Online TEFL teacher, Catherine, went live on i-to-i TEFL’s Facebook page to share her online lesson planning tips and answer your questions about teaching English online. Watch a recording of the full webinar here or read on for edited extracts.
How do you prepare for online TEFL lessons?
A lot of online TEFL companies provide lesson plans, which really reduces planning time. I need about half an hour to read through new material, make sure I’m happy with the content that I’m teaching and see if there is anything that I want to expand.
With a lot of the platforms, you get used to what you are teaching and recycle it across different students. If you’re with a company like PalFish you’ll often be teaching the same trial lessons to start with until you get regular students. Once you know the lessons, you won’t need to prep too much – you just need to do a quick refresh to ensure there are no changes and make sure you’re confident teaching any new material.
If you’re teaching your own students, you will need to find relevant material. Your TEFL course goes through all of the different stages of lesson planning, starting with your introduction and warmers and keeping students engaged.
How do you decide what to teach?
To make sure you’re planning the right content for your TEFL class, you need to find out if you’re teaching kids, adults or teenagers. It also depends on whether it’s a one-to-one or group lesson.
If I’m planning my own lessons, I always have a free, half-hour conversation to find out my students’ requirements before I go into the first lesson. Do they want to learn reading or writing? Do they want to learn everything? Are they at the start of their English learning journey?
I also find out their interests and hobbies so I can plan material that’s relevant to them. You don’t want to be teaching something that they have no interest in. You want to make sure that they are actually enjoying the lesson and that they are learning at the same time.
How do you structure online TEFL lessons?
You need a great introduction and warmer to get students engaged in the lesson and know what they’re going to be learning. The bulk of the lesson will focus on the main topic, whether that is reading, writing or grammar, and then you have your concept checking questions at the end to make sure your students understand the content and to check nothing has been missed.
You also need to plan for the right length of time, whether your lesson’s half an hour, an hour or 90 minutes. If you have back-to-back lessons, you can’t overrun but you also don’t want to find you’ve still got 10 minutes left and you’ve run out of content. If you’re doing an hour lesson, you might want two topics in the lesson, so you can mix it up and keep it active and fresh. It’s always better to have an extra couple of activities just in case you have gone through the lesson faster than you thought you would.
If you do a good lesson plan then everything should go to plan and you won’t be late and you won’t run out of material either. The i-to-i TEFL course really helps you with your lesson structure and you get 20 lesson plans with the online resource pack which is great for new teachers.
How do you keep online TEFL students engaged?
It’s good to have lots of props and flashcards to keep younger children engaged in your TEL classes. For adults, I use more realia – real-life things like stationery or equipment.
i-to-i’s online resource pack includes loads of helpful props, like shapes and colours which are great for when you’re teaching vocab to children. i-to-i also has just produced an ultimate resource pack which has props and flashcards, like food, shoes, salad, weather, faces and emotions. I have printed them all out and stuck them on sticks.
Toys are another good way to get kids’ attention if they are a little distracted during the TEFL class. If you’re doing a lot of repetition, you can point to different things like your nose and then the nose of your toy, which mixes it up for your lesson. It’s also good to have a reward system for teaching children – they love getting rewards. I have gold stars and I have seen people giving virtual ice creams or packing a backpack.
Another way to make kids feel like they’re in a classroom is to design your background. I have a plain background for my adults but for my children’s lessons I have animals, lots of sparkles, glitter hearts and stars.
Can you use games to keep students involved in lessons?
Games are really good to keep children engaged in your lessons. When I was teaching the numbers one to ten and colours we did a lot of games. I taught the vocab and then we did a number bingo and a word search, which was really fun.
There are a couple of games that I have found which are really cool. One is Kahoot which is good if you’ve got a group of older kids or adults. It has games like fastest finger or matching the correct word and putting sentences in the right order. You choose the activity and then all the students use their phones and put a pin number in to access it. It’s really fun and a bit competitive. It breaks up the normal lesson plan.
Baamboozle is another good free online resource. It has loads of games on different topics. I’ve not used it as much but it’s been recommended to me. You can have it open and then, if you’re teaching something, you can think, ‘Let’s try this.’ You can mix it up. It’s definitely worth having a go.
What online materials can you use to help with TEFL lesson planning?
There is a wealth of resources online, which does save a lot of time. If you’re new to lesson planning, it gives you a base to use. You can change the content but you’ve got the structure – just make sure you choose activities that are relevant to your students.
I use the British Council website, which is really helpful and free. They do lesson plans for primary and secondary school children, adults from beginners to advanced, as well as business English. It’s great if you’re trying to plan as it has loads of activities and resources.
Another site I’ve found recently is Lingua House which has lesson plans and resources. It has quite a chunk of free material on it but it also has a subscription service so you can pay to get more lesson plans and an email every week with topic-based updates. They do lesson plans about things that are in the news and provide all the material you need including the video content and sound bites, so you can just run with it.
How do you find work as an online TEFL teacher?
It’s really easy to get a job teaching English online, especially with COVID as everybody has gone online. I have been teaching online since January. I started teaching for a couple of hours a week for a charity as a volunteer and I’ve been teaching online full time since March.
The main jobs board is LoveTEFL Jobs. It has loads of different jobs around the world and you can search by if you have a degree or no degree and by country. There’s also a new blog about where to look for jobs on the i-to-i website.
Teaching English online is really great. You’re your own boss. You can plan the time when you want to work or you want time off. I love that I can teach children in the morning, adults in the afternoon, business English lessons at night. It really mixes up my day. If you want to just teach children or you just want to teach adults, you can look for jobs accordingly. There are loads of online resources out there.
I’m so happy that I’m doing online teaching and I’m my own boss.
Find out more
Listen to the full webinar
Download our free online TEFL guide
Find out about TEFL training courses
Search for jobs at LoveTEFL Jobs
Follow Catherine on Instagram @Catherine.esl.online