Published 24th June 2020

ways to make your online lessons interesting

If you’ve ever learnt anything – French, calligraphy, karate – you’ll know that a big part of learning is repetition. Repetition, repetition, repetition. (See what we did there?). And, if we’re honest, that can get a little boring at times. Then there’s also the theory behind the skill you are learning, plus the million mistakes you have to make to get it right means that your motivation can hover close to zero quite regularly. Let’s look at some ways to make your online english lessons interesting.

Now, imagine if you were learning that skill online. Online learning means your learning is totally up to you. All the balls are in your court. If you don’t feel like learning, you don’t need to turn on your computer. If you’re feeling a bit unmotivated, you can cancel your lessons without reason and your teacher can’t question you. If you’d rather finish the latest series of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, nothing’s stopping you.

Ways to Make Your Online English Lessons Interesting

So it’s not surprising that online courses have very low completion rates. And we mean, really low. The average completion for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) is 15%! 15%!

If you’re a student, this isn’t so much a problem – though it might dissuade you from learning online or paying someone to teach you online. If, however, you are an online teacher, this can have drastic consequences. If your students aren’t motivated to attend your lessons, you won’t get paid!

The key is to make sure your online English lessons are interesting and informative as well as educational and engaging. If your students are enjoying their lessons, their motivation levels will be high and they will come back to you for lessons again and again. And the money will come rolling in!

Read more: How to Promote Motivation in the EFL Classroom

Easier said than done? Maybe, but we’re here to help. Here are 9 ways to make your online lessons interesting.

ways to make your online english lessons interesting
9 Ways to Make Your Online English Lessons Interesting

1. Take off your teacher hat

EFL teachers are a very different kind of teacher; we teach differently. Needless to say, you shouldn’t be lecturing in any classroom but you need to be very careful of overly long explanations and presentations online. It is much more difficult to portray your energy through a screen, which means it’s much easier for students to get bored or distracted. Try not use Powerpoint slides with too much text. Rather break down your lesson into manageable “bite-size” pieces and make sure you use lots of images. 

Read more: How to Deal with Zoom Fatigue

2. Step away from the limelight

In online lessons, your students need to be front and centre of the lesson. They need to be doing the brainwork and exerting all the effort. In other words, they cannot sit back and let you do all the talking. You need to constantly be asking questions, eliciting words and ideas, and giving them activities to do. If you are teaching a group class, this is easy to do by including pairwork activities. If you are teaching 1-to-1 you can do this by making your lesson more of a conversation than a lesson.

3. Let’s get personal

Following on from the point above, it’s essential to personalise your lessons to your students in order to get them interested in the lesson. As you get to know your students, find out about their likes and interests. What sport do they enjoy? What music do they listen to? What kind of movies do they watch? Do they enjoy reading? What’s their favourite subject at school? How many people are there in their family? Do they have any pets? Then you can incorporate that information into your lessons.

Read more: 3 Factors Affecting Personalised Learning

4. Adapt to the online setup

Especially if you have experience teaching in a classroom, you’ll need to get used to teaching in the online space. Make sure your activities are suitable for being done on a screen. Reading texts may need to be given for homework or shortened to fit a computer screen. You might need to flip the classroom once in a while to change things up a bit. Pair work and group work may need to be tweaked so that it is manageable, such as through the use of breakout rooms

5. Use technology

The fact that you’re teaching online should be seen as a blessing rather than a curse. Students love technology. While we complain endlessly about our students being on their phones in the classroom, in the online classroom we already have their attention. The trick is not to try to replicate a physical classroom but to use the tricks available to you online to make your lessons more entertaining. Think video clips, songs and interactive games – YouTube, TedEd and Kahoot.

6. Get physical

This is one for the Young Learner teachers. Being an online teacher can tempt you to stay in your chair the whole lesson. Don’t forget, in a physical classroom there would be opportunities for your students to move around the classroom and mingle with their peers. Online, you need to make sure they move every few minutes to keep their brains awake and active. This can be as simple as getting them to stand up and stretch or jump around, or you could play a game like Simon Says, or do a scavenger hunt in their room.

7. Mix it up

Similarly, you can’t let your online lessons morph into the same lesson day in and day out. Your lessons need to be varied in terms of activities and execution. For example, one lesson you might try flipping the classroom. For the next lesson you could try a webquest. For the next class you could ask your student what they want to learn. This way you students won’t get bored with your lessons because they’ll never know what to expect.

Read more: 3 Ways to Flip Your EFL Classroom

8. Don’t forget the gold stars

We don’t literally mean gold stars – unless you’re teaching Young Learners – but your online lessons need to have goals and rewards integrated into them. The goals shouldn’t be over-ambitious but they should be challenging, or else your students won’t feel proud of themselves when they achieve them. Don’t forget to keep track of these goals, preferably somewhere visible in your background so they will always be on your student’s mind.

9. Be real

Above all, be yourself. Being an online teacher can make you adopt a persona which is not your usual self. This is because you might be more self-conscious than usual or you might not come across as energetic or enthusiastic as you usually do. Try to be as natural as possible so that your students can get to know you. If you are comfortable in your lessons, your students will feel much more comfortable, and you will both enjoy the lesson much more.

So there you have it, 9 ways to make your online english lessons interesting. Just as in any EFL situation, your lessons will be as interesting and entertaining as you make them. Online lessons can be a bit different but there are still many ways you can make sure your students will keep coming back to your virtual classroom.

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