December 19, 2014

Antigua, Guatemala

Many teachers who are interested in working online ask me what does an online English teacher do? A good teacher always has a plan. Many online teaching companies have lessons already prepared, you just need to assign them to your students. Other companies want you to prepare your own material. If you have private students they are probably going to want a long term plan (unless they just want conversation in which case your job is a lot easier).  So what plan do you have for your students? What plan do you have for the next lesson?

Your plan should start by incorporating the goals of the student. Of course teachers must evaluate a student and see what level they are at, but if a student wants to practice the present perfect tense, practice it, if a student wants to practice the First Certificate exam, practice it. Your job is to be the English expert and help the student learn what they need and want.

Coming up with lessons can be tricky at the start, but once you have evaluated your students and have created enough lessons it gets a lot easier. Remember to recycle lessons with other students. After a few years of making my own lessons, I now have a binder full of lessons that can be used with different students.

Many people think that teaching online is very different from teaching face to face, but if you make use of technology you can almost replicate a face to face class online. Webcams allow you to show your facial expressions and hand gestures and good headphones allow a student to hear you very clearly. Skype (and other programs) lets you share your screen with your students so they can see what you see. Use Microsoft Word as a whiteboard. This will allow you to play games, spell words, etc. You can use Google to find images to show throughout your lesson.

I will never say that teaching online is more effective than teaching face to face, but the technology now exists to allow for efficient language learning. One problem you might have is correcting your students. Sometimes, because of the time delay, it is difficult to correct your students while still allowing them to speak fluidly. I recommend waiting until they have finished speaking and then correcting them or save a few minutes at the end of the lesson and go over the mistakes. Besides technical problems this is the only teaching problem I have had online.

I tell my students to keep a written notebook of new words and phrases. Just because we are teaching online doesn’t mean we are better than books. A notebook is the best way to review what you have learned.

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4 thoughts on “What Does an Online English Teacher Do?

  1. Thanks for the article, Mike. How do you use MS Word as a whiteboard while teaching online? I will be teaching my first class (a 1-on-1 session, mostly conversation, fortunately) tomorrow, and I haven’t a clue about the technology, except I do plan to use Skype.


    1. Hi Stephanie, sorry I missed your comment until now. Skype has a “Share Screen” feature that allows the person you are talking with see your screen. I have a Skype subscription so I am not sure if this feature is available on the free Skype version.

    1. Hi Alberto, thanks for the encouragement! I will try to write some more articles that are related to this. Good luck out there!

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