12 of the Best Resources for Teaching Online
Are you a teacher looking to improve your online classroom practices? Or are you just curious about making some extra money by teaching English online? Either way, you’re in luck. Online teaching platforms such as Zoom and Google Classroom are being used in record-breaking numbers as more and more schools opt to utilize virtual classrooms. Even before the global coronavirus pandemic hit, online language platforms such as VIPkid and Palfish had become popular among English language learners.
And rightfully so. What’s not to love about an online class? Digitizing education provides more opportunities to students in areas without much school choice. Not only are classes easy to access, but they also indirectly inform students about how to use technology. With the simple click of a button, students can connect with teachers and peers from across the globe. Students can learn comfortably from their own homes or any place with a strong WiFi connection.
The best part? Teaching online has some great benefits for teachers.
Pros of Teaching Online
There are many reasons to teach online, one being the flexibility. Using a virtual classroom enables teachers to connect with students during non-traditional class times. The lack of a commute means that classes can be held earlier or at any time that is best suited for your students’ learning styles. Teaching online is also an enriching experience, as you can reach a broader population of students. For example, if you want to teach English online to students in China, you can easily manage the time difference with a virtual lesson.
Besides flexibility in scheduling, online classrooms enable teachers to create more flexible, student-centered and engaging lessons. Young students these days have been raised with technology; they might be considered the “digital generation.” As a result, online lessons can be more appealing than a traditional classroom setting as they lend themself to a variety of hands-on activities for students. In an online classroom, you can incorporate all kinds of tech into your lesson, including web hunts, video and audio recordings, and project-based applications. The possibilities are truly endless, and innovative activities allow for all students to participate in learning.
Such classroom inclusion is another important benefit of online teaching. Online, students who are self-motivated are even more likely to participate in conversations and collaborate with their peers. On the other hand, students who are generally more shy can sit back and choose to participate when they feel ready. They might be more comfortable in the online venue.
One way to include all students is through scaffolding. Scaffolding is the idea of using your students’ prior knowledge to build upon and create a lesson. Of course, because not all students are at the same level, scaffolding sometimes means making the lesson easier with extra support. It could also mean making the lesson more challenging for advanced students. Online classrooms are actually great for scaffolding. You can provide youtube videos as a model for your students, or you can use the chat box to type more detailed instructions. You can also put students in break out rooms to complete activities and spend more time with the students who require further instruction.
So, if you’re sold on online teaching and looking for ways to improve your virtual classroom, or even if you are brand new and wondering how to start a successful online teaching career, keep reading. Here are 12 fantastic resources for teaching online.
Even teachers with years of experience have probably noticed that regular teaching practices do not transfer directly to the online classroom. Consequently, teachers need to update their skill sets in order to deliver effective and engaging online lessons. Even the best teachers could benefit from some reflection and refresh their skills. Furthermore, keeping students motivated and interested can be a lot of work when they’re staring at a screen all day. One method you might want to look into is Total Physical Response. TPR is a great way for students to associate a movement with a response. Use the links below to learn about TPR and other strategies to effectively teach online.
Outschool is an online teaching marketplace that provides free webinars and video demonstrations about the best online practices. If you’re looking for tips and tricks to adapt your class to the modernity of the online sphere, or if you need help navigating the world of Zoom, this is the place for you. To find out more or to sign up for a free webinar, visit their site, https://sites.google.com/outschool.com/teaching-online/home.
Since the pandemic has moved a large percentage of schools online, Harvard University has reached out and provided a comprehensive guide to adapting any class to the virtual classroom. Not only do they offer advice about online teaching pedagogy, but they also give detailed instruction on how to plan an online lesson. (I have this page bookmarked and ready to go!) From setting learning goals to creating assessments, this guide has it all. You can access Havard’s entire guide to remote teaching at https://teachremotely.harvard.edu/best-practices.
Practically any resource can be used for online teaching with the screen sharing function. To make your students feel more comfortable in the online classroom, it’s important to establish some kind of routine so they know what to expect when they log into the class.
Depending on the students’ level and age, you might also want to focus on student-driven activities. This will take away from the monotony of listening to lectures and encourage student interaction. Your students might even feel excited to login to class and work with their friends. You can put the students in break out rooms or small groups in order to complete activities found on the sites below.
The TEFL Org
The resources and lesson packs available on this site have been created and tested by TEFL experts around the world. Designed especially for new TEFL, or teaching English as a foreign language, instructors, The TEFL Org is a great place to start building up a toolkit for both online and offline English lessons. Their lessons cover a variety of class types, including business English. Visit tefl.org to check out some of their PDF resource packs and learn how to effectively teach English online.
Teachers Pay Teachers
This is a great marketplace for teachers who are looking to share educational resources. The site has a range of worksheets, digital lesson plans, and visually appealing activities that can easily be adapted into the online classroom setting. Best of all, the resources are created by actual teachers who understand the needs of their students. While some of the activities are available at a small fee, you can also find a ton of great resources for free. Find out more at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/.
Busy Teacher offers worksheets, printables, and lesson plans that are completely free. You can download resources for just about any level and any topic with one click. You easily share these resources with your students electronically in your online classroom. Bonus points for being eco-friendly and saving paper. Visit https://busyteacher.org/ to see for yourself.
Breaking News English
This site is an excellent resource for incorporating current events into your lessons. Updated every few days, Breaking News English adapts recent news stories to a range of student levels, so you can choose the one that suits your students’ needs.
Each article is also accompanied with a mini-lesson, including discussion questions and comprehension activities. This is a great tool for teaching online, and I use it with my younger students who are learning English as a second language. Find the perfect current event to discuss with your students at https://breakingnewsenglish.com/.
Scholastic teachables is another site full of lesson plans, activities, and games. With over 17,000 worksheets and activities, you’re sure to find something to suit your lesson plan. You can digitally download your file and share it in your classroom or use it on a powerpoint lesson. Visit https://teachables.scholastic.com/ to find out more.
Applications and Visual Aids
Integrating high energy activities or exciting visuals into your class will help your students stay engaged and excited. You can even assign a game or have students complete a project on an app as homework to reinforce what was learned in class. Students will be excited to integrate tech into their school lives. Here are some resources to spice up your online classroom.
Kahoot is a great way to reinforce a lesson and to check for student understanding. A game-based learning platform, Kahoot enables teachers to create quizzes, polls, or other learning games. It even utilizes game show music to set the mood.
Students can easily participate in Kahoot activities on their web browsers or through the Kahoot application on their phones. If you’re too busy to create your own Kahoots, you can also search for and play premade Kahoot quizzes. I highly recommend this site as a fun way to end your class and reinforce your lesson. See for yourself at https://kahoot.com/.
When it’s just you and your computer, it’s important to create engaging and fun backgrounds and visuals for your classes. You don’t want your students to get bored of staring at a bland background all day; instead, you want something that attracts their attention and glues their eyes to the screen. Glogster enables you to do just that.
Think of it as a virtual bulletin board. With Glogster’s help, you can make interactive, electronic posters to brighten your virtual classroom environment. Visit http://edu.glogster.com/ and give it a try.
Another great resource for visual aids, Canva is a graphic design platform that enables users to create all kinds of digital content. From posters to social media graphics to customizable presentations, you can create beautiful content on Canva or even edit a professionally designed template to suit your classroom needs. Let your creativity flow at https://www.canva.com/.
If you’re looking for an innovative way to assign homework, you should try Flipgrid. Teachers can post a grid, or a messageboard, with a topic or homework assignment. Students then post short video responses with their answers. Students can even personalize their responses with cute designs and emojis.
Flipgrid is a great innovative platform to complement your online classes. My university students really enjoyed using flipgrid to post discussion videos, and shy students were happy to cover their faces with cute emojis. Visit https://info.flipgrid.com/ for more information.
Especially great for TEFL classes or younger students, this application can be used to supplement your class and reinforce your lesson. The app teaches vocabulary and competence across all four language skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking- to help students build word association networks. Students can enjoy vocabulary word games and study on their own time. For more information about Vocab Victor, go to https://vocabvictor.com/.
Have Fun Teaching Online
One of the most important things about teaching online is to create a relaxed, comfortable learning environment that motivates the students. Having some kind of personal relationship with your students and addressing them by name will add to a comfortable online classroom.
Of course, teaching online (or in any) setting does not come without challenges, but you can use the resources above to make your classroom more comfortable. Some of the above sites also have forums for teachers. Networking with other teachers and talking about what works and what doesn’t is also a good way to build your own community of learners.
After reading through and implementing some of the resources above, try some out in your class! You can find what works best for your online class by asking for feedback from the students themselves. Involve your students in the learning process and ask them what they like and don’t like in your online class. After all, teachers are always learning, too!
BIO: Erin Honigman is an ESL teacher currently working at the University of Ulsan in South Korea