Published 7th April 2020
So you’ve decided to teach English online? Well done! You’re about to embark on one of the wildest adventures you can have, uh, in your own home. But are you sure you’re prepared? Besides having the right qualifications and satisfying the requirements needed to teach online, there are a few other essentials you need to make sure you have before you log on to chat to your first student.
Of course it goes without saying that you have a laptop or PC, headset with microphone, and a stable internet connection. If you have power issues (South Africans, we see you) make sure you have a back-up battery pack and UPS so as not to interrupt your lessons if the power goes out.
It’s also a good idea to have a comfortable chair to sit on, considering you’ll be sitting in it for your entire working day. Plus you might need a laptop stand so that your laptop is at the appropriate level to make sure your students aren’t looking down your shirt during your lessons.
Is that it?
Well, while you can get by with just the basics, you’ll be a much more successful teacher – and a much more popular one – if you have a few extra props at hand during your lessons. Considering many online teaching jobs rely on returning students – i.e. students booking lessons with you again – you want to make as good an impression as possible. So here are five must-have props for teaching English online.
What is behind you in an online lesson is very important. It makes sense to have a wall behind you that you can decorate appropriately. No matter if you are teaching youngsters or adults, you should have your name displayed somewhere behind you. It’s helpful for first-time students so they don’t have to keep asking you your name or calling you ma’am or sir, and it’s good for younger students to practise their reading and pronunciation. This can be a simple printout with your name written on it, or it can be a colourful poster. It’s also a nice idea to have your national flag on display behind you so the students know where you are from. If you are teaching Young Learners, add some colourful bunting or well-known characters, or you could have a world map or a few nice pictures which can be used as conversation starters.
An absolute must! Whiteboards can be used to write down vocabulary items, explain language points, display pictures – there are so many ways you can use a whiteboard. Because they’re magnetic, they can be used with magnetic letters and numbers; plus it’s much easier (and cheaper) to put up pictures with a magnet rather than blu-tak. Don’t forget your markers and an eraser!
Scoreboard or reward chart
Depending on the age of your student, you will need a scoreboard or a reward chart. This can be a simple white board or chart which you put stickers or points on. Even better is if you have a magnetic board (like a mini white board) which you can put magnets on so it is reusable. Reward charts help students see their progress and motivates them to achieve targets. They are especially useful in group classes to introduce an element of competition into the lesson.
Puppets and soft toys
First of all, a soft toy can act as a class mascot for younger learners. The mascot can greet the students and introduce the lesson theme. Similarly finger puppets are a great way to demonstrate a dialogue or activity.
Realia are as important in an online classroom as they are in a physical classroom. Realia include everyday objects that are referred to in the lesson. This can be anything from food to stationery to clothing. Realia help students make a connection between the word and its meaning, while also making the language more memorable. It is also one way to introduce authenticity in the EFL classroom.
There you go – now you’re all set to teach English online!