Skype online English lessons during lockdown – tips for teachers
The following advice applies for the Skype online platform, but also contains more general useful for conducting online English lessons, whatever the platform.
Some students have expressed interest in using Zoom or Microsoft Teams. We don’t go into the specifics of those here, but hope to write more about these in the coming weeks.
General advice, such as maximising speaking opportunities, will not be provided here, as this applies to most EFL lessons.
- Set up a file sharing space (e.g. Dropbox or Google Drive) for resource sharing.
- Notify students, preferably days in advance of the lesson, of the new material that you have uploaded to the storage space.
- Ideally use a headset, or at least a plug-in microphone. Sound quality is so important.
- Switch off notifications to stop them appearing on the screen during the lesson.
- If a student isn’t online at the agreed time, send a polite message to say you’re ready to start whenever they are. It helps to have time-stamped proof that you were in the right place at the right time. And sometimes they are actually there waiting but have left their status as invisible / offline!
- Disable firewalls if the connection is poor.
- Your facial cues are harder to read online, but still important. Maximise the window showing your face so that the student can see you clearly. Use screen share sparingly (see below).
- Allow a little extra time for lessons. Inevitably lost connections sometimes occur and you may need to stay online for 5-10 minutes longer to accommodate those glitches, including delayed uploads of live note-taking.
- Treat the lesson as if it were face-to-face – maintain the same level of professionalism in terms of dress code, distractions from phones etc.
- Maximize lighting in your room and have a distraction-free background!
Complementary apps and software:
- If you don’t have a scanner or you don’t want to split the spines of your books, Scanner Pro is an excellent app that allows you to scan documents using your iPhone camera.
- With a Microsoft account (and preferably a stylus), you can use and share OneNote to make online notes for the student to have live and post-lesson access to.
- https://idroo.com/dashboard This is another free – albeit with limited access – tool for whiteboards. Works best when the teacher has a stylus.
- Before the very first lesson: Identifying Skype IDs can be tricky. Ensure you are both linked up, with accepted invitations on both sides. Ideally, arrange a quick test video call some time before the main lesson.
- Take advantage of the share screen button on Skype for the student to see your teaching resources, however, use only when viewing a document together. Switch the screen share off wherever possible so that the student can see your facial cues more clearly.
- You can record video calls. This could be useful for post-lesson self-study for the student.
- Use the chat function in Skype to type short messages during the lesson, such as words not understood by the student, or to copy/paste a url so that you can both access a website.