The Coronavirus pandemic otherwise popularly referred to as Covid-19 in the
mass media presents different ‘stings’ and unbearable challenges for economies
around the world. The service, energy and manufacturing industries in many
countries as well as the educational settings were badly hit by the scourge of the
Covid-19 pandemic. Even though the results from the Covid-19 plaque are blatantly
fatal forcing education centers to temporarily shut down, the Covid-19 scenario
presents ESL teachers and learners with worrisome moments of transitioning to
virtual classroom. One thing is paramount to educators and that is the thought of
keeping students engaged, which isis always important to ESL teachers. And moving
from a traditional classroom to working online wasn’t a thing to crack easily. I have
heard some ESL teachers say learners are bored during their online classes and to
some extent, video conferencing is not feasible for leaners. This may be true in some
way, however, as an ESL teacher we need to rethink our tools strategy for online
Since our ESL motive during the class is often centered on keeping students
engaged, one of the important things we can bring to our online classroom is having
ice breakers and introductions. We may want to keep to our time management
schedule, but building rapport and warming student’s language skills up is an
inevitably tool to successful virtual lesson. I commonly ask students especially young
learners about their daily routines, weekend plans (in the past or future), and
general small talk on familiar topics. I find it extremely interesting to use icebreakers
as a way to introduce the topic, for example, if you are going to learn about
shopping, I may begin to ask a student about their previous weekend shopping or
favorite food and why. That being said, I do believe that students get prepared for
the lesson and the first few minutes of the class will help you to make the entire
virtual lesson more relevant to the needs of the learners.
Importantly, it is also worthwhile to rethink about our ‘content routines and
expectations’. By this I mean, the approaches we use to start and end our lesson in
the online classroom. Although different learner groups come with their own
different challenges, it’s a stitch in time (saves nine) by allowing your lesson to run
smoothly, knowing fully well the amount of time to give for each stage of the lesson.
As the lesson progresses towards the end, have a recap, and then around 2 minutes
assign a quick homework task. You may choose to have a 2-3 minutes quick
homework review before you bring the lesson to a close.
I certainly concur that routines can help us to manage our expectations.
Students will be able to see the patterns in activities and can participate more fully
without requiring lots of technical support from you. And having students
brainstorm on certain vocabulary items they meet in the lesson or having a
vocabulary drill can also keep them engaged and thinking again the class. This can
create a better sense of humor as it allows the students to find a way to use the
lexical item in the appropriate context.
Augustine O. Nwaka
Augustine is an EFL teacher and trainer, currently living and working in NurSultan, Kazakhstan. He has worked in the Middle East and Central Asia regions. He
works with students of all ages, in both in-person and online classroom. In his free
time, he loves to travel and spend time reading and writing poems.