Minimalist Teaching with DaDa – How To Be a Good Online Teacher

Minimalist Teaching with DaDa – How To Be a Good Online Teacher

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What is Minimalist Teaching?

By minimalist teaching, I mean no ManyCam, and very few props.

Recently my laptop broke a little bit and I didn't have ManyCam, so I started doing a couple of weeks without it.

Subsequently, I came up with some strategies and ways that you could be minimal with your teaching.

So if you don't have loads of props with you, or ManyCam, don't worry about it!

Here's a way to teach…the minimal way!

Asking Questions with Good Categories

It's all about asking questions.

When I say questions, you want to be picking really good categories.

Winning categories are things like:

  • Food
  • Animals
  • Superheroes

If you start listing things like…

‘Can you tell me the top five museums in Europe?'

It's not an engaging question, unless they're really high ability…and like museums.

So your go-to things are food and animals, because if you ask about animals, then you give yourself a lot more opportunity for easy expansion.

You can do things like animal noises, or you can ask ‘What's your favourite animal?' Or…

‘What colour is a panda?' etc.

And with food, you can ask ‘What did you have for breakfast today?'

And then you could start singing a little song about what they had for breakfast.

Be kind to yourself with the categories of questioning you select!


Superheroes is a winner because it really engages a lot of students.

I had a great chat with my student the other day about the new Avengers Movie! They were really engaged…and thus they were excited to communicate in English.

Try out my 3 Questions activity to encourage your students to converse more:

Minimalist Teaching

Using Humour Effectively

Along with your questions and categories, you've also got to get them laughing.

I'm always saying, ‘Get them laughing, get them talking!'

It's so important, because your online student might not open up if you don't create a sense of humour first.

I try to get them laughing within the first 10 seconds of coming into class.


By doing things like hiding myself from the camera and then coming in doing a stupid face.

Sometimes there will be tumbleweed…

…but hey that's just what you got to live with!

If you're not getting a reaction straight away…move on and try something else! Keep it moving!

Click the image below to read more about using humour to build rapport with your DaDa students:

Minimalist teaching

You are the Presenter of a Live TV Show

I always imagine teaching English online is like a live TV show and you're the presenter.

If something goes wrong, you've got to use your presenter skills to gloss over it and just keep things rolling!

Click the image below to check out how I deal with things going wrong in class:

Minimalist Teaching

Ways to Get Your Students Laughing

You've got your silly faces…and you've got your TPR.

Your Total Physical Response training is so important.

Check out my simple picture guide below for TPR for some ideas of the best body language to use:


Minimal Teaching

And then it's all about using improv and expansion with these TPR actions.

You'll find that these techniques will take away such a such a big mental clutter from your class.

Minimal teaching is all about focussing on these foundational materials so that you know that you aren't relying on ManyCam and props…they are just a welcome addition.

ManyCam vs Minimal Teaching

I know I use a lot of ManyCam and I'm alway doing these overblown things…
…that's successful in its own right, but you don't have to do that in online teaching.
That's something that comes later when you've had your regular students for a while and you want to keep things fresh.
Here's an example of a way I use ManyCam when I'm not being minimal:
Minimal Teaching

Using the DaDa Courseware Effectively

So far we have got them laughing with our TPR and facial expressions.

We've got them talking by opening them up with the laughter and then picking really good categories for questioning…

…And then you want to focus on the DaDa courseware.

We can do this with the ‘2 Minute Rule'.

Minimalist Teaching

Two minutes of courseware.

Two minutes of something funny and asking questions…whilst using your CCQ.

This is a Concept Checking Question, to check their understanding of what they are reading.

You can then expand on this with more questions and humour once you've established their understanding.

And then you can highlight images in the courseware for discussion because the courseware is always there…so you won't be stuck for ideas for improv and expansion.

And if you want, you can use a ukulele to help with your improv.

You can still be minimal and have a few props!

Minimalist Teaching

Anything Can Be a Prop

That's what I always tell people.

If you're running late, grab a spoon from your drawer and say – ‘What's this? It's a spoon!'

Put the spoon on your nose for a cheap laugh and you've got an instant activity!


It's just all about the improv. All about the imagination.

And don't put limits on yourself!

Final Thoughts…

So be minimal for a bit; give it a go!

And if not, go back to ManyCam.

And if not grab a monkey puppet!

All of it's good. All of it's fun.

And as long as you're having fun…

…then the student will be having fun!

Click the Toucan below to check out the DigiNo ‘Online Teacher Training Category'  for more methods on how to keep your classes fun and engaging:

Minimalist Teaching

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