in front of a window is not recommended because of the light and because of the distractions it can present. This is why we recommend a wall. If you are teaching Young Learners it should definitely be a colourful background, and it can be include pictures of letters, numbers, the weather or the date. Print these out and laminate them if you can so that you don’t have to worry about wear and tear. Some companies ask that you put up a certain background on your wall so if that’s the case you don’t need to worry about it. For older learners, you could have a whiteboard (if you prefer to use that rather than the computer), a map or a nice picture. Whatever is behind you, keep in mind the frame that your students will see. Do a test before your first class so that you will know exactly what the students will see during the lesson.
Props can make your lessons so much better. They’re essential if you’re teaching Young Learners but they’re also important if you’re teaching adults. Even older students can get a bit bored if they’re just chatting to your face for an hour. Ideas for props for kids are puppets, a toy which can act as a mascot or a “teacher’s pet”, a reward’s system and any realia related to the lessons. For older students, you could use photos or pictures and realia.
The virtual classroom
These days a lot of companies will have their own virtual classroom that you will have access to. If this is the case then you don’t need to worry too much about your virtual space. But, if you can, introduce images, video clips and memes into your lessons to make them more visually appealing than a white screen. Thankfully the internet has a ton of resources so all you have to do is find the appropriate extras for your lesson.
The last thing you need to think about is you. While your students may not be able to see that you are wearing shorts and slip slops, they can see you from the waist up. Don’t wear clothes that have bright patterns or are distracting in any way. A plain shirt or t-shirt is the best way, with minimal or plain jewellery and light make up.And that’s it! You’re now ready to connect with your students and teach them English online from the comfort of your home! If you already have a home set-up, we’d love to see it – send us pics!