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6 Top Tips for Teaching Online Lessons

As Hong Kong schools enter another period of distance learning, Chatteris’ own Alice Deptford tells us her top tips for teaching online lessons.

Chatteris Tutors Becky and Jake co-teach an online lesson | Image by Chatteris
Chatteris Tutors Becky and Jake co-teach an online lesson | Image by Chatteris

This year, schools around the world were closed and forced to switch to online teaching due to the pandemic. Here in Hong Kong, schools taught online for a substantial amount of 2020, with a period of in-person teaching between September and November.

Over the year, all Chatteris Tutors have engaged in online teaching in some shape or form – whether that be creating video lessons, delivering a full timetable of Zoom lessons, or leading a blended classroom with some students in school, and others participating online from mainland China. Some tutors have even set up online extracurricular programmes to support their students outside of lesson time.

As we revert back to virtual teaching with the onset of Hong Kong’s fourth wave, here are six tips to enhance your online lessons.

1.)  Preserve student-to-student interaction

Student-to-student interaction is one of the most important things that Chatteris Tutors must take into consideration when planning and teaching lessons– but factoring this into online classes can pose a problem. However, many platforms which are popular for online teaching have breakout room functions. Thanks to this function, students can be sorted into groups to complete a task or discuss a topic. It is important to flit between breakout rooms to check that the students are staying on task though! Peer-to-peer interaction can also be achieved by using the chat box or poll functions – although sometimes it is better to mute the chat box if you have any particularly mischievous students!

2.)  Elicit non-verbal responses

Asking for non-verbal responses, such as ‘“thumbs up for yes”, in an online classroom is a great way to help you to easily establish who is listening and participating, as a glance at your screen will tell you which students are responding. This response format can also provide additional benefits for those students who are visual and kinaesthetic learners. Auditory learners engage effectively with spoken cues, but movement-based responses can ensure those who learn better from seeing or doing aren’t left behind. Non-verbal responses can also ensure that quieter students participate in the lesson by allowing them to respond in a way that doesn’t leave them feeling singled out. What’s more, introducing some movements to a lesson when students have been sitting in front of a screen all day helps to keep them alert and involved!

3.)  Use multiple forms of media

There is a huge array of resources that can be used in online lessons so try not to just stick to slideshows! Using multiple forms of media in an online lesson will make it more interactive thus encouraging students to participate and stay engaged. Worksheets, games, quizzes and videos can all be incorporated through many different platforms. Some favourites amongst Chatteris Tutors include Kahoot, Baamboozle, YouTube and Classkick.

4.)  Maintain a familiar structure and routine

Transitioning between online and in-person lessons can be unsettling for young learners. Maintaining a routine in online lessons which is as similar as possible to in-person lessons can help students feel comfortable and in a familiar environment. This consistency also helps with classroom management as a class will be familiar with the expectations the tutor has previously set for their behaviour. They should already know what constitutes ‘breaking the rules’. Quickly recapping classroom rules at the beginning of lessons never goes amiss and following a familiar lesson structure such as beginning every lesson with learning objectives helps to improve efficiency. This puts students in a ‘ready to learn’ mindset, encouraging them to focus and engage in their lesson.

5.)  Look directly into the camera and exaggerate your speech

Maintaining a strong teaching presence and being understood by students when you are not in the same room as them can be difficult. One way that this difficulty can be overcome is by looking directly into the camera when speaking. This simulated eye contact can encourage the students to focus more, feel more comfortable and feel as if they are in the classroom. Observing the tutor’s mouth shape is a crucial part of developing phonemic awareness, and in online lessons we often have the luxury of not needing to wear a mask, so use this to your advantage by exaggerating your speech! This, as well as speaking slower and in an engaging tone of voice can also make it easier for you to be understood by students.

6.)  Watch your lessons back for self-reflection

As Chatteris Tutors, we engage in self-reflection with support from our Programme Manager every month. Online learning enhances our professional development opportunities by allowing us to watch our lessons back in real time, if they have been recorded. Actually seeing yourself teaching a lesson (an opportunity we rarely have in an in-person classroom) can be extremely beneficial in terms of helping you to think about what went well, and what can be improved in the future. So, make sure to re-watch any of your online lessons that have been recorded, as this provides a great opportunity for self-reflection.

Hopefully these tips can come in handy next time you teach an online class. As we adapt to a more technologically ingrained learning environment, online teaching is a sought after skill. This year has proven that we never know what curveballs will be thrown at us, and an arsenal of skills for the virtual classroom will ensure our practice remains as resilient as possible!

Eager to support Hong Kong students like Alice? Apply now to be a Chatteris Tutor.

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