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14 Tips to Become an Effective Online ESL Teacher

These days, online teaching is a fairly in-demand venue for teaching the English language. This means that students have a wide variety of ESL teachers to choose from, which can be a problem if you are not an effective online ESL teacher.

By effective we mean providing a service that keeps students coming back and reaching intended results. In this blog we are going to share 14 tips on how to be an effective online English language teacher. Of course, many of these tips can also be applied offline.

1. Effective teachers simplify things.

Simplifying complex instructions or concepts saves time. You’re also reducing teacher talk time in favor of student talk time. Effective ESL teachers can use appropriate language for student levels to facilitate understanding.

For example, your student asks:

“Teacher, what is a ‘tale?’”

An ineffective teacher might say:

“A ‘tale’ is a message that tells the particulars of an act or occurrence or course of events; presented in writing or drama or cinema or as a radio or television program.”

An effective ESL teacher could say:

“A ‘tale’ is a story.”

Ask yourself which one an ESL student might appreciate more.

Read: Teaching English Online: How to Get Started

2. Effective teachers use humor.

Uptight classes are not always conducive to language acquisition. So, break things up once in a while with a little laughter. That doesn’t mean you should have a maniacal laugh. It means offering students an opportunity to laugh once in a while.

3. Effective teachers know student needs.

Get to know your students well enough to be able to say:
“Mr. Park needs to improve his English skills to get a promotion.”
“Ken wants to go to university in the USA.”
“Katya is an engineer who wants to work in Canada.”
You’ll know better how and what to teach them.

4. Effective teachers do not talk too much.

They provide their class members with more opportunities to speak; hence, more feedback and confidence building. Effective teachers observe a 70/30 student talk time versus teacher talk time ratio.

Read: Teaching ESL Online: Tips for an Awesome First Lesson

5. Effective teachers manage class time well.

As the saying goes, time is money. For our students, it’s the same. Some may be business learners with important meetings to go to. They may have to get back to work or be scolded. We don’t just manage the time so we can get to our next class. Effective teachers manage the time for the sake of their learners.

6. Effective teachers are not perfect.

Let’s face it. There are going to be times when you mess up. Admit it and explain it to your students. The goal is, endeavor not to mess up. Effective teachers are prepared well enough to predict questions and are familiarized with lesson topics.

7. Effective teachers learn from their mistakes.

Hey, if you make a mistake, learn from it. If you learn from it, then you won’t make that mistake again. It’s happened to me plenty of times, and it will happen to you too. But, effective teachers can turn a negative into a positive.

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8. Effective teachers do not demand perfection from their students.

If we make mistakes, we should be accepting of that. If students make mistakes, why are we so critical of them? Let’s try to give learners space to make mistakes and make their own corrections.

Sometimes, as teachers, we pounce on class members as soon as they say something in error. Give them a chance to catch it. They’ll probably feel better when you do.

9. Effective teachers are sympathetic to their students.

Have you ever heard something like this conversation?

Student: Teacher, I was going to school today, and I fell off my bike.

Teacher: Oh, that’s nice. Are you ready for our lesson today?

Effective teachers display sympathy to their students. They might sound something like this instead:

Teacher: Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that. Are you alright?

10. Effective teachers attend to their students.

Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in teaching that we neglect to just attend to our students (i.e. give them our attention).

Teacher: Hi Bettia! I haven’t seen you in a while. What have you been doing?

Student: Teacher, I went on a jungle safari in Africa for my vacation.

What can the teacher say next?

A) Teacher: Wow, that’s great! Are you ready for our lesson today?
B) Teacher: Wow, that sounds exciting! Tell me all about it.

There’s nothing wrong with letting learners use English to share something meaningful with them. Hey, they’re using the language, right!

Read: How to Keep Online ESL Students Coming Back

11.Effective teachers are kind.

How many class members have been scolded by their teachers for being late? Even adult learners get scolded. But effective teachers might say something like, “No problem that you were late. It gave me a little more time to prepare a better lesson for you.”

12. Effective teachers see students as customers.

We may forget that our students are not just students, but people who pay our wages. Consider that once in a while to motivate you toward greater customer service.

13. Effective teachers are not traditional teachers.

Effective ESL teachers don’t always use exclusive language such as:

I want you to …

[You] Read this.
[You] Answer this.

These words tend to exclude learners (you, you, you, …) placing a gap between them and you. This can feel uncomfortable for learners. It may feel like the teacher doesn’t have a stake in their learning.

Instead, could we say for example:
Let’s …
Let’s read this together.
How can we answer this?

The teacher sounds like he’s right there supporting them (us, we, …). You get the idea.

14. Effective teachers do not have call-center-syndrome.

This is a condition (again, my own ESL teaching humor) where teachers simply take down information, note errors, correct errors, or work through packaged comments. You can get a better idea here. [Call Center Syndrome minute 9:01–10:07].

Wrap Up

These are some tips to help you be a more effective online ESL teacher. These tips can also help you in traditional classrooms. Let us know if we missed anything. Or, feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

And remember, there’s a lot more you can learn from OnTESOL’s internationally recognized TESOL training programs. Contact us today to investigate the training that’s best for you.

Related Articles:

Teaching ESL Online: Tips For An Awesome First Lesson

Teaching English Online: How To Get Started

Setting Up Your Online Teaching Workspace

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