Take your online teaching game to the next level

Hello, fellow teacher. Are you an experienced teacher? Are you teaching online? Do you find yourself wondering how to deliver better lessons online? Most of us have been teaching online since March – back then it was new to the vast majority of us, we tried to get by, and we didn’t think it would last for very long.

Over half a year later we are still here, logging in from our home offices (kitchen tables), doing our best to motivate our students through the lens of webcams, and certainly being certain that Zoom, Meets and Skype aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Hence now is the perfect opportunity for us all to embrace it, brush up on (or expand) our tech skills, and polish our online teaching techniques repertoire. To support you, I’ve dug into the wealth of IH experience and compiled a list of 5 top tips. First things first…

Online teaching: get to know your tools.

We all had to learn how to use chalk and keep our writing legible on the board (some with more success than others – looking at myself here!). We all had to understand methodology to help our learners absorb and process new information. We had no choice about adopting our schools’h procedures.

Equally, we may have no choice about what platform we are using to deliver our online lessons, but we have to be familiar with it. This is not about being a techie. This is about comfort, about having confidence in the tools you are using, and about being able to feel in control.

Rooms, reactions, chats, screen sharing… it is all a bit overwhelming at first, I get it. But that’s why that’s step one. Reach out to your colleagues. Look at online forums. Ask your skilled nephew to help you. Ask us. No matter what your situation is, invest some time and energy into becoming familiar with the platform you’re using. You’ll thank yourself later.

Do what you already do.

Now that you know how to use your online platform of choice, teach.

‘But it’s not that simple…’ It is! Yes, teaching online is a little bit different – it has certainly made us appreciate the importance of human contact and how important that is when you are trying to support someone’s growth.

Fundamentally, however, everything you do in a face-to-face classroom can be adapted to your online lessons:

  • Effective instructions
  • Checking students’ understanding
  • Mini tests
  • Group work (even if your platform doesn’t support rooms!)
  • Games

It is all the same, really. All you need is a bit of out-of-the-box thinking. Some tips. Or someone to jog your thinking (we all need a nudge from time to time). But successfully adapting all your techniques and repertoire is 100% within your reach.

Engage to motivate: even during online teaching.

Sitting in front of a screen all day is not fun. Not for us. Not for our students. Some of us might accept it as a matter-of-fact thing, ‘it is what it is’, needs must…

But this is tip #3: now you are a confident user of your platform, you know how to use your teaching techniques in the online environment – you don’t settle. So don’t settle and make your lessons engaging!

I’m not talking about ‘games’ that are a waste of time. No teacher can afford that. I’m talking about ways to bring your lesson content to life. About making your lessons a bit more interactive. Get your students to do some hard work (I know, I know… but try it!). Or even a play a game, but one that will require them to think and recycle the knowledge you’ve given them!

You can run interactive group projects which involve research and presenting on the students’ part.

You can do CLIL (if you’re a language teacher).

You can play ‘old fashioned’ teaching games (such as ‘Find someone who’).

…you could even use EdTech apps to do something really different!

It’s not that difficult, trust me. Plus your learners will thank you (even though that may not be out loud if they are teenagers).

Flip it.

The magic taking your learner engagement to a whole new level is… *drumroll please*

Flipped classroom methodology!

Before you even ask, if you are not familiar with it already, flipped classroom involves students doing the learning and studying at home, as homework before the lesson. They come into your lesson being already familiar with its contents.

This can be done for everything and anything: history of Italian unification, photosynthesis, present perfect with yet/just/already, a piece of reading…

Yes, it means you have to think about your lessons in advance and prepare the materials for learners to study.

But your students will come to your lessons prepared. They might have questions. And you might have to go over some points again (and there are some other challenges which you can think of, I know…), however, there are solutions and it’s not going to take the entire lesson. You’ll have much more time to engage your learners with the material, you can really deepen their understanding and bring it all to life (back to tip #4)!

Just ask your learners what they’d prefer – listening to a presentation from you in the lesson, followed by a tedious homework, or studying on their own knowing they can understand the relevance of it and practically apply their knowledge in the lesson. I know what they will choose.

Don’t be afraid.

It’s still new. New to you. New to your colleagues. New to your learners. We are all on the same boat and we know it.

I understand writing 5 tips is relatively easy; ‘easier said than done’; ‘I don’t have time to flip it or look for engaging materials’…

No one is expecting you to revolutionise yourself and your teaching practice overnight. But if you have made it to this point in this article, it is clear you care about what you do. You want to be a better teacher for your learners, like we all do.

So don’t be afraid. Take it a step (tip) at a time. And get support – it is out there. We certainly are.

Take your online teaching game to the next level

Filip teaches across all levels and age groups at IH Milan and is incredibily passionate about his job. He has a keen interest in new methodologies especially those that develop learner autonomy, such as the flipped classroom. Filip is undertaking DELTA modules 1 and 2 this year.

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