Ah, the joys of teaching! Young learners are so full of energy that most activities you propose are met with loads of enthusiasm when you teach English online from home. Adult learners are focused on meeting their language goals and have a wealth of skills and knowledge to contribute to the class.
However, things are not as simple with students. Most are very clever and insightful kids, but this is not exactly the most talkative age group. Have you ever faced a class full of blank stares where most of the replies you hear are “Yes”, “No”, or “It depends”? Have you ever felt frustrated by their lack of interest?
Here are some strategies that should get your ESL online students more motivated:
Use as many references to pop culture as you can
Consider your students’ interests when you teach English as a second language online. Imagine you want to discuss last week’s events to practice the past simple tense. Will they be more interested in what President Obama did last week, or which outrageous outfit Lady Gaga wore to an awards show? If you’re not willing to discuss Eminem’s latest album or any of the Twilight books or films, then you won’t connect with your student students.
Give them a little friendly competition
Little kids like to compete, and students are no different. Whether they play sports or games on the Wii, they always try to out best each other. Why not introduce some friendly competition into the ESL classroom? Games are easy ways to do this, but you can also have them compete in any activity.
- Give them 60 seconds to write down as many words as they can relate to a topic, like “clothes” or “foods”.
- Tell them that whoever finishes a written exercise first or has the most correct answers, gets to choose a video to watch or a song to listen to in class.
Cater to their skills and exploit their talents
Most students are talented at one thing or another. Take your time to get to know them and discover what these talents are.
- Students who are artistically-inclined may draw pictures, sketches or cartoons of a story you read out loud to the class.
- Do you have a student who plays the guitar? Ask him or her to bring it to class and play a song while the class sings the lyrics in English.
Use pen pals to motivate writing
If your students are not enthused about writing assignments, give them pen pals to write to. At ESL Teachers Board or any other message board for ESL teachers, you can post a request for pen pals for your students, and find another teacher with whom you can trade email addresses. Writing to pen pals is a great introduction to what they may have to master later in life: business emails.
Make reading age appropriate
To get students excited about a reading assignment, make sure you choose material that will pique their interest. Naturally, books or stories about students are sure to work, but you can also include celebrity biographies, anything sports-related, or any topic that may interest them, but is also up to their reading level.
Play songs to improve listening comprehension
If you play any of the audio that typically comes with course materials, your students will most likely tune out and not hear a word. The best way to motivate them to listen is by playing songs. But you should also choose songs they like, or can relate to.
- This worksheet for Photograph by Nickelback provides a great warm-up exercise and a post-listening activity.
- Listen to So Sick by Ne-Yo and ask your students to complete the tasks set forth in this worksheet.
Have video lessons
Videos have great potential in the ESL class when you teach English online from home. Thanks to recent advances in technology, we no longer need to have a TV and DVD player in the classroom to teach a video lesson. A laptop will do for a small class, and a speedy Internet connection is great, but not entirely necessary, as you can have video files already downloaded to your computer. To keep students focused on the task, choose short interviews, movie trailers, music videos, or how to videos on YouTube.
Integrate technology into the classroom
In the previous point, we mention how easy it is to show videos on a laptop, but you can integrate technology in so many other ways. Most students have excellent Web surfing skills, so why not assign them a WebQuest? A WebQuest is an online, inquiry-based activity where students are required to search for specific information within links provided by the teacher, and then produce a report or a PowerPoint presentation. Here are some great examples of WebQuests for students, but you can also design your own to suit your students’ level.
ESL games motivate any learner when you teach English as a second language online, whether they are 5 or 50 years old. But with students, it’s important to choose games that will challenge them, give them the right competitive feel, and help them effectively practice an ESL item. A guessing game or any type of quiz show game should get them motivated.
- Try this Passive Voice Quiz Game, or design your own with similar categories.
- The 6 Clues Guessing Game will have your students competing to see who guesses right with the least amount of clues.
Use realia in the classroom
The use of real-life objects is also a great way to motivate students of all ages. But it is particularly effective with students who are already lacking in enthusiasm.
- Giving directions: Choose places that students frequently visit like malls, concert venues, or sports stadiums. Use anything from real city maps to brochures of these locations to practice giving directions.
- Tell me about yourself: Instead of just telling the class about themselves, ask your students to bring photos, as well as some of their favorite things, like books, CDs, a skateboard, or anything that represents them.
Make sure that at the beginning of the course you discuss what their learning goals are. They may not have thought of this earlier, but they may come to realize that they need English to surf the Internet, understand their favorite band’s songs, or chat with foreign friends. And talking about the things that interest students are a great way to establish rapport. Once you connect with them, you won’t find any more blank stares. You’ll see a room full of eager, smiling faces!
Next steps for educators
One remarkable quality about the motivations presented here is that they are associated with more and better reading at all grade levels K through 12.
These motivations are also associated with more and better reading in classroom contexts that are created in the short term or the long term. If a teacher supports students’ ownership by giving many choices in one lesson, the students are likely to respond positively with more motivation for reading. More profoundly, however, if a curriculum embeds choices across the school year and daily instruction underscores students’ self-directed learning, students’ ownership of reading will grow substantially and drive achievement upward.
These steps are very effective ways that could help you in achieving your goal of motivation your students in an online ESL teaching jobs for positive results.
Happy Teaching! Teacher Daniel:)