Online lessons

Teaching online - for teachers; studying online - for students; personal experience - Alex Melekhov

HOW TO TEACH ONLINE

Teaching online became a challenge for me when the pandemic hit. I was so used to offline classes, having my blackboard, printing out worksheets, that I was more than reluctant to try anything else. Well, now I’m glad I did, because with all honesty, I don’t want to turn back to printing and staining my fingers with chalk (yes, I am that old-fashioned).  Let me help you fall in love with teaching online:

1. Online boards:

There are plenty of online boards and tools that can help you organise your lessons. If you are creative you could simply share screen and use MS Paint, or any type of word document, but the ones truly wonderful are Google Jamboard and Miro board.

The first one allows you to create sticky notes of different colours (praise colour-coding), draw and insert pictures. The background is a limited space of a landscape oriented whiteboard with a few design options. One jam board allows you to have up to 20 slides all of which can be saved separately as images or as one pdf file. Perfect for organising your thoughts, ideas, and then sending the materials to your students after the lesson. You can never do that with an actual board, can you?

How to use it:

- use a “scissor tool” to cut out pieces from your pdf course-books and insert them in the slide. Highlight, write sentences or do gap-filling,  add sticky notes and make mind maps around those.

- use different sticky notes to teach or revise grammar. You can ask students to move different pieces and rearrange and reorder them. Word order, sentence structure, modifiers, articles, questions, you name it, can be taught and visualised this way.

- write questions on the stickers and cover them with empty ones. Ask students to remove the top sticker to unveil the question beneath. A perfect substitute for everybody’s favourite speaking task.

- add backgrounds, photos and pictures from the internet to compare, caption or order. 

Miro board gives you a huge free space with the ability to create sticky notes, insert images and write text. It can get pretty messy though, and you have to organise this space carefully. You can save parts of the board as images and send them to your students, too.

How to use it:

- I use scissor tools to cut out different cards and paste them on the board. Since you can move them around and overlay, you can use Miro to play board games and card games from resource packs.

- zoom in and zoom out to create a multi-dimensional visual lesson. No one will be able to call that boring!

And one last advantage of these online boards is that you can reuse and recycle them! I often come back to the tasks I have already done with my students and revise the material in some new way. I may cover a part of the picture or of a verb; ask to use the vocabulary while answering new questions and many other things. 

2. Using course-books:

Not all pdf readers allow you to make notes in the file limiting the way you can interact with the course-book. And when you use a zoom annotation tool, everything moves with the screen. There is a solution to this - kamiapp.com.
You can upload any pdf to this website, story it in your Google Drive and annotate it as you want. Draw , write and add shapes - everything is possible. And if you share it with your students they can even do all of it themselves - it’s group work on one file.
However, if you want each of your students to have separate copies of the book you are using, you will have to create separate copies (with different names), upload it to your Google Drive (and that will take a lot of space) and share each copy with each student. 

3. Playing games:

The Internet is abundant with online games suitable for any ESL class. You can create your own Jeopardy game with https://jeopardylabs.com/ , have a class quiz with https://www.baamboozle.com/ or create individual fun tasks at https://quizizz.com

4. Assessment:

There are different ways to assess your students’ knowledge and retention, for example do a speaking test, play a game or send out individual pdfs. However, the most interesting way is probably using Google forms. Create a new form, collect email addresses as a compulsory step (this way you will know who filled the form) and make your test. You can add different kinds of tasks - multiple choice, gap filling, free answer, as well as specify which answer is correct. The test will be automatically graded and you will only have to announce the results. 


STUDYING ONLINE

Nowadays lots of companies, schools and other organisations have gone from working in the office and meeting in real life to doing it all online. And for obvious reasons, not everyone was ready for that. While teachers scrambled to master zoom and online resources for teachers, students had to deal with the new learning environment full of distractions, temptations (to open a chat in another window or reply to that urgent email) and the strain of even more screentime. Here are some tips that hopefully will help you enjoy your online learning experience as much as or even more thаn studying in the classroom:

- Ensure reliable internet access
If your internet access isn’t reliable, you might get interrupted throughout your course. Worse, you’ll waste your time and resources.

You can often find excellent WiFi at a coffee shop, internet cafe, or similar public space when you can’t rely on your home’s connection. While the occasional storm and outage are beyond your control, you want the best chance of not getting disconnected.

- Create a dedicated study space
You don’t need to replicate your third-grade classroom in your home to participate in online learning. However, you do need a comfortable place to work. When choosing a place to learn and study, look for a few essential qualities. Such as: light, ergonomics, ambiance, distractions, supplies.

- Identify your learning objectives and goals
This is important because it will inform the course’s direction. Once you know your goals and objectives, write them down—preferably in a place close to where you’ll work. Review them every day before you sit down to go through course material or to study your notes. Keep them in mind as you progress through the program.

- Create a study calendar
A calendar works best for sticking to a regular routine. You can pencil in study times around work, family, and friends so that it becomes one of your top priorities. Your schedule might not permit you to study every day. That’s fine. If you can only commit to weekends, add your online course to the calendar for Saturdays and Sundays.

- Set time limits
One way to increase your productivity and efficiency is to force yourself to study for a specific period of time. If you’re often restless, consider setting a timer for 15 minutes. When the bell goes off, get up, walk around, and return to your desk for another 15 minutes. If you do this four times, you’ll have studied for one hour total.

- Ask for help when you hit a wall
It’s hard to ask for help. However, if you remain stuck during your online course, you must speak up if you want to get the full value of the education.
We all struggle with study materials sometimes and depending on your preferred learning style, you might have better luck with some modules than with others.
If you need clarification, communicate with your instructor or other students. Many teachers set up preferred communication channels, whether it’s email, instant messaging, or direct messaging on social media. Try to use that channel to get answers to your questions.

- Take regular study breaks
Did you know that studying for too long can have serious consequences?

  • Insomnia

  • Loss of concentration

  • Eye strain and fatigue

  • Poor knowledge retention

  • Inadequate performance on tests

  • Loss of memory

To avoid these consequences, give yourself plenty of breaks. If possible, get away from your study area. Go outside for a walk or to sit on your porch and watch the neighbor kids play touch football. Grab a cold beverage and a snack. Let your brain rest.

You can read the full version here: https://kajabi.com/blog/12-study-tips-for-online-learners-succeed-in-your-elearning-course


PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

By Alex Melekhov

While I completely agree with the article, I’d like to add a few important points.

First, don’t trust those schools that promise to teach you a language in just a few months. Language acquisition is a long and demanding process, it takes years to master a language, any language. Thankfully, we live in the digital era and almost everyone living even in the most remote locations has easy access to authentic language exposure.
Invest your time in learning grammar. A lot of people don’t pay much attention to this very important part of the language. Grammar is its skeleton, while vocabulary and pronunciation are its flesh and blood. Having access to the internet you may easily learn the pronunciation just by listening to native speakers. There is a myriad of youtube videos explaining all kinds of tricky rules and aspects and online exercises give you an opportunity to quickly check your understanding.
Read as much as possible, watch and listen to vlogs and podcasts in a target language. When meeting natives, try your hardest to speak to them even if it takes you time to explain what you mean. People are generally patient with those who make effort to speak their mother tongue and have deep respect to those who learn other languages. The prime purpose of any language is speaking therefore try to speak as much as possible even if you feel like you might make mistakes.
So, good luck with learning your dream language.

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That’s all for now,
Stay amazing <3