How to teach online excitingly and qualitatively: practical tips

Practical tips for teaching English to YL online

Practical tips for teaching English to YL online


  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

Online lessons are nothing new, but many teachers are now faced with creating lessons and content for their students fast and often without any experience. Teaching children is one of the most fulfilling experiences, especially when you observe how quickly they are learning. At the same time, it can be challenging to teach English to them online.

Young learners often struggle with reading and writing, have limited attention spans, and sometimes even have mood swings in class. The difficulty of virtual learning also tends to increase with age. The younger the students the more challenging it is to handle them.

Here are some ideas to help you engage your young learners and ways to make your career as an online English teacher pleasurable and your classes as productive as possible.

Tip #1. Explore the distant classroom

Start with building basic computer literacy skills. How to use the microphone, camera, and chatbox are the major things your young learners will probably need to know. For example, you can teach them how to use technology by showing an image of a colour and asking them to use their microphone to say it. 

Ask them to find something of that colour and show you with their camera. You can modify this activity by using objects or flashcards that are appropriate for your students' age.

Show them a picture of a microphone and ask them to find it on the screen (if you use Zoom/Meets/Skype, for example). Ask them to mute and unmute themselves. 

Although these are evident things, they are very important.

Decide on the supplies your students will use during the course. Start with a screen sharing of the supplies you'll be using every lesson. This will help parents organise everything. If everyone has their own paper, pencils, paints, and copies of coursebooks at home, they will be able to turn to the page of the book you will be using.

Tip #2. Routines are the key

Consistency is comforting. You can start, for example, by asking a few questions that the kids can comfortably respond to in English, like "How are you?". When students see you on the screen, they will know what to expect, and some may even start asking you the same questions before you do. 

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Giving students tasks they are familiar with boosts their confidence and prevents them from quitting mid-lesson because taking a class in a foreign language can be stressful.

Among other things, you can use a Hello song or simple games to review vocabulary from the previous lesson, a daily calendar ritual to review dates, numbers, weather, days of the week, etc.

Tip #3. Focus on classroom management

There are many issues teachers face online, for example, students interrupting the teacher, surfing the internet or playing online games during the lesson, getting distracted by their pets or objects around them, chatting with groupmates, etc. Establishing online classroom rules is vital if you want to have effective English lessons with your younger learners. 

You might try establishing the following rules:

  • All cameras on during the lesson
  • Mute your microphone when the teacher speaks
  • Raise your hand when you don't understand something or have questions
  • No eating during the lesson
  • Close other windows and tabs when you're in class

Create these rules together with your students. This will lay the foundation for proper and constructive behaviour.

It's also a good idea to agree on different signals with your students. This will help you work even if you or your students are muted. For example, a thumbs up could mean "I have questions", and if put their hands on their head, it could mean "I need to leave" (e.g. go to the bathroom).

You can also have your own signals. For example, when you need everyone's attention, you can stop talking and raise both hands so that everyone else raises their hands as well.

If you teach with Zoom, make use of reactions. For example, students can signal when they have finished an assignment or want to ask a question or answer.

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Tip #4. Don't try to impress your students with the number of online tools

If you want to make your life hard, use as many online tools and resources as possible. Of course, it's a joke. Here is what Chris Reese says about the perfect number of online tools for your lessons:

Use as few tools as you need to make the lesson meaningful, fun, and engaging. Routine is more important than novelty. 

Think about that from the learner's perspective, "Every time I come in, every time it's a new thing that my teacher has found, oh no… how do I use it? what's the website? where do I go? " 

Routine is powerful. So find what works for your group. And you may have different routines for different groups. Set the routine and stick to it, and then bring in the other tools as necessary. 

The most important is to have your workstation where your learners are going to work and your whiteboard where you are going to work. If you've got that, you're good to go.

Chris Reese | DELTA Module 1, CELTA, CELT-P/S Course trainer

Tip #5. Use visual aids

Giving young learners something to look at helps them learn. The benefit of the online classroom is that you can control what they are looking at.  

  • For example, flashcards provide students with a visual representation of the concept and require them to respond to it. 
  • PowerPoint presentations (with lots of visuals) are a helpful tool for vocabulary instruction. 
  • Videos that support the lesson topic can be helpful as well. 

Additionally, you can include interactive online learning games in your classes to boost student engagement. When appropriate, you can bring items that grab their attention.

Tip #6. Spice up your lessons with gamification

We need to put more effort to involve young learners in the learning process. Here's where game-based learning comes into play.

Students and the information become emotionally connected thanks to gamification. It has a significant impact on their attention, which increases their openness to learning.

Games are integrated into the learning process through game-based learning. It is a teaching strategy in which students pick up particular skills or information by engaging in a real-world game.

You can use such strategies as 

  • giving points for accomplishing academic/non-academic objectives, 
  • creating leaderboards, 
  • giving badges, 
  • allowing students to unlock special features or content by completing a certain task, 
  • or using challenges when gamifying your lessons. 

Tip #7. Communicate with parents

When teaching young learners, communication with parents is inevitable. Be honest and open

Tell parents about their children's success, progress, or difficulties. If they have too high expectations, explain to them politely.

It's really important and helpful to establish rules and boundaries for parents too. Ask them not to translate or answer for their kid if they do not know the answer. Do not allow them to correct every mistake their child makes because it has the opposite effect to the one they intended: children lose motivation and become less confident.

Ask parents to participate in activities if they are in the lesson with their kids.

Do you teach online? Share your tips in the comments!

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Article authors & editors
  • Yulia Chorna

    Yulia Chorna


    DELTA Module 1, CELTA certified teacher of General & Business English



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