Online classroom management tips for English teachers

Classroom management and student organization during online lessons

Classroom management and student organization during online lessons


  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

It is obvious that in recent years there have been a steady shift to online English teaching. 

  • It is practical, since it allows both students and teachers to work from the comfort of their home; 
  • it is less time-consuming, since there is no need to commute; 
  • finally, it is more flexible as it enables us to have English lessons from anywhere in the world.

Yet, it’s impossible to say that online teaching is totally flawless. There are certain issues which arise during the learning process, particularly with classroom management and student organization. 

Let’s have a look at such issues and some suggestions on how to deal with them.

Student engagement

When it comes to offline teaching, we can fully see what our students are doing and to which extent they’re engaged in the lesson. However, it’s much trickier with online lessons. How is it possible to control the learners’ actions when you can only see them as floating heads or just their names on the screen? 

First of all, we should introduce certain routine which would allow us to check students’ attention and engagement. Here are some examples:

  • if you use Zoom, make the most of the reaction button

There are several ways to exploit this feature, e.g.: students can notify you when they’ve finished the task with a tick; if an exercise or rule is too complicated, they can use the baffled emoji; the celebration emoji can signify that the student got all the answers right.

  • make sure you set clear camera rules from the very first lesson

Students often find it tempting to switch off their video and get distracted with other things. 

It is important to emphasise that online classroom is still a classroom, which means that they should have proper surroundings, use their cameras and reduce all the possible distraction. 

Certainly, there are exceptional circumstances, but if students are used to this routine, it will not only increase their engagement, but it will also make continuous assessment easier. Naturally, if you establish the rules, you should stick to them as well.

  • ICQs are particularly important during online teaching

Normally, we can’t see what page the students are on if they’re using paper textbooks or the files on their personal devices, so ICQs will come in handy, such as ‘What page are you on? Which exercises are we doing?’. 

It is a good idea to nominate students who are especially prone to getting distracted when asking ICQs.

  • online format gives us plenty of opportunities to spice up the whiteboard

One of the most well-known online whiteboards is Miro, but there are other alternatives too, like these:

  1. TutorialsBoard
  2. Classroom screen  
  3. Jamboard

Interactive whiteboards are excellent tools to engage the students and increase their interest in an activity. 

  • apart from whiteboards, there are interactive platforms which can also be used to make the tasks more suitable for an online lesson

Kahoot is a popular one, but if you want to try out something else, consider the following sources:

  1. Quizizz — here you can create online quizes for students, which can be used for a wide range of purposes, such as revision, continuous assesment, surveys, warm-ups, and final lesson activities.
  2. Wordwall — perfect for turning repetitive exercises into exciting online games.
  3. Mentimeter — allows you to create interactive presentations, quizzes and surveys.
  4. Jeopardy — classic quiz game which is an amazing format for revision.
  5. Bamboozle — similar to jeopardy, but this one has more elements of fun and competition.

Have you used any of these resources?

Student organization

Now let’s talk about online sources which will help you organize your virtual classroom.

Since there is no physical place where you can interact with your students apart from the platform you use for your classes, it is important to provide them with ways to keep in touch with you and with each other. One of the most efficient tools to do this is Google Classroom, where you and your students can post messages, links, and images. 

Don’t forget about the classwork function, with the help of which you can assign tasks to your students, set deadlines and give instant feedback. Of course, you can also create a group or channel on social media for even more instant communication.

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Regarding the student organization during classes, we should remember that peer work is also essential. With this in mind, breakout rooms are a solid solution, yet there is one considerable difference from the offline teaching: you can only hear one pair or group at a time. To make our monitoring as efficient as possible, we can come up with a system:

  • think how you organize pairs/groups, e.g. is it possible to put a stronger student with a weaker one? Will the stronger student dominate? If yes, how can we avoid that?
  • you could use a timer to track the time you spend monitoring each breakout room.

  • one of the ways to monitor what the students are doing is giving them a group written assignment and have them write their answers in a Google document. This way, you will see them even when you’re not in the same breakout room. 
    Similarly, some platforms mentioned above, like Kahoot, Quizizz and Wordwall, will show you the students’ answers and results. If Google documents seem too banal, you can always opt for something more creative, e.g. Padlet would be perfect for a collage, blogpost or just a fun visual presentation.

Even though certain benefits of traditional classroom can’t be replaced by online format, we can still enjoy it ourselves and make it enjoyable for our students if we keep an open mind about it. Don’t be afraid to experiment with numerous online resources and pick your favourite ones — and rest assured that teaching online can be as fun and productive as offline.

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Article authors & editors
  • Olha Lavrentieva

    Olha Lavrentieva


    CELTA certified teacher of General English, Teenagers



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