Whenever I'm mentoring new online teachers for DaDaABC, the one thing I always tell them is…'Get them laughing, get them talking.'
Why do I say this? Because if you don't get your students laughing, then you will find it hard to get them talking!
And if your students aren't talking…then not a great deal of English is getting practiced.
So to make the student laugh is always my top priority! And each class I try and get a chuckle within the first ten seconds of entering the classroom!
How do I get my online students to laugh?
Simple. I act like a clown.
The world of online teaching is a unconventional ol'beast. You've got to think of it as ‘Fun…with a little bit of English thrown in.'
The student's get lectured on grammar and all that fun stuff all day at school.
And then they come home with homework piles taller than them!
I've got no interest in turning my classroom into a secondary school for the little dudes and dudettes. I want them to have fun!
‘But Teacher Jason, how is that going to help them to learn English?'
I know, I know, I'm awful…but wait. There is a method at work here…honest!
When I first started teaching online with DaDaABC, I did nothing but stick to the courseware and devote all of my energy to being a ‘teacher'.
I would explain grammar in detail and make sure they completed every activity, and comprehended every last word on the page.
And you know what reaction I got?
I was convinced every last one of my students couldn't speak a word of English because I couldn't get a peep out of them.
So I changed my approach. I started listening to those yawns (there wasn't any talking to drag my attention away from them).
Every time my student would look bored or disinterested…I would do something silly.
I would make my horse puppet attack me.
I would play a goofy song on the ukulele.
I would remove my head with ManyCam and replace it with an orange wearing sunglasses.
And the result of this genuinely shocked me…
My Students Started Speaking English!
As soon as I got them laughing at my clownish ways…they opened up.
I'd convinced myself they were low English ability…they were just hesitant to speak.
My willingness to make myself look silly broke the ice. And suddenly they felt comfortable to talk…and to make mistakes…and to laugh and be silly themselves.
They now wanted to talk and engage in the class…because the class was fun!
They wanted to be a part of the fun.
All of my previous boring teaching methods didn't improve their English…speaking English improved their English.
And every time they made a mistake…they didn't go into their shell.
They happily accepted my correction and then waited eagerly for the next activity…because the atmosphere was no longer a second school on their laptop.
It was a chance to practice interacting with a native English speaker…whilst having a fun-filled, enjoyable time.
Click the image below to apply to be a DaDaABC teacher:
How I Kept the Fun Atmosphere Going
To keep the student's laughing. I just remained light-hearted. There aren't too many opportunities to be silly in the real world, so I take every chance I can to embrace it.
It's the best therapy!
I created loads of ManyCam Games that you can see by clicking the image below:
I also thought up a reward system where I would high-five the student after giving them a star. Each time I high-five'd them, I would use ManyCam to set myself on fire or turn myself into a monkey.
You can check my reward system out in the article below:
And then I would continue to monitor their engagement and balance fun with working through the courseware. This was when I started using ‘The 2 Minute Rule'.
Building Rapport with your online students
Once the students are laughing and the ice is broken, now is the time to build yet more rapport by asking them questions.
These can be questions as simple as ‘What's your favourite food?' or…
…'What's your favourite colour?'
Or for more advanced students, you can ask more complicated topics like the discussion idea below:
And soon they will be asking you questions back…and you've got yourself a full-blown English conversation with a student that you was convinced didn't even know how to say ‘Hello, how are you?'
And thus ‘The Web of Conversation' grows.
So if you find yourself teaching a student who often stares at you blankly, then just remember…you can't get them talking, unless you get them laughing. So…
Get them laughing, get them talking!
Click the image below to check out my 7 Online ESL Tips: