Pro Tips for Teaching ESL Online to Young Students

VIPKID and the Online ESL Classroom- Pro Tips for Teaching ESL Online to Young Students

If you’re planning on teaching English online (or you already do) there’s a good chance that many of your students will be young children aged between five and eight years old.

Teaching young children in any environment can be challenging and the online platform certainly comes with its own specific set of trials to be overcome. But, don’t despair! Not only is it possible to teach young students effectively online, it can also be a highly rewarding and enjoyable experience. Here are some simple tips to remember when teaching English to young students online.

Establish Rules and Routines

Just as in a face-to-face classroom, you will need to establish clear rules and routines for the time you spend together online. Very young students may have difficulty navigating the online environment appropriately. It is important to educate students about how the online learning environment works from the beginning. In the first few lessons with a student, it may be helpful to use props to teach certain instructions such as listen, say, click, circle etc. You can create your own or find pre-made props online. Another option is to utilize a parent to help explain to the student how the online classroom environment works.

Pro Tips for Teaching VIPKID English Classes to Very Young Students

Students also need to be clear about the expectations for behavior during your classes together. It is important that students listen when you are speaking, are polite and engaged and follow commands. If you can make this clear from the beginning, you will minimize distractions and cut down on lost class time.

Keep Live Lessons Short

When teaching young children online, we need to be considerate of what they can and can’t handle. Young children are simply not wired to focus for long periods of time and will struggle to remain present and engaged in a class for more than about 30 minutes.

If your class length is longer than this, consider breaking it up with substantial periods of rest or play. You could encourage students to step away from the computer for a five-minute break or play games or other activities during this time to help hit the reset button.

Vary Your Lesson Format

There is no single right way to teach all children. Every child has their own learning styles and preferences, and even their individual preferences will vary from day to day. To teach your students as effectively as possible, you’ll want to employ several different lesson formats.

How to Teach English Online To Very Young Students

Consider beginning and ending each of your classes in a similar way but delivering the bulk of your lesson in varying formats. For example, some lessons you might utilize storytelling, song and dance and others might be based on a more traditional drilling approach.

You may find that one particular style of lesson works well for most of your students most of the time. If so, use this style frequently! But be sure to have a variety of teaching tools in your back packet for when you feel a student could benefit from a change in delivery style.

Be Real with Your Students

While learning English, students will inevitably experience a wide variety of emotions – excitement, anger, confusion, frustration, happiness, pride. Many of these emotions may be unpleasant to experience and your young students may lack the emotional capacity to deal with them effectively. So, let your students see you frustrated (but never angry!), tired or excited. Let them see you as a real human being.

Online ESL- Pro Tips for Teaching Very Young Children Online

By letting your students see you experience and deal with a range of emotions, you are teaching them simultaneously how to cope with their own feelings. They will feel more connected to you as their teacher and more empowered to tackle their own difficult emotions when they arise. While you are teaching them language skills, you are also teaching them life skills.

Use YouTube

YouTube has a dazzling array of videos that can help you teach any aspect of the English language. A well-timed video of two or three minutes can really drive home a particular grammar or vocabulary point. And don’t just limit yourself to videos of verbs, nouns and adjectives. It’s also fun to include clips of fairy tales, fables, songs, movies and TV shows to expose your students to a diverse range of speakers. This can be a great way to begin or end a class.

Remember though, parents pay YOU not YouTube to teach their child. Never rely solely on video material to deliver a lesson. Always use video to supplement and enhance your own lesson content.

Use TPR and TPRS

Total Physical Response (TPR) and Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) are two concepts that are gaining popularity in the language learning classroom. These two styles of language learning can be particularly beneficial for young English learners.

Tips for Teaching Online English Classes to Very Young Students

TPR is a style of language learning that links language parts (verbs, nouns etc) with action. Combining language with physical movement helps students to retain a greater proportion of the information. In a way, it drives the language skills deeper into their brain.

TPRS uses stories to teach language. It is an approach that exposes students to the language through books and stories and makes it fun for them to learn. With TPRS, students not only hear and see the story (storybook or animation if using video), but they also participate in the story. Each action in the story gets a movement. Some actions are difficult to mimic completely, but students can do something that will trigger the memory of the verb.

Use Songs and Poetry

Songs and poetry are powerful tools for teaching English to students, particularly young students. Songs can teach students social and cultural information, while providing them with a natural way to listen to pronunciation and fluency. Plus, singing is fun! Many young children love to sing and won’t even realize they are learning English words and phrases as they do so!

Be Patient

If you only remember one thing about teaching English to young students online, let it be this….. be patient! Learning English is challenging. Learning online is also challenging. And your young students are attempting to do both at the same time!

Recognize that some days they will struggle with technology. Other days they may be tired or lack the focus that’s needed to learn in the online environment. By being patient with your students and reflexive of your own teaching practices, you can create an online learning environment that is enjoyable and highly beneficial for your young students.

Do you teach English to young students online? I’d love to hear from you. Share with us in the comments below your best tips for working with young students online, so we can all learn from each other!

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