The content of online English lessons varies greatly but the focus should always be on student speaking. Try to minimize the amount of time you talk (TTT) by having students read directions for exercises aloud or by doing the same types of activities often so that less explanation is necessary. Try to provide both oral and written feedback for students so they can review certain corrections on their own. If students are able to record classes, that can be very beneficial for self study too.
How to Proceed
If you are following a certain textbook or curriculum, you can structure your lessons around new topics and grammar points. Start lessons off with a bit of conversational English since this is important for students who will have the opportunity to speak English outside of class. You can elicit what students already know about the topic and go over specific vocabulary words. Explain any new words to students and ask them to make sentences with or provide synonyms for several to test their comprehension. You can also introduce any grammar points or idioms at this time. Be sure to give students some example sentences and have them complete some practice activities. The majority of the lesson could then be spent having students respond to questions about the topic, practice a certain structure, or even role play a situation. Depending on how you teach your classes, you may share material in different ways and this will affect how you organize your lessons. Without any special software it can be challenging to highlight certain things and share materials but you can send students relevant files or links to websites before and during class.
Business English classes can be the most challenging classes to teach because students are sometimes quite advanced English language learners. For these lessons, it is imperative to prepare very well and be able to research items when students ask challenging questions. It is fine to have a student move forward in the lesson while you look for a proper answer to the question and then discuss the answer later or include it in the written feedback. Other students in these classes may be surprisingly good at speaking about their jobs but have difficulty speaking about other topics. It is important to focus on business material while still giving these students the opportunity to practice basic skills. General English can be just as important in the business world as delivering clear and concise presentations especially if students are expected to answer questions afterwards. Another key topic in these courses is numbers. Students will need some practice reading a variety of numbers and speaking about currency. Business English classes need to cover a broad range of material to ensure that your students are confident in a variety of situations. What you include in your lessons will vary drastically from student to student.
These classes can be enjoyable because students often just want to practice speaking English with a native speaker. This creates a very relaxed teaching environment and allows you to get to know your students well. Be sure to talk about what topics they are interested in and what they want to get out of their lessons. Once you have a better understanding of why they are studying English, you will be able to create better individualized lesson plans. It is great to be flexible for these classes but if students would like more structure, you can focus lessons on specific topics and include some activities such as introducing new vocabulary and idioms just like in general English classes.
For advanced students who are not taking business classes, discussion lessons may provide them with excellent reading, pronunciation, and speaking practice while covering a range of different topics. These lessons can focus on two or three paragraph articles. In the first lesson students can start by reading the article aloud. Be sure to discuss any new words or phrases and have students complete some short activities focusing on vocabulary and content. Use the second class to discuss the article by asking the student ten to twenty related questions. It would be best to cover actual content, personal experience and opinions, and some tangential topics in these discussions. Feel free to insert your own thoughts from time to time to lead the discussion and challenge students to defend their arguments.
Online lessons vary so much.
Be sure to include some conversational English in all your lessons since this is most likely what students will have the opportunity to use and tailor your lessons to the interests and needs of your students as much as possible.
Tara has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.
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Great ideas for structuring lessons! Love the part about practicing numbers as many students struggle with place value and high numbers. I would add the use of pictures and photos as visuals for all fluency levels to discuss, studying topics on the students' interests to keep them motivated, and playing word games to promote vocabulary and language skills. Figurative language such as metaphors, similies, puns, hyperbole, and personification are more lesson ideas for high intermediate or advanced fluency students