I’ve been teaching groups online for more than 2 years. I can’t say whether it’s easier or harder than working one-to-one, but it definitely requires different techniques. How to create comfort while sitting hundreds of kilometers away?
Firstly, Be emotional. Much more emotional than usual. Remember that working online means students see only a part of you. So use gestures and mimes, let your students see them. Use your voice properly.
Talking about technical stuff, it would be better if everyone turns on the camera. It’s not comfortable to talk to a person you don’t see. It goes without saying that a teacher must turn it on too.
Then, students should see what they’re discussing whether it’s grammar or just some questions. A teacher should prepare presentations/worksheets and share his/her screen. So, use visualization.
Don’t forget about your lesson structure. Think if a proper warm up and vary them every lesson. Warm-ups break the ice and help to find out something interesting about other people and their lives. If you work online, warm-ups are usually much more interesting, because they give a chance to meet people from different cities (or even countries). Ask them about the weather, current situation, interesting events which are happening. Let your students feel themselves close to each other, although in facts they’re really far.
Organize breakouts, give your students a chance to know each other better, to help and collaborate with each other. It’s better to put 3 people into the same room rather than 2 (in case someone can’t join or has some other technical issues, others won’t be silent). Be careful while organizing debates. Tell your students that they must be polite and respectful.
Call them by names and give attention to everyone. It’s easier if you teach in a classroom, because you can come closer and even touch someone. If you see them all nearby, it’s easier to control your class, but if you work online you shouldn’t forget anyone. It’s unacceptable to avoid some students while others are talking. Of course, there are some introverted people in every group, and they feel uncomfortable when they’re forced to talk, but it’s essential for their progress. And at the same time, some talk non-stop. If your students are too talkative, feel free to interrupt them. If nothing helps, just mute them (it’s a joke).
Don’t forget about the humor. If your students make mistakes (which is fine), try to correct them without criticizing. For example, my starters always make a mistake, they say “I saw your husband” instead of “her husband”. I react emotionally by saying “My husband, really? He didn’t tell me about that”.
You should remember to smile. Imagine yourself being a student. You’re waiting for a lesson after a hard-working day. What would you probably like to see? Not a sad teacher, definitely. Remember, it’s you who creates an atmosphere. It’ll be better if you take care of your appearance. You’ll look pretty with bright makeup. I always use red lipstick, it looks beautiful and students usually pay compliments.
Although you’re working online, you can organize some physical activities or games. You may ask your students to stand up, and it will help them to have some rest and continue learning them.
If you work with kids it will be uncomfortable for them to have their parents nearby, so ask adults to leave the room. Parents usually disturb kids by saying the right answers or pushing them to talk, so — no parents while studying.
One more thing
If you want your students to feel comfortable, don’t tell them to put their smartphones away. Of course, they must turn off the sound, but a lot of modern researches have already proved the fact that people feel nervous while their phones are away. They can use online dictionaries and not only. So why not integrate some online activities into your lessons?
Click and read more about smartphone usage