ESL education in the digital age: Essential tools and resources for the online classroom

The art of teaching isn't just about sharing information; it's a blend of human connection, inspiration, and know-how. Beyond that, a crucial ingredient makes for effective teaching - tuning into the student, grasping their individual needs, and comprehending the environment they're navigating, essentially being on the same wavelength. Today’s era is predominantly digitalized. One area that has been mostly digitalized has been the educational field. 

Workee experts chatted with Patricia Corcoran, a dedicated educator with a remarkable track record in classroom teaching and ESL education. Since beginning her teaching career in 1986, Patricia has honed her skills and discovered her true passion: teaching young children. Since 2017, she has shifted her focus to ESL teaching, where her unique skill set and passion for working with young children truly shine. As she continues to expand her expertise, Patricia is currently developing her Online Preschool and integrating a blog into her website. With her extensive background and dedication to education, Patricia explores five key areas that make online language learning more dynamic and interactive

Virtual classrooms: Building the foundation for online education

Virtual classrooms are the backbone of online education, offering real-time video, audio, and chat functionalities that facilitate seamless communication between teachers and students. Platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams have become popular due to their user-friendly interfaces and robust feature sets. These platforms allow educators to create engaging lesson plans incorporating visual aids, group work, and interactive activities, ensuring a dynamic and immersive language learning experience.

Activity time: Encouraging student interaction and collaboration

A crucial aspect of any classroom is providing ample opportunities for students to interact with each other. In the online environment, educators can achieve this by creating breakout rooms for group work with older students and role-plays or discussions facilitated by the teacher for younger students. Identifying letters and numbers, games like toy phones, and craft activities can be incorporated during activity time to encourage student communication and collaboration, fostering community and belonging.

Emotional learning: Using props to enhance self-expression

Utilizing props, such as emoji cards, can help students express their emotions and feelings during class. Teachers can facilitate activities encouraging students to discuss their emotions, share experiences, and develop emotional intelligence. This approach helps students improve their language skills and fosters a supportive and understanding classroom environment.

Reinforcing language skills: Interactive whiteboards, ESL-specific platforms, and Language learning apps

Interactive whiteboards allow teachers and students to collaborate and share ideas in real-time. Educators can foster collaboration and enhance student engagement by incorporating these tools into lessons. In addition, ESL-specific platforms offer a wealth of pre-built lesson plans, resources, and activities that cater to various skill levels and interests. 

These platforms streamline lesson planning and provide engaging, targeted content that accelerates language acquisition. 

Authentic Learning Experiences: Social Media and Physical Activities

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow you to build networks and groups and exchange information. It also offers unique opportunities for students to connect with native speakers, engage with authentic content, and immerse themselves in the target language. 

Educators can create authentic learning experiences that expose students to real-world language use and promote cultural understanding by incorporating social media into the curriculum. 

Additionally, regular physical activities, such as stretching, yoga, or short dance breaks, are essential for maintaining student engagement and well-being, particularly in the online learning environment. Integrating these activities into lessons ensures students remain active and energized.

What are your top 5 best practices for early childhood education?

My top 5 best practices for online classes, in no particular order, are as follows: 

1. I believe online class sizes should be no more than 10 students in one class together. This will allow for all students to participate and be heard but also allow for various answers. This also allows children to practice being good listeners and taking turns. Many skills can be taught in a group this size. 

2. The length of online classes should be between 30 and 45 minutes for groups. This allows young children to practice being in a classroom as they are expected to sit in a group listening to the teacher in a Circle Time Large Group activity. We are building up the child's ability to pay attention and use self-control. 

3. Students need to move and participate, so finding ways to give young children time to move as they participate will help them remember the lesson. Young children learn by doing so giving them a chance to move will add a level of memory and help to keep them engaged in the lesson. Songs and fingerplays with actions are good for this.

4. Repetition and routine are also best practices for the early childhood classroom. You can keep the routine the same but change the activity. Children like to know what is happening next. They can attend an activity if they know in what order things will happen during their class time.

5. No breakout groups unless you have parent helpers or teaching assistants. The class size of 10 is the ideal large group because everyone can take turns in a group this size. Young children need guidance from an adult, so if there are breakout rooms, then make sure to have an adult assist and keep the students on task with what they need to do. Maybe they can manage independently, but I think having an adult there to refocus if they get off task is best.

I think that the best learning can happen when we take these 5 things into account in online early childhood classes.

Thank you, Patricia, for sharing your insights and supporting Workee!

Connect and learn more about Patricia's work on her Facebook 

Ihor, CEO at Workee

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