That was fast…
In January, 2020, the world of private lessons was normal.
Teachers and students travelled.
They met in cafes, offices, and homes.
They shook hands.
It was the same then as it had been when Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great.
Then overnight, English lessons went online.
Form the conference room to the Zoom room in a flash.
But what’s next?
But what’s next?
Recently, I surveyed Teacher Creature students.
I asked, after the government restrictions are lifted, will you return to in-person lessons or stay on Zoom?
55% of students say they will stay online.
The main reasons: time and convenience.
So if that’s you, here are some tips for making English lessons on Zoom better than ever.
#1 Record Your English Lessons
“Am I getting better?”
My students ask me that question a lot.
Then I scratch my head and try to remember how my student spoke six months ago.
It’s like trying to watch your niece or nephew grow up.
It happens too slowly.
So let’s take a lesson from Weight Watchers, the most popular weight-loss program in the U.S.
When you join, the first thing they ask you to do is step on a scale and write down your weight.
So they can measure your improvement.
Why do they want to do that?
Because improvement is motivating.
And how do you measure your starting point with English?
Simple, you hit the “record” button during your first lesson.
Then put the recording in a file on your computer and forget about it.
Later, when you start to feel demotivated and wonder, “Am I making any progress?” you just press “play” and see for yourself.
And that’s motivating!
#2 Use The Chat Box To Fix Your Mistakes
I’m not a big fan of correcting students during conversation.
First, it’s an interruption. You’re having a nice conversation and suddenly your teacher interrupts to tell you: “It’s ‘on’ not ‘at’.”
If you want correction, and don’t want the conversation to be interrupted, it’s much better to get it in writing.
And online, your teacher can easily do that by writting the correcttions into the chat box.
Now here’s the important part — you must practice the correction!
Believe me, simply knowing what you should say is not enough.
Most of my students know more grammar rules than the average native speaker.
Yet who makes more mistakes?
One reason you keep making these mistakes even though you know the rules is because you’re fighting years of bad habits.
If you say, “on the cottage” for five years and then one day your teacher tells you, “Actually, it’s ‘at the cottage,’” that’s a strong habit you’ve got to break.
Think of the challenge before you like re-program your brain.
That’s not going to happen today.
So after the lesson, print/copy the corrections your teacher typed into the chat, and start practicing daily to re-program your brain.
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#3 Keep Your Camera On (but wear pants)
Once I was speaking with a friend online when we decided to turn our cameras off because the internet speed was too slow.
Suddenly, communication was a little harder.
I didn’t know when he was finished with his idea. We interrupted each other more. And as my eyes no longer had a focus they started to wander and my attention did the same.
So much of communication is non-verbal — you raise an eyebrow, you nod your head, your hand goes to your face, you smile…
Without these visual signals, conversation becomes more difficult, even between native speakers.
So unless you need to speak English on the phone for work and want to practice that, make it easier on yourself and keep your camera on.
#4 Close The Door
I used spend every Tuesday and Thursday at a company in Prague giving English lessons to their employees.
One of my students in the company was The Big Boss.
And because he was The Big Boss, he was very busy.
During a typical lesson…
— the phone rang
— his secretary walked in
— his phone dinged
Sure, he was having an English lesson, but he only got a little of the value from it.
At home, you’re The Big Boss.
Use your power for good and create an environment where you can get maximum value from your lesson.
- Announce to everyone in your home that you have an important meeting.
- Close the door.
- Turn off your phone.
Your problems and your work will still be waiting for you when your lesson is over.
And don’t stop there…
#5 Turn Off Everything
Have you ever been talking to someone while he/she navigated their phone?
You ask the person to put it down and they tell you, “I’m listening.”
But they’re not.
And you can hear it, see it and feel it.
You can see the person looks the same… but it’s no longer possible to have a real conversation.
They’ve turned into… an Internet Zombie!
And when you’re using your phone or laptop to have an online lesson, you’re one click away from becoming a zombie, yourself.
It starts very innocently…
“Oh, what’s that word? I’ll just look it up quickly in the dictionary…”
Then you see you have an unread message…
Then you decide you must reply immediately…
Then you see an interesting news story…
Soon, your thoughts are a million miles away, you’re no longer focused on English, and it all started with one click…
The solution is to simply remove the temptation.
Close all browsers.
Put your other devices in another room.
Turn off all notifications.
Even better, install an app like this one that locks you out of time-wasting websites like Facebook for an amount of time you choose.
#6 – Stay Safe
Yes, you may see your neighbors driving around in their cars maskless.
Or you may meet a hiker in the woods without a mask.
But that doesn’t mean you have to play Russian roulette with your life.
To stay safe during Zoom English lessons, Teacher Creature recommends:
- Wash your hands often.
- Wash your mouth after every grammar mistake.
- And of course, always wear a mask. Yes, even if you’re vaccinated. And two is better than one. (Hey, why not three?)
WHAT ABOUT YOUR ENGLISH LESSONS?
Have you ever had an online lesson?
Do you prefer online or in-person lessons?
Any online tips you want to share?
Post your comments and questions below!