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2020 has been scary.
So much change has been thrown at us that we sometimes feel like we’re walking on egg shells, just waiting for the next big shock around the corner.
For many teachers that shock was the closure of schools and language academies at the pandemic’s peak. It left many of us suddenly having to work out how to move our work online, which eventually became synonymous with “what’s zoom and how can I use it to teach my students online?”
We know that question has caused no end of anxiety and frustration, but in this article we’re going to show you why zoom is the best software to use for your online ESL classes, how to use its best features (broken down in plain English) and how it’s going to transform your teaching for the better. We’re even going to show you where you can access a vast range of top-quality video resources (for free) to use in your zoom class.
By the time you reach the end you’ll be excited to try out this whole teaching-on-zoom-thing.
What is Zoom and can it work to teach ESL?
Zoom is an online video conferencing software with a lot of engaging and interactive features.
It’s quite like Skype but it has some distinct advantages such as;
- Recording sessions to a cloud (so any recorded lessons don’t take up room in your computer)
- It doesn’t require the attendees to have an account – they simply click the link and can access the class
- It has much more whiteboard features which can be exploited to great effect for ESL teachers
- The ability to screen-share from an Apple device
It does, however, have some downsides like;
- Group calls only being available for 40 minutes on the free plan
- According to some users its video and audio quality can be unpredictable
Zoom has a free plan which is usually enough if you only do 1:1 classes. If you want to host group classes of more than 40 minutes you’ll have to pay for at least a basic plan which is priced at €13.99 a month. Paid plans allow you to have more than one attendee at your meetings and also allow you to store your recorded classes to the cloud.
If you’re curious about the full features or want to compare pricing plans click here.
Amazing Zoom Features that can help you teach English to kids
Screen sharing feature
With zoom you can share your screen with your students so they can see what’s on your computer screen. This can be used for a wide range of activities like going over corrections of your students’ homework, reading activities or activities that involve your students describing a picture.
To share your screen, just click the green button in the middle of the options panel below your video.
The Highlight & Text Options for Reading & Writing Exercises
While in screen-share mode you might want to read a short passage with your student and highlight some important vocabulary or add words to an image as you’re describing it. The highlight & text tool options in screen-share mode allow you to do just that.
Simply go to the options panel once you’re in screen-share mode and add some highlights (you can choose the colour and thickness of the stroke) or add some extra text.
You even have an arrow function which you can use to mark out something important.
It’s also possible to save what you’ve done as an image if you want to show your student’s parents what you’ve been working on, or if you just want your student to have a record of any important vocabulary and grammar.
Share Audio for Videos and Songs for engaging ESL Listening Exercises
Video content and online lessons go together like fish and chips. When using video it’s best to share your screen with your student instead of sending a link. By sharing your screen and audio you reduce the chance of them getting distracted by clicking away from the call (remember that kids get more easily distracted than adult learners).
You’ll also make sure that what you’re listening to and watching is perfectly in-sync.
Want a library of free, high-quality video resources full of engaging songs to try out in your zoom class? Sign-up to get access to over 200 videos, lesson plans and worksheets – free for a limited time only.
The Whiteboard for drawing and writing
Afraid you’ll miss the whiteboard in your classroom? Well, zoom has a built in whiteboard feature that allows you and your student to draw and write. This can be great fun and kids will enjoy activities like having to draw something you’re describing (expect lots of laughs!)
Share screen from an Apple device
An amazing feature on zoom is that you can connect it with an Apple device like an iPhone or iPad and share your screen from there. This could be really helpful if you have any language learning apps or games on your device that you want to show to your student.
At the time of writing this feature isn’t available for Android devices (hopefully in the future it will be.)
Breakout Rooms Feature for group ESL lessons
If you do group classes with kids, zoom has a great feature to facilitate them which is called breakout rooms. You can divide students up into pairs or small groups, assign them to a breakout room and they can work on an activity together.
You can dip in and out of the breakout rooms, monitor the activity, and then have everyone join the main meeting room again when it’s over.
This is best used for older kids who can be a bit more autonomous and spend a short amount of time unsupervised.
As you can see with all of zoom’s powerful built-in features you can easily adapt your lesson plans to the online world.
Top Tips for Teaching ESL Online with Zoom
Hopefully by now you’re already starting to get excited about hosting your first online zoom lesson. Before you do, check out our top tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of the platform.
Get a Scheduling Software
It can be really time consuming working out what times to book for your classes with your students’ parents. Instead of having a constant back and forth, you can set up an account on a scheduling service like Calendly which can integrate with your zoom account. Here you can set your available times and generate a link to your calendar for your students’ parents.
All they have to do is book a time that works for them and the class is automatically booked for you.
You can also accept payments for your classes as calendly integrates with paypal and stripe.
Record your Lessons
One potential problem of teaching kids online is that you have less control over classroom behaviour. If you find that they aren’t listening or misbehaving remind them that you’re recording the lesson and can show their parents later (there’s no denying it with video evidence!)
Download zoom to your computer
You can access zoom online via your browser but this is less stable than downloading it directly to your computer.
Get a mic and headphone combination
When teaching online you need to make sure that your students can hear you properly (poor audio quality will distract and annoy your students and make them more likely to tune out and not listen to you). Buying a headphone set with a microphone is a great way to make sure that you can hear them and they can hear you loud and clear.
Ask that parents chaperon the lesson or are nearby
As your students are at home for these lessons we can assume that a responsible adult is close at hand. Ask them to be nearby when the lesson is in progress so they can step in if their child has any technical problems or is misbehaving.
Ready to transform your ESL teaching with zoom?
Many teachers find the shift to online classes a bit intimidating – and at first all of zoom’s amazing features might overwhelm rather than excite you. Before booking any lessons try practicing and testing out all the tools on someone you know like a friend or family member.
We think that once you get the hang of it you might even enjoy it more than face-to-face classes!
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