Whales English is similar to many online ESL companies. They offer teachers a teaching platform as a place to connect and engage with their students. Their teaching platform offers a range of tools to help enhance a student’s learning experience online.
Most companies offer a standard range of tools such as:
- A pen to draw with
- Text box to type
- Shapes and/or different colours
- An eraser to remove all or selected annotations
- A basic reward system such as giving out stars to students.
These tools provide an extra level of interaction between students and their teachers.
But Whales English goes above the basic range of tools by offering three additional features to their platform:
- A buzzer
- Spin the wheel
- Stop clock.
These additional features have aided Whales English teachers, enabling them to be more creative in the classroom, leading to an enhancement in a student’s learning experience.
It is a well-known fact that students are more willing to engage and participate in an online ESL class if they are enjoying their lessons.
And we all know an increase in engagement strongly correlates to progress made throughout a course.
But for teachers who are perhaps new to teaching ESL online, or teaching allround, knowing how to implement these tools effectively in class might seem a bit daunting.
This post will offer tried and tested ideas to help Whales English teachers successfully use these three core tools so that you can enhance your student’s learning experience.
*For legal reasons I unfortunately cannot take pictures and share exact images from the Whales English platform. I do not own the platform nor have any rights to share content from the platform.
Within the Whales English platform, it looks like a button, around the size of a ten pence piece once selected from your toolbar.
When you have shared the buzzer onto the screen, both your students can view it also. You then click the buzzer again, and students have around 10 seconds to race each other and be the first to click the buzzer themselves. This can be done with a mouse or finger via a touch screen.
Whichever of your student presses the buzzer first, has their name displayed onto the buzzer. On their screen, it will say ‘me’ instead.
If no one presses the buzzer within the 10 seconds, it will stop and ask if you want to retry. If so, just follow the above process again for it to work.
Using the buzzer tool can be a great way to enhance your student’s learning experience, particularly for younger learners.
It’s fun seeing their names pop up on the buzzer and racing their peers to see who can click it first.
Here are a few ideas on how you can use the buzzer in your online ESL lessons:
- Using it for questions
When you have a question to ask, perhaps during a review section, you can inform your students that they are going to have a race. Whoever clicks the buzzer first gets to answer the question first.
I usually make this more exciting by adding a reward for answering a question correctly.
You can also use it if you want your students to ask each other questions. Offer them time to think of a question each to ask their peer, and then start the buzzer to see who can ask their question first.
- Pretending to be the Teacher
Students, especially younger learners, thoroughly enjoy any opportunity to be the teacher during the lesson.
What better way to build up excitement in class than to use the buzzer to see who will be the teacher first.
Pretending to be the teacher can apply to so many different tasks such as:
- Giving instructions ‘show me a book, jump three times, run to the door’.
- Reading questions from the lesson material
- Creating their own questions to ask their peer or the teacher.
- Student’s Attention
If you have spent any amount of time working with kids, you will know that they can become easily distracted or lose focus.
A great way to regain their attention is by using the buzzer. As the buzzer only lasts around 10 seconds before it times out, this allows your student enough time to refocus and try to click the buzzer before his peer.
Making it into a game and friendly race between peers can help to motivate distracted students.
Spin the Wheel
Exactly as the name suggests, this is a wheel with six sections, each numbered 1-6, and you click to spin the wheel. Whichever number it lands on correlates to whatever rules you have set up in class such as:
- Assigning questions
Encouraging students to ask each other questions by listing different question types: what, when, where, why, and how. Each question is assigned a number such as what – 1, when – 2, and so on.
- Breaking up the lesson material
If you come to a page in your lesson that has a number of picture boxes or a large list of questions, you can use the spin the wheel tool to break the material into smaller sections.
E.g. if you were teaching the weather and had six pictures of different types of weather, you could assign each picture a number. Then, when you have spun the wheel, your students must tell you what the weather is for that picture.
- Assign an action
This works particularly well when teaching younger students. You can assign each number an action for example:
2 – walk
3 – jump.
You can also apply this to other topics such as feelings or even animals:
1 – happy / hop like a rabbit
2 – sad / flap like a bird
3 – angry / stomp like an elephant.
The stop clock offers a countdown for students in class. The stock clock offers both minutes and seconds. You can set it from 1 second to 9 minutes 59 seconds.
Here are some ideas of how you can incorporate the stock clock tool in your Whales English lessons:
- Use for Debates
When teaching older students, it's always a good idea to encourage opportunities for discussions between students. A good way to do this is by offering a discussion question related to the lesson topic and objective.
You can then place the stop clock on the screen and inform students they have x amount of minutes to discuss the question independently.
- Absent Students
If students are away from their computer/iPad for any reason, the stop clock can be used.
Perhaps your student has moved away from their screen to search for a toy they want to show you. You can use the stop clock for them to ‘race the clock' and return to class before the time runs out.
The stop clock is a great way to turn teaching actions into a game.
Firstly, you can set the stop clock for x amount of seconds and students have to carry out the action for that length of time. For example, run on the spot for 10 seconds.
Your students could take it in turns by choosing a number for the amount of seconds they have to carry out that action.
Secondly, you can use it as a ‘beat the clock' game where your students have to complete an instruction within the given time frame.
Such as turn on the light, run to the door, or open a book within 10 seconds.
These 3 tools can really help you to be creative in your online ESL lessons whilst enhancing your students learning experience.
Lessons which offer a range of stimuli including different tools, props, and resources, aid student engagement substantially.
Don’t forget to join the Whales English Facebook groups for shared engagement ideas, activities, and resources you can also use within your ESL lessons:
Have you tried these tools whilst teaching with Whales English?
Let us know in the comments which tool is your favourite and how you use them in class with your students.
Apply to Whales English below: