TeacherTee’s 7 tips on how to keep students of all age-levels motivated and entertained online

Congratulations, you have officially become an online English tutor! After having successfully completed your online TEFL course and having aced your job interview, teaching ESL online comes along with another challenge: teaching online! Since all of us have been to school, we are familiar with face-to-face teaching, but how to motivate and entertain your students in an online class? There are a lot of suggestions to be found on Google, and for someone new to the field of teaching English online, it might seem a bit overwhelming and complicated. But essentially, it all boils down to these 7 tips. So grab a cup of coffee, lean back, and let’s read through this together!

bored student

If this is what your students look like during the online class? Don’t worry, TeacherTee has got your back. Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash 

  1. Have fun!

This one sounds so simple, but it will have an enormous effect on your teaching. It is incredibly motivating for students to see that their teacher enjoys spending time with them. Crack a joke once in a while, and if a student says something genuinely funny, feel free to laugh together with your class. Laughing together really is the easiest way to motivate students – and yourself.


  1. Take your time.

Be patient with your students and yourself. Teaching online can be challenging for everyone involved. Show your students that you can understand their situation and include small breaks whenever you feel like they (or you!) need one. 5 minutes to go get a new cup of coffee or breathe some fresh air at the window really can do the magic sometimes. Also, don’t go too hard on yourself if something doesn’t work out as you planned. What matters is that you’ve tried – and that you keep on trying. 


  1. Present your best online self.

Invest in a quality camera and microphone, so that you can make sure that your students can see and hear you clearly. Nothing demotivates students more than not being able to actually listen to you talking. Think about your body language (you don’t have to start acting, how much and what students will see of you) and consider changing the tone of your voice to match the things you are saying. If bandwidth allows it, you might ask your students to turn on their cameras as well. It will be an extra motivation for them to know that you are able to see what they are doing! 


  1. Value your students.

Show your students that you actually care for them and their situation. Learn your students’ names and use them. Think about why your students are actually learning English (for an exam, to improve their business English, etc.) and try to cater to their interests whenever possible. You don’t know about their interests? Simply ask. You can’t decide which method to use in class? Let your students decide which one they would prefer. Praise your students often (yes, especially your adult students) and think of a small reward adequate for the age group you’re teaching (have them collect smileys on a whiteboard, end the session with their favourite game, etc.). And, most importantly: teach your students that it is perfectly fine to make a mistake. Show them that you value their participation and when correcting them, always be respectful and polite. 



Maybe throw some virtual confetti for your younger students? It’s fun for everyone, plus you don’t have to clean it up! Photo by Seyedeh Hamideh Kazemi on Unsplash 


  1. Keep it interactive.

We know that teachers are often tempted to just give a looong monologue about the topic, and then ask for questions. But let us tell you what, this is not going to keep your students interested at all. Instead, try to make your students actively do something at least every five minutes. There are countless options to choose from: Play a game, make everybody write key-words on the whiteboard, use breakout rooms for group work, include discussions, use props and let students use theirs, make students share their screens, make students write in the chat, … we could go on for a while. Change up the methods you use frequently, and pay attention to what works best with your students. Surprise your students by including something new once in a while (like a song, a video, etc.) Also, make sure that you can explain every virtual tool and every method you want to use properly. If possible, you might also want to consider including a little homework. This will give the individual student time to think about the topic on his or her own.


  1. Plan your lessons.

Although it might sound tempting, simply taking your lesson plans from face-to-face teaching and then trying to use them for online teaching just won’t work in most cases. Try to break down your lessons (teaching online tends to take longer) and keep the structure as simple as possible. Think about whether you want to include asynchronous lessons as well, and consider (pre-)recording lessons so that students can take a look at them again. Make sure your students know what they are supposed to learn in each lesson, and structure the transitions from one lesson to the next. And whatever you do, avoid text-heavy slides at all costs. If you want to include longer texts, make sure every student can download it and print it out at home. Don’t force them to read it from too little a box in the middle of their small screens. Especially when you are learning a new language, being able to read the text more than one time at your own pace is key!


  1. Communicate with your students.

Communicate with your students (and in case they are involved, their parents) regularly, clearly and respectfully. Maybe you want to send an email-update every second monday or provide an open video conference for everyone to just show up and talk to you. Set clear expectations and goals, and remind your students of their learning outcomes. Let them know that you are there for them, and that they can always turn to you (via email, or whatever you personally prefer) to ask questions and discuss the learning process. 


As you can see, there is a lot you can do to keep your students interested and be a motivating and entertaining online English teacher, regardless of whether you are freelancing or working your TEFL job online with a company. If you don’t do it already, follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more tips and tricks and please feel free to contact us directly in case you have any further questions. Happy teaching!

Written by Johanna Brand