Tips to Engage ESL Learners in Online Learning
Transitioning from face-to-face classroom to an online learning mode is challenging for most ESL teachers for they must make extra effort to engage pupils effectively. How can ESL teachers promote better engagement during online learning sessions? Here are some practical tips and recommendations:
Reduce Teacher Talk
All pupils must be clear with the way you prefer to conduct your online sessions. Determine your structure or format. For example, your online teaching (teacher talk) is only 40% of the whole session but 30% will be discussion and 30% will be random responses from selected individuals. In short, your structure should reduce teacher talk as much as possible and ensure there are multiple opportunities for your pupils to contribute.
Invite Pupils to Contribute
The proposed structure presented above can be flexible. Whenever suitable, the ESL teachers should invite pupils to say something. Depending on the topic or issue, they may share their personal experiences, state their views, express their disagreement, provide examples or just to spell a difficult word. Definitely, having pupils contribute their knowledge and views is an effective way to empower and engage them.
Give Pupils a Sense of Ownership
This can be easily implemented. Occasionally, allow pupils to determine the topic or focus of their online learning. For an instance, in a speaking class, the teacher should just agree with the pupils’ suggestion if they prefer to talk about TikTok (a topic of their choice). The same goes for essay writing; they may write based on their own preferred topic. Pupils are more motivated and engaged when they know they have some say in what they are doing.
Encourage Peer Feedback and Assessment
Any chance the learners have to voice out their feedback is a great opportunity for interaction and learning engagement. Encourage them to give feedback to their classmate’s view; if they agree or disagree, they need to justify. They may also comment on the quality or accuracy of their friend’s answer. Peer assessment is also practical and relevant in promoting engagement among ESL learners. One way is to give a mark and justification for the mark given. A simpler way to assess would just be showing Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down.
Plan for Diversity in Delivery
ESL teachers can engage their pupils by using different content delivery methods such as using songs, pictures, live interviews, recorded speeches, videos, texts, audios and PowerPoint presentations. Perhaps, it will be interesting to bring in a guest teacher or speaker; the pupils do not get tired of seeing the same face and hearing the same voice. If the teacher knows a celebrity, perhaps, inviting the celebrity to join the online class is a definite engagement booster.
Have the Element of Surprise and Fun
Beyond doubt, it is interesting to keep the element of surprise during the online learning session. Have a lucky draw at the end of the online class or the end of the week. It does not have to be costly. Asking the monitor to plan an online birthday celebration is something doable too. Letting the pupils wish the birthday boy or girl in English can be a significant part of the lesson. Besides, incorporating interactive online language games will surely add fun to the online classes.
To conclude, we cannot deny the fact that successful online classrooms require a thorough planning. This means ESL teachers need to understand their pupils and prepare the lessons well. Each learning and teaching context differs but the teachers know best. Therefore, it is up to the teachers to determine which of the tips shared above can work well for their online learning sessions. Do adopt and adapt the tips if necessary. May each online learning session achieve better engagement among the learners.
Photo credit: https://pharmaphorum.com/news/healthware-resource-covid-19-new-normal/