In a conversation based, online ESL lesson, the focus is usually on building confidence in order to promote the student to speak. Due to the form factor of the virtual classroom, there is also a lot of empty space on the student’s screen that presents a great opportunity for screen sharing lesson content. Workbooks, exercise sheets, and class homework are not great tools to increase energy levels during an online lesson (nor are they ideal for screen sharing).
Those who have already obtained a master’s degree in ESL may have the upper hand, but TESL students and the vast majority of other teachers have limited knowledge of how to work with English as a Second Language (ESL) learners, also called English Language Learners (ELLs). At some point in their career, almost all teachers will have a student whose native language is not English. Engaging with ELLs does not have to be an uphill battle — in fact, it should be an enriching experience for the teacher, the ESL learner, and the rest of the class.
As with all teaching, doing the few extra steps to prepare engaging lessons, by injecting your own personal experiences and incorporating those of your students — will do wonders to interest your students in the curriculum. You can also draw inspiration from and use these teaching resources and tools. Says one teacher, “Teaching ESL is about 1/3 knowing the ins and outs of the English language, 1/3 being a good communicator, and 1/3 being a good actor. You really need to be excited doing this job.” These ideas can easily create a wonderful environment for motivating ESL learners and elevating the educational and cultural environment for every kid involved.
Create a cultural dialogue.
With regards to an online ESL job, this suggestion tops our list because it is offered by every teacher who has worked with ESL students in an online ESL job. Learning in an English-speaking classroom doesn’t mean force-feeding American patriotism. It must be a two-way street. Create an environment that embraces your students’ own cultures and backgrounds. Show a real interest. Ask the students to teach you phrases in their own language, especially positive phrases like “Good job,” and use these phrases interchangeably with their English counterparts. Do presentations on their culture’s history, food, and background, and encourage the students to formulate their own demonstrations. Invite the parents into the classroom, even if they don’t speak English, to participate and get to know the entire class. This approach helps teach all your students that having a family that speaks another language is something to be celebrated.
Correct errors with compassion.
Your ESL students will make mistakes, and you should let them. After all, teaching ESL online jobs is really tasking, so we learn best through making mistakes. And if you’re interrupting your students to correct them every five words, they’re going to get frustrated, lose their train of thought, and feel attacked. Give your students time to think and respond, and let them realize they’ve made a mistake and try to correct it themselves. Everyone has opinions, and everyone wants the floor to speak them occasionally. Give them the space they need to formulate ideas.
Be adaptable, but maintain high expectations.
A challenge like learning in a new setting is just that: a challenge. It doesn’t mean you should lower your expectations or give out A’s for effort. Outline realistic benchmarks and assessments, and take into account the students’ needs for time, support, difficulty, and product. Adapt the amount of time for completing a task; adapt the amount of scaffolding; adapt the task (for example, by allowing the use of a dictionary or simplified instructions); and adapt the type of response such as permitting drawings, a verbal response, or a translated response. Students want to respond to their teachers’ high expectations positively, so if you foster a positive classroom environment while maintaining your high (and realistic) expectations, your students will rise to the challenge.
Encourage students to speak in their native language.
Some teachers teaching ESL online jobs always make the mistake of telling their ESL students that their native tongue is not allowed in the classroom. But maintaining and developing this native language actually, helps their acquisition of academic English. According to a 1995 study by Virginia Collier and Wayne Thomas, dual language models of schooling have a substantial effect on student progress, “enhancing student outcomes and fully closing the achievement gap in the second language.” Support of the primary language is therefore critical to helping your students succeed both in your class and in the years to follow, and ideally, instruction occurs bilingually — that is, the “curricular mainstream [is] taught through two languages.”
When you need advice or ideas, or if you simply want a sounding board, seek assistance from full-time ESL teachers or even general teachers who are bilingual themselves. Identify and recruit volunteers from your personal and professional life, or any of these ESL and TESOL Twitter accounts who speak the students’ language. Administrators can even work with community leaders who are involved in community development with immigrant families.
These few tips are some of the best ways you can easily engage and motivate kids to partake fully in an ever demanding online ESL jobs.
Happy Teaching! Teacher Daniel 🙂