Moving to Online Teaching? The one about the Platform & Material

So coronavirus, huh?

I hope you are all healthy and you and your families are well.

Difficult times. A lot of us are looking at ways of moving from face to face to online. Whether it’s ELT or EAP, I am here to tell you that it can be done, but it will take time, planning and effort.

I have decided to write a few blog posts about how to transition from f2f to online. Before I start, a few rambley bits.

My Background & My Context

I have been teaching Business English online for about 7 years. I taught my last BE lesson this month. I thought that would be the end of an era…… but is it? I now work at a University and my main post is that of a pre sessional coordinator. So basically, I am working on this summer’s pre sessional EAP course (pre sessional courses are courses created usually for post grad students who need to improve their academic skills before progressing to their chosen MA). Some universities are already teaching online, others are starting to look at that. So, any thoughts/questions/advice? I have a few and will be sharing them with you.

Material and Your Platform

Myth: I can use what I created for my f2f lessons for my online ones. I already have them on my usb stick. Piece of cake.

Sorry to burst the bubble but maybe not…

You cannot use all the materials you created for your face to face class, for your online ones. Why? Well, for various reasons. One simple one, your material might be on a pdf file that is not what is compatible with the platform you are using. You may have linked a video on a PPT (which works when you use it in class), but the video does not work when you use your online platform. So, my first tip…. Know your platform. What are you using? Design for that. Just because it worked in Adobe, does not mean it will work in Zoom.

Make some slides/sheets and put them on your virtual classroom and check them. How visible/accessible is the material? How small is the writing? Do you have students who have dyslexia and need different colour in the background? Do you have colour blind students who will struggle if your slides/ material have contrasting colours. How much space do you have for students to write on your onlinr material? Can you highlight on your chosen platform or do you need to highlight on your material. Do you have an answer sheet? Will you need an answer sheet that will be shared with you students?

Oh! Also, where is your learner? Are there restrictions on the internet? If your students are in China, will they be able to access what you are sharing? Not just the videos you have or the grammar links, but also the unexpected ones. For example, when a student asks you “what does XYZ mean?” and when you are in Europe, you send a link to an image or something. Can you do the same with your students in China? What can you use? My advice here would be to make a list of everything that you may want to use, check and find alternatives (Google images will probably not work in China, so what can you use?)

Devil’s advocate

I know my platform and my materials are fine… Are they? Really? Questions to ask yourself:

Is this a one to one lesson or a group lesson? My focus in today’s post is on group lessons.

What type of group activities can I use?

In an EAP context (that is what my context is) can you ask your students to hold a seminar? Can they do a reading/listening circle? You could do if your platform has breakout rooms, but in that case you will need to think about the fact that you may not be able to monitor all groups, so you need to think about how you could address that. Another thing you need to consider is if your breakout room has the same tools as your main room. If not, how will you work around it? Think about what you need your students to do in the breakout room and tailor your task based on that. Also, does your breakout room have the option of someone being a chair/ leader/presenter? Someone who will be responsible for giving permission for use of tools, who speaks when etc.

Other things to consider when designing group activities

Can your students collaborate? This depends on the functionality of the breakout room or your main room. If students were using the main room, I would maybe draw lines as to where students would write. That way you avoid students writing on each others work. You would also need to time the collaborative writing. Say for example student A needs to write five sentences which student B will correct and then student B will write five sentences which student A will correct. Again, think of ways to avoid having people write on each other.

Can they peer assess? Can they self assess? Here the answer is yes. You need to create sheets for peer and self assessments that can be used be used by you students during their group work or as part of their independent study.

Back to the Platform

How strong is the platform? What is your and your students’ broadband like? Can you have multiple cameras on at the same time? How long does it take to get back into the platform if you are chucked out? What do you do if the platform crashed? What is your plan B and C? Does your platform allow recordings? How will you share them with your students? Any GDPR concerns? Is there a delay in the audio? Will you have loads of people speaking at the same time? Probably. So what do you do? Mute students or ask them to use the ‘raise hand’ feature. What happens when a student gets cut off and exits the classroom. How do you manage your time?

More…..

Time difference between your students. How will that work and how does it affect the dynamics of your group? When everyone is in the same time zone, it’s easy….. What if they are not? Have you given your students enough time to prepare for an activity based on their timezone (sorry folks, don’t have all the answers)?

Anything else?

Uploading material

If I were you, I would have everything uploaded on my platform and ready to go. Sometimes this can take ages and you don’t want to be sat there waiting for stuff to upload.

Time management, My Platform and My Material

Now that is a tough cookie and I am getting tired…. So my next post will be about time management and online teaching. I hope I have helped you think about stuff. Probably haven’t answered lots of questions, but asking them is a good starting point.

Thanks for stopping by….

Till next time…

Working from home: Yes or No?

Hi everyone!!

As you may (or may not know). I have lost it completely, and have started making YouTube videos :p. Yup. I filmed this very short video a while back and I talked about what I do. I thought I’d share it here.

Oh! Yeah. I know my background sucks. Dunno why I thought hanging pearls (fake ones) on the cupboard would look good. It doesn’t!

Anyhow, this is me, talking briefly about working from home.

 

See ya soon!!

xx

J.

Websites, videos & random stuff I use in class

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Hi everyone!

Today’s post is all over da place… but goooooooooood (me thinks). I am sharing with you a few things I used in class, plan on using in class, and some things some of my Facebook friends shared with me!! So, let’s share folks!

I was teaching question tags and I came across My English Page website and it is pretty good. You can get the question tag lesson material (theory) here and exercises here. I would not use this for weak students or lower level learners. I’d say it is better for A2+. I usually go to the Grammar Bank website when I am looking for theory + exercises (online), but I thought I’d try this one a try as well.

My learner asked me to find videos/material that would help him familiarise himself with the Aussie accent. I grew up in Sydney but only have an Oz twang as I have been told and my accent is not as Aussie as it used to. So, anyway, I asked my Facebook teacher friends for help and many made suggestions, so I am sharing these suggestions here as well (thanks to everyone!!).

So, Aussie accent lesson plan from ELT stories.

Katherine suggested I checked out Elllo. I had never heard about this website. I just had a quick look and there are various videos with different accents (from all over the world) and listening questions (plus the transcript of whatever the person in the video says). There are even EAP videos (yup) Interesting!!! You should check it out.

I discovered ABC News Australia. Videos that last for 90 secs. You can find them here.

I used this article again in class and had forgotten how good it is to get students talking. I have two words for you. Language Police. You can read the article here and use it in class as you wish.

Harvard Business Review Podcasts: I am going to use this podcast in a lesson later on (if I make a lesson plan, I will share it here). The podcast about productivity is worth listening to though, especially with your Business English students/ higher level learners (lawyers/ CEOs etc.). I love the part about reading and the flashlight/ naps.

Quick fun game (saw this in a planner group).

Tell your students:

So,you have $10.000 but you can only buy things that start with the first letter of your name. What do you get???

My answer: I’d get  jumpers, jugs, jelly beans- jelly babies, juice, Jo Malone perfumes, a jigsaw puzzle (not sure about that one), Japanese beauty products (that’s cheating) : Dunno what else….

But, how can you make this part of a lesson? Well, you can do this when teaching nouns, or as a speaking task before teaching story telling. It could be part of a lesson where you teach reasons or the use of because.

Something random

(coz everything else mentioned so far is connected :p)

Lettering is a ‘thing’ and I am trying to improve my lettering skills. I found some pdf files on some websites and if you want to try lettering with your students or improve your own calligraphy skills, you should check out this website.

So, that’s all for now guys. If you have found anything worth sharing, do let me know in the comments section below. By the way, I often wonder what you think when you read my posts, I mean, I am so informal!! But I am me and I am talking to you guys like I would if we were in the office, sharing ideas. OK. I am off now!!

Till next time……

P.S. EAP pre- sessional tutor posts have  started to get advertised on Baleap and indeed.org.uk. You should check them out and you can also read my tips regarding pre-sessional EAP courses/ interviews and so on.

Hey, I missed you guys. Haven’t written a (kinda) proper post in ages!!!This is actually my 200th post!!! Thanks for being here xx ❤ ❤ ❤ 

Why & How Pre-sessional EAP courses work for me

Hi guys!

This post was prompted by Alex’s question on a post I wrote about EAP presessional courses. His question was simple.

You teach EAP during the summer, so what happens the rest of the year?

Instead of answering in the comments section, I though I’d write a quick post, just to tell you my context which may be similar to yours.

Music Department

Sheffield University ( Department of Music)

I live in Greece and the school year is from September to end of May (private 1-2-1 teaching). I also teach Business English online. There my students are grown ups with kids, so they take summer holidays when schools are shut (same time as I do).

This means that every summer from mid June till mid September, I am free. I do not have that much work and that’s why Pre-sessional EAP courses are great for me. I ❤ them. I get to teach in a different context to what I do in the winter. I work at a university, which is really challenging and stimulating, my learners are from a different country altogether AND I get to be in the UK which I love.

Why don’t I teach EAP all year round? Firstly, I have not pursued it (not that any one has asked me to stay-just to be clear, eh?). Secondly, I have never lived in the UK during the winter, so dunno if I can handle it!! I am from the south people!

You may also ask, do I mind working all year round? Nope. I kinda have to work all year round if I want to do the things I do. I am not complaining, and anyway I am a workaholic, a shopaholic/travelaholic or just a spendaholic. I work, enjoy my job, make money from it, spend my money. Simple stuff.

Of course I miss out on the Greek summer, but if you think about it, the summer in Greece lasts from May till end of October. It’s always warm, especially on my little island.

Beach Kolumpari

So, there you have it. That’s how  and why pre-sessional courses work for me. This summer I will be going back to Sheffield University for their 10 week pre-sessional course. Cannot wait!

Do you teach pre-sessional EAP courses or a summer school course? Tell me your story in the comments below. Don’t forget to follow my blog if you are not already and give my Facebook page a thumbs up so that you do not miss notifications! You can follow me on Twitter/Pinterest/Instagram

Till next time….

Footy ELT Resources

“I want to do a lesson on football” the learner said. ” Ummmm. OK!” The fashionista in me panicked. “So, now what?” Well, I did what every sane  ‘I know nothing about football’ teacher would do. I went to Facebook and asked my PLN. Everyone came to my savior and today I am helping my fellow fashionista and non-fashionista teachers out. So, you want to talk/teach something that is based on the topic of football? Here is what I have.

The results of my search/ my suggestions

The Busy teacher website has 39 free lesson plans on the World Cup.

You can use Wikipedia and find the history of almost every national football team.

Labelled football pitch all the words you need to describe a football field (I think?!?!?).

Videos

TED Ed the Impossible Free Kick

I actually found this video very interesting (physics used to explain a free kick).

Ellen video

I watched this video and found it so funny. It is of a football match in Greece. Dunno how you can use it in the class, but I thought I’d add it to put a smile on your faces :D.

My lovely PLN

Articles

Marc suggested the Mirror Four Four Two

A hot topic, according to Paul, is this one. It’s about Zidane and this dude called Guardiola (?!).

Maria told me to have a look at the Guardian because it is very easy to navigate and has clear tabs (I second that).

Lesson Plans

Christina’s suggestion: LanguageCuster.com: Learn English through football.

Gabriela suggested Premier Skills English

A book

Rachael mentioned this book: Express Series: English for Football: A short, specialist English course which you can get *here

Sue actually sent me a lesson plan ❤ ❤

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So that’s all folks. If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments section below :). Enough with the football talk. I gotta go put on some makeup now 🙂 ❤ ❤

xx

 

*I use amazon affiliate links

The one about the teacher who got cold feet

This is going to be like a journal entry. I am going to talk about something new and how I felt before and after the lesson. So, here goes!

My first medical English class

Before the lesson

I feel nervous and excited.

  • Nervous

I am nervous because this is the first time I have a student who wants to talk about the components of blood, clinical trials and viruses. I also have no ‘real’ idea where I am supposed to look for materials. I have been given a few suggestions, but before the actual lesson, these are unchartered waters.My learner is an advanced level learner which is a bit scary because I am the language expert, not the subject expert. This learner will probably not be making too many language errors, so where will that leave me?

  • Excited

I am excited because I have no idea what I am going to do! This is a new challenge. After 18 years of teaching, something new. This is stimulating. I will have to read up on things, I am going to learn and prepare material from scratch and this is fun. Let’s see how this goes.

My teaching context

This is an online lesson. The learner has already had English lessons with another teacher. This is a B2 level student.

My material for today

I chose to use an article from NPR about Alzheimer’s disease. The good thing about the articles I have seen so far in NPR is that they have videos as well, so your student reads the article and watches a video as well.

During the lesson

First minutes were dedicated to getting to know each other. We then started talking about what she thought the article will be about based on the title. The student then read the article, we chatted a bit about it, like a summary. I did not explain any vocabulary.  We talked about Alzheimer’s, she then wanted me to explain some of the unknown words and I did. After that she watched the video which was in the article and talked to me about it.

This was a get to know you lesson with some speaking which was based on the article/video. No homework was assigned.

Why did I choose this article?

I did not choose a medical journal to start my sessions with this learner because I wanted to get a ‘feel’ of her level. I also thought that it might be a bit hard for me as well to explain terms I did not know and I did not want to make a bad impression (teacher has to know it all syndrome. Yes, I could have prepared and found all my unknown vocabulary had I chosen a medical journal article, but I was too stressed, so I didn’t).

What’s next?

I asked my student what kinds of lessons she wants to do. She said she wants to learn a lot of terminology especially if it has to do with clinical trials and blood. So this weekend I am going to do a lot of research and try to see what I can dig up (if you have any suggestions, please leave a comment in the comments section).

This was a good lesson about a disease. It was not a medical English lesson though. I think my next lesson will be an ESP lesson cause now I know my learner’s general English capability. Time to move on to ESP.

I will share the medical English websites I find in a later post. For the moment, check out NPR if you don’t know what it is cause I like it.

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Till next time….

T+T0=P: Time Management Problems when Teaching Online

Time management when teaching online can be a bit tricky, so I thought I’d write a post about it (after Demmy suggested it of course!). I have a few suggestions to make time management more ‘manageable’. Let’s start by discussing what I mean by ‘time management problems’. As I see it, there are two types of time management problems.

Problem  number one

You cannot manage your time effectively online during the lesson, and you end up not doing what you had planned to teach.

Problem number two

You thought online teaching would ensure a better quality of life, meaning that you would have time to spend at home, and you would be a freer teacher. Instead, you are still working all day. Online or offline, you are struggling to find time, and 24 hours are not enough!

Now, let’s move on. Time to have a look at what kind of issues may affect your time management as an online tutor, and make suggestions on how to alleviate these problems.

Too many Notes and Things to share with the learners

  • Try to make folders of the material you use and try to use your material as often as you can. If, for instance, you teach grammar mostly, make docs for all the grammar points and then keep using over and over (theory docs). I, for example, have conversational lessons that are based on articles. I have a folder with the articles and word docs with tasks which are based on them. It takes time to make this folder and if you are new at online teaching this will take forever, but you can use it over and over after time. In a nutshell, just make folders and save all your stuff. You need to be very organised!!
  • If you have PPT slides, turn them into word documents and type comments under the slides. There is also a note-taking option when you choose to print a PPT. If you want, you can tell your learner to print the slides before the lesson and tell them to make handwritten notes of things you ask them to write down (in this case PPT slides need to be sent prior to the lesson).
  • Have you thought of having a generic lesson note template which you use over and over again? Do you have a doc of general feedback you can copy paste onto different documents to different learners? This generic feedback doc will save you loads of time!Again, you go to your grammar theory doc for example (the one I mentioned earlier) and you copy paste the theory or your notes and then you add more comments.  Be careful though, do not make notes of every single mistake your learner makes.This is very important!  You could say, when you first get a learner, that you will be sending them feedback notes with X number of grammar/vocabulary points and Y number of phonology/pronunciation errors. This learner/ teacher feedback notes agreement will save you time, will keep your feedback shorter, and will make your learner more conscious!! They need to take notes as well!!

Have to send too many documents/upload stuff

  • Get a learner’s management system  or a Wiki where your learner goes and sees everything uploaded. Remember the grammar theory document I mentioned earlier? If you have a website with this info already uploaded, you can direct your learner there.

Tech problems that cause you to be online/offline

  • Have a good internet connection. Nothing else.

Lesson planning problems that are affected by tech problems etc.

  • The solution here is quite easy. Chuck your lesson plan if you were beaten by the ‘tech’ beast, or be more generous with your task timing. The more flexible you are, the easier it will be to cope with your lesson plan going down the drain.

Distractions at home

  • Have a designated area in a room (like a study) where you teach. Door should be closed and don’t have phones next to you unless it is extremely necessary ( I often take the phone off the hook when I am teaching online).

Online distractions

  • This is a no brainer, when you teach online, have everything else, all other websites, closed. Yeap, Facebook is great, but it may distract you when you are teaching and you will forget what you were talking about.

Final tip: Remember to multi-task. If your learner is reading an article or writing a short text online, you can be making lesson notes.

I hope these suggestions help you to save a bit time. Just keep in mind, teachers are all wired in a way that makes them work or think about work 24/7. Happy teaching!!!

Feel free to leave a comment on how you save time when teaching online. Follow this blog via mail, WordPress or Bloglovin if you found it helpful and want to keep reading my posts. There is also a Facebook page on the side bar you could ‘like’. Enough with the self-promo. Thanks for stopping by.

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Till next time……

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