Teaching young learners online can be challenging. Here are some helpful tips to keep your students engaged during your online lessons.
Challenge one: Giving instructions in an online lesson
- You may not be able to see your students’ reactions as clearly as in a face-to-face classroom to see if they can understand what you’re saying.
- Problems with connectivity might mean students miss parts of the instruction too. Without a friend sitting next to them to check what you’ve said, students could get lost quite quickly.
Use activities that your students are already familiar with and have done before. If you use sample tasks from Pre A1 Starters, A1 Movers and A2 Flyers, this also helps them feel more prepared for the exam.
Think about how you give your instructions:
- Ask questions to check that your students have understood what they have to do, and always do an example of an activity before starting it.
- Can you write the instructions on your presentation so students can read what they have to do as well as listen to you?
- Check that students understand in their first language, particularly if they are quite young or a low level.
For more ideas on giving instructions and teaching young learners online, watch our webinar Teaching English online to young learners which is full of tips and activities.
Activities take longer to prepare and longer to teach
Activities tend to take longer when teaching online as you have to allow time for any technical problems, and for checking all your students can see and hear you.
Don’t try to fit too much into each lesson. Have one clear aim and keep your lesson simple! Think about short activities that vary in pace to help you reach that aim.
Use time-efficient feedback methods. Plan how you will give feedback and check answers during the lesson.
Rather than nominating individual students to give their answers which can be time consuming and also make students anxious, show the answers on the screen for students to check themselves.
To give you some support and help you cut down on your planning time, we’ve created lesson plans to cover every task in the Pre A1 Starters, A1 Movers and A2 Flyers exams. These complete lesson plans are designed to cover a 45 minute – 1 hour lesson but can be easily adapted to suit your needs. Download them from the Teacher Resource Finder.
Students get distracted easily
Unlike in the classroom, you have no control over the environment students are joining the lesson from. There are many reasons they might get distracted during their online lessons. Solutions:
Involve students in the lessons as much as possible! Talk to all of the students and use their names when talking to them.
Give them a physical task and change the pace of the lesson to get their attention back. You could ask them to show you something that’s in the room where they are or tell them to hold up something of a certain colour or to ‘clap if…’. This is a good way to involve students without them having to talk, to check their understanding of something or to share their answers to a task.
Another way to involve students and keep them engaged is to have them make their own flashcards to hold up. Have a look at our A2 Flyers Reading and Writing Part 4 lesson plan (optional extension, p4) for an example of how to do this. Finally, grab their attention with a song! Students can sing along to a song and even dance or do a movement when they hear a particular word. You can find songs to choose from in the Sing and Learn section of the Cambridge English website.
Teachers talks too much or students don’t talk enough
Pair work and group work can seem more challenging to set up in an online lesson, meaning the teacher can end up talking a lot more than in a face to face lesson. However pair work and group work is still possible, you just need to think more carefully about how it can work.
If you can safely monitor breakout rooms, these are a good way of giving students time away from the whole class to do speaking activities with one another.
Alternatively, students can still be put in open pairs to talk to each other while the rest of the students are listening. For students to feel confident enough to do this give them some thinking and planning time first.
Try using a spot the difference activity, a task students have to do in A1 Movers Speaking Part 1 and A2 Flyers Speaking Part 1. This can be done as a whole class activity or in pairs
Another way of ensuring that students talk more is to demonstrate an activity but then encourage students to lead the activity. You can find an activity in the A1 Movers Speaking Part 4 lesson plan which shows students how to make a chatterbox so they can ask their partner questions. This allows students to practise different vocabulary and asking and answering questions without needing the teacher to be involved!
Read the full version of this blog: Challenges in teaching young learners online