Published 4th June 2020

Top Activities for Teaching English Online

If you are teaching English as a Foreign Language, no matter the circumstances, you need a bunch of activities up your sleeve. This will help you plan lessons that you will enjoy teaching and your students will enjoy attending. Of course there are some activities which lend themselves to being done in a physical classroom. But there are still many which can be translated into the online classroom. Here are some top activities for teaching english online.

Picture Prompt

In any classroom, images and pictures are everything. They can be bright and colourful and are a very effective instrument in conveying meaning. They are also very simple to use. You can ask students to describe a picture, guess what is happening or predict what is going to happen next. They can relate the picture to their own lives or guess what is being said in the picture. The great thing about pictures is that the activities related to them can be as simple or as complex as you want. Plus, with the magic of the internet you can find a picture of anything under the sun at the click of a button.

A personal anecdote

Personalisation is important in your lessons. This is a great way to help your students relate to the lessons and put the language in question in context. It should relate to the teacher as well as the learner. Telling a story from your life is an easy way to start a lesson. It can be a crazy, sweet or sad story, and it can be about a major event in your life or something that happened at the supermarket. Students love to hear about their teacher’s lives and personal anecdotes can act as a good model for your students’ own productions. Even better, telling a personal story requires no preparation – just sit down and talk!

Top Activities for Teaching English Online
Top Activities for Teaching English Online

Role plays

Role plays are often used as a way to practise functional language. If you are teaching online you might wonder how you can use this activity in your lessons. You may be teaching a group lesson, separate your learners into break out rooms and let them do the role play in pairs or groups. When you are teaching 1-to-1 you will need to be a part of the role play yourself.

Twenty Questions

Another way to start a lesson is to play Twenty Questions. You must think of a person, place or thing and your student must ask questions to try to guess what it is. The trick is that the questions can only be closed questions, so the answers can only be yes or no. For example, if the topic of the lesson is food, your student can ask questions such as Are you sweet? Are you orange? Do we cook you? This game is especially good with younger learners.

What’s in the news?

For older learners, you need to find something that relates to them that you can talk about. The news and current events will make your lessons interesting for both you and the learner. For homework ask the student to watch, read or listen to the news – in English or their language. In the next lesson, they must report back to you about what is in the news where they live. As you can imagine, this can lead to discussions on very interesting topics.


With online learning, we don’t have the luxury of printing out worksheets and asking students to complete them. Of course we can use Word or Powerpoint and share our screen but many times our student would still like to have the worksheet printed out in front of them. A way to solve this issue (and make your life easier) is to use dictogloss. If you have a paragraph that you want your students to read and highlight or underline, read the paragraph out to them to write down. A dictogloss is like a traditional dictation but you read the text at a natural speed a few times and they try to complete the text as accurately as possible.

Where’s the mistake?

Even though you may be teaching online, it’s still important to monitor your students’ productions and keep track of their errors. If you are teaching a group lesson or 1-to-1, it’s not a good idea to interrupt a student every time they make an error (unless that’s the point of the exercise). Instead, make a note of the error and the sentence it was in. At the end of the lesson, show the student the sentences with the errors in and ask them to identify the error and correct it.

So there you have it, some top activities for teaching english online. As with any teaching situation, being prepared is the number one top tip to make sure your lessons are successful. Teaching English online might seem a bit strange at first but once you realise how you can adapt your usual activities to the online classroom. Your planning will be much easier and you can go back to living your best teacher life.

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