Tips for working with offline and online groups

Tips for working with offline and online groups

Teaching groups of young learners is demanding no matter the class is offline or online. Many teachers are wary of having an online group of young learners. Recently  I was lucky to participate in a webinar by Nadezhda Dudareva who has been teaching English and Chinese to groups of young learners and got some more handy tips. By group here I mean a group arranged in a partner school physically present in one place.

Let’s have a look at three cornerstones that compliment your online group with young learners: teacher’s assistant, effective lesson planning and realia. 

Teacher’s assistant

Teacher’s assistant is always there to give a hand. As for their proficiency, they aren’t supposed to speak the language you are teaching but have to speak the kids’ native language.

Once you’ve got your lesson plan, you know exactly what kind of help you might need – print out or bring in class the flashcards you need, etc.

Assistant’s responsibilities:

  • hand out worksheets if needed
  • give award cards to those who provided answers or actively participate in class
  • helps teachers arrange students in pairs or groups for collaborative work (if needed)
  • handles  non-content and non-language related issues that might arise

Effective lesson planning


Turn just visual into visual and audio

 Being online with a group, you‘d rather use not just gestures but add sound to catch class attention and to indicate the end of one activity and the start of the next one. For instance, instead of just holding your hand up you’d play some clapping rhythm.

  1. Setting the rules

As well as in a regular class you need to introduce a certain routine. Set the rules and make kids follow them.

“My turn, your turn, never together”.

  1. Praise effectively

You still can have gestures to praise like bringing your ‘high five’ to the screen or a ‘thumb up’ as well as use some digital innovations – a thumb up’ thing on Vimbox, or an’ award cup’, ‘fireworks’, ‘silly string and confetti’ on Classin. Once you don’t use these platforms, find pictures to associate with an award and sound effects and just share the screen with the picture and turn on sound effects.

However, remember to voice your praising more. Go for praising some particular things like actions, partner job, e.g. ‘you’re doing great with writing this letter’, ‘your letter ___ is great’  instead of just saying ‘good job’.

Encourage your class praise each other physically, like ‘give a high five’ or ‘give a whoosh’ to somebody who’s done well.

  1. Reflection and Feedback

When it comes to reflection and feedback they’re always essential, but in your online classroom, you go for more. Introduce some blank face emotion cards which are in front of them and which they can draw their emotion onto with a pencil. Combine such realia with voicing, e. g.  get your students to pick an ‘emotion flashcard’ and voice their mood in the beginning of the class and after each of the activities. Another thing is an ’exit ticket’, it might be some picture to symbolize the end of the class. Students tell what they learned and liked or didn’t like in the class and hand the picture over in a circle.

  1. Active learning methods

Make them ‘circle’ round the classroom.

Switching places

Student stand in a circle with their heads and eyes down. When the music starts playing they take their eyes off the floor and make eye contact with somebody in the circle, if they matched, they change places.

Silent star 

Students stand in a circle and have to form a shape the teacher has given (e. g. a star or a square) doing it silently.

Our strengths

Students stick notes on each other’s backs. Then the music starts playing, they have to go round the classroom, and write something nice on their partners’ backs.

Hot chair

The student in the hot chair has to answer the question the peers around ask. the teacher can be sitting in the hot chair, too.

Go if..

 A variation of ‘hot chair’. Here the student on the chair gives instructions to those sitting around him on their chairs: ‘Go if (you’ve got dark hair)’. The aim is to take another chair while somebody changes places.

Four corners

Prepare the questions with 4 options to answers (a,b,c,d). The assistant labels the corners. You ask the question and students go to the appropriate corners.

Backpack full of memories

An assistant or a teacher fills in their backpack with some objects that belong or associate with one of kids’ favourite characters.  First students might predict what you’ve got in the backpack, then the teacher unpacks and students explain how this object relates to the character.

Use realia more 

Think over how to make it feel more real. Probably put some realia that are the same in your online and offline classrooms, e.g. a globe.

Now and again wear a funny hat or a scarf to make your students wonder and feel curious. 

Once they make a craft in the class, do together with them online.

Hope these tips help you have more effective classes online!

Мария Нифонтова

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