Interview with English teacher Joanna (JoannaESL)

Joanna from kindly answered a few questions in regards to teaching English as a private online teacher.

1) How do you integrate technology into your English lessons, and what tools do you find most effective?

The tools I use in my class depend on the type of students and the class size. I usually teach 1:1 therefore the lessons focus on speaking, and not much technology is used (except for the basic videoconference software/platform). However, when I work with groups, I normally try to gamify the learning process. Websites such as Baamboozle, Kahoot or Jeopardylabs are quite effective as they bring some competitiveness into the classroom and keep students engaged during this activity. I also used a lot of other games, some of which I purchased myself, for example, Drawful (for more relaxing lessons). As it usually goes with these games, you need to switch them up frequently because the students tend to get bored of them.

When I had Cambridge exam preparation lessons with teenagers, I often used Quizziz to focus on different parts of the exam. In this way, they weren't only revising while studying, but also having fun. I liked that I was able to look at their answers and reflect on their strengths and weaknesses and adapt my lessons to their needs in the future.

I also toyed with Google Forms and tried to adapt them to Cambridge exams, to shorten my correction time (really useful with big groups). I taught for a little bit over MS Teams and also used their forms for homework or any type of examination. It took me some time to prepare the form, but then I was reusing it and didn't need that much time for corrections.

2) How do you find/acquire new students?

Finding and convincing new students is the worst part of teaching online. When I was starting, I got a few students through friends, but there weren't that many. I was able to get a few more students via Tusclasesparticulares (a website for finding tutors in Spain), but it involves a lot of pitching, talking and negotiation. I still use it from time to time, but I am not too active over there. I've tried out a few online teaching platforms, for example, Superprof (no success) and Preply. Preply has been very successful for me, as I got booked right away. There are a few bad things about this platform, for example, high commissions, free trial lessons, etc. However, there are a few positives such as no need to look and convince students to study with you. Students book you automatically, sometimes you don't even realise that you have two or three trial lessons booked and all you need to do is sell yourself during the trial lesson. I wish I knew how to get more students online. This part is still a hit or miss for me.

3) How do you structure your online lessons to ensure that students are engaged and motivated to learn?

I think that you need to have a few things to keep your students motivated. First of all, the right approach and personality. I've had a few trial lessons which I knew right away weren't going to be successful because I didn't feel any connection with the students and I assumed that the feeling was mutual. The ones who continued learning with me, enjoy my professionalism, availability, easy contact and flexibility.

Depending on the platform where I teach, I structure my classes in two different ways. On Preply, I put everything into a Word file and follow my agenda. I include pictures, short texts, or audio, but keep it as varied as possible. Most importantly, I go with the flow. Since these are 1:1 lessons, I am open to any changes. I have an agenda, but I know students sometimes just want to talk, and I am fine with that. I listen to them and give them any kind of feedback they need, or focus on one particular grammar point and go with the flow.

If I teach via Zoom or have group lessons, I tend to have a short and interesting presentation. I don't want to overwhelm them with the amount of text, so I try to keep it as simple as possible. It helps me stay focused and students have the 'proof' of the lesson at the end of each class. Online students don't want to take notes so it helps them study in the future if they want to do so.

To go back to this question - there is no one way of structuring lessons for me. I sometimes have an old-school type of lesson, and other days we have a Dogme type or a task-based lesson. It depends on many things, like their needs, their (or my) mood, the time of year (holiday lessons), etc.

Posted 10 months ago