Build Teaching Business on the Side

How to Transition into Online Teaching while Working a Full-Time Job

Build Teaching Business on the Side

Each month, I speak to dozens of teachers about making the transition into online teaching.

While some are able to work full-time on their new business, others have other things – jobs, young children, university, travel etc. – that get in the way.

I often get asked questions like, “Should I quit my job and just go for it?”

In most situations, I don’t recommend doing this. I believe the better option is to build your online teaching business on the side and then make the transition when the time is right.

Before I talk about how to do this, I want to start with a story.

How I Transitioned into Online Teaching

When I was in Bilbao, I created a website called Inglés Bilbao. Although I was teaching in a language school at the time, I wanted to get some private students to earn extra money on the side.

I stuck up fliers throughout the city, posted on classified websites, and invested about $50 in Google Adwords.

After a few weeks, I had a group class of three (earning $50 an hour), and 3-4 other private students ($32 an hour – but usually 90-minute lessons).

As the year progressed, my website started to show up in the rankings and I got more and more requests. I received plenty of referrals, too. If we had stayed in Bilbao, I would have gone full-time with this. But we moved to Valencia and I started the process again.

In Valencia, I added a page for Skype lessons and expanded my reach to other cities in Spain and Italy.

To finish the story: I realized the potential for online lessons and started a new site that wasn’t restricted to Valencia. I built this up while I was living in Spain and then started full-time when my wife and I moved to the U.S.

I managed to build these sites and build up my online presence while working a regular teaching job.

And you can do this too.

How to Transition into Online Teaching

Hopefully, my story highlights that there are ways to get into online teaching without having to quit what you’re doing now.

Although there will be situations where ‘just going for it’ might be the best approach, I feel that for most cases, building something on the side and transitioning when the time is right is the safest option.

Here are some tips to make this process work for you:

Set a Date When You Want to Make the Transition

When I knew I was going leave Spain and move to the U.S., I had a specific goal (20 hours of online teaching) with a specific deadline (January 2011).

If you have something going on at the moment, it can be very easy to have a ‘someday’ mentality and keep putting things back..

For example, after reaching my initial goal, I had plans to expand my online business (products, courses etc.) but I kept putting this off.

It wasn’t until I started setting deadlines again for my specific goals that I actually made progress.

Write down when you want to make the transition and set a deadline for this. Create breakthrough goals too. This helps you break things down so that you can build momentum.

Use Project Management Software

Getting things down on paper (yes, I know, software isn’t technically paper!) takes the pressure off trying to rely what’s in your head.

I use Asana for every new project I embark upon. To give you an example, I’m writing a free ebook for English learners that will fit into my email responder. There is a lot to do here. However, all the tasks, ideas, files etc. are organized inside this app.

I highly recommend using Asana or a similar app to help you stay organized and on top of things. After going through your plan of action, create separate projects in your software and give deadlines for each one.

Build Your Online Presence and Your Audience

You will need an online presence if you teach online. The earlier you start building this, the better.

Don’t get overwhelmed with having to create a Facebook page, YouTube channel, Instagram account etc. right from the get-go. Instead focus on the basics: get a website/web page up there, a business email account (this will come with your hosting), and an email marketing account.

Start bringing people onto your site and into your audience and write for this audience on a consistent basis through email and/or a blog post.

What you write about will ultimately come down to the type of English you want to teach and who you want to target. Understand the problems your audience has and be valuable by solving these problems.

Get Teaching

Write down times during the week when you are available to take lessons. Then, get teaching.

You will learn so much from giving lessons online, even if it’s only one hour per week.

It makes everything real. It helps you practice what to say in a trial lesson. It will make you a better online teacher.

Use the methods that I used in Spain (I go into much more depth with this inside TEOC) and bring in your first learners as soon as possible.

Find Time to Work on This

A job, partner, kids, friends, hobbies, TV, sports… there is a lot going on in our lives that make it hard to work on building your business.

That is why I recommend taking a look at your schedule to find slots during the week that you reserve for this project.

For most, this will be mornings, lunchtimes, evenings, and weekends. You might find time during your working hours too – for example, if your student cancels, get to work. But I recommend setting boundaries, otherwise, your work could suffer.

There might be weekends when you spend hours working but, over the long-term, you will want to make it sustainable.

Beware of Legal Implications

I receive messages from teachers working for certain companies telling me that their contract states that they can’t do their own thing while working for these companies.

In fact, I heard from a teacher that one company bans anyone doing their own thing one or two years after leaving. Crazy!

You don’t want to find yourself in trouble further down the line. Therefore, know if you are legally allowed to do this while working your current job.

In most cases, it’s fine. But it’s worth checking.

Enjoy it and Celebrate Your Successes

There are times when I do get stressed about my online business. When I do, I just ask myself, “How can I do this while having fun?”

Switching off from it all helps too. Turn off notifications and set boundaries for when you do your work.

Celebrate your successes no matter how small. And enjoy it. This is a lot of fun and I’ll never take the freedom that comes with having my own online business for granted.

Over to You

Have you made the transition into online teaching? Are you currently making this transition?

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading!

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Batching Tasks

Batching Tasks when Teaching Online

There is so much to do as an online teacher.

This includes the teaching, planning, admin, responding to emails, creating content, website setup etc. And with all this comes a lot of distractions.

In this video, I talk about how batching tasks will help you become more productive and focused.

Useful Links

How to Organize Your Time

How to Become More Productive (there is a link to the project management software I use)

Over to You

Do you batch tasks? If so, how do you do it?

Thanks for watching!

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Tools for Teaching English Pronunciation

Three Tools to Help You Teach English Pronunciation (and How to Do This Asynchronously)

Tools for Teaching English Pronunciation

I often get emails from teachers worried that online tools and resources are going to replace them.

My opinion is that this won’t happen anytime soon. Additionally, we shouldn’t see these resources as competition but, instead, as potentially useful tools to help us better help our learners.

And in this post, I want to look at three resources that you can use to improve your pronunciation lessons. I will focus on how I use them to help my students with English sounds but, as I mention later, they can be used for all areas of speaking.

Firstly, I want to go into how I approach this area of English as this will give you an insight into why these tools are so useful.

A Quick Summary of How I Teach English Sounds

One of the biggest problems English learners have is being able to pronounce sounds correctly. One reason for this is that there are 14-21 vowel phonemes in English (depending on the variant), many of them not present in other languages.

Therefore, learners will default to sounds in their own language if they can’t produce it correctly.

When working with a learner who has a problem in this area, I go through a three-step process:

  1. Show them what they need to do with their mouth to make the sound
  2. Create/give drills for them to build muscle memory
  3. Give feedback throughout the process

Online tools make this much easier and allow you to work asynchronously with your learner. Let’s look at step one of this process and the relevant tool.

Sounds of Speech App: How to Make Different Sounds

This handy app has an animation of what happens inside the mouth when different sounds are made.

Here is what it looks like:

uiowa

http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/english/english.html

This, along with any explanation, allows your learner to see what’s going on inside the mouth so that they can then experiment with their tongue, lips etc. to mimic the speaker.

I’ve found that this comes more naturally for certain students but, with enough practice, everyone will finally get there.

Outside of class, encourage your learners to play around with this app. If they struggle with certain sounds, then suggest that they start with those.

In addition to the visual representation, there is also a video showing a real person saying the relevant sound. This made all the difference for my Spanish-speaking student and his ability to correctly say the ‘w’ sound. I told him to watch the video, repeat after the speaker while looking in a mirror, and then to compare the two, and this solved the problem for him.

Let’s move on to stage two.

Audacity and File Sharing Apps for Drilling

In order for your learner to get this right over the long-term, they are going to need practice.

I prefer to make drills relevant to each student and, when I’m teaching one-to-one, I send over personalized audio based on the lesson/conversation we’ve just had.

This isn’t difficult to do. You just need 5-10 minutes, Audacity (or any sound recording app), and a file sharing application. To record the relevant drills, I go through my lesson notes and record sentences. I ensure that the sounds that we have been working on are included in these sentences, and will also add some specific pronunciation drills where needed.

Once I have recorded those sentences, I simply drag them into the relevant folder on my computer. This is linked to the DropBox folder that I share with my learner.

The student then downloads the audio and – in theory, at least! – repeats each sentence out loud during the week. This builds muscle memory inside the mouth.

If you create sentences, this not only helps learners with English sounds, but also with the different areas of pronunciation like stress, rhythm, intonation, and so on.

I also send learners to the drills over at the Mimic Method website where there are some really useful comparisons.

Using SoundCloud/Google Drive/DropBox to Give Feedback

There are two ways to give feedback: live in class or asynchronously. I’m going to focus on the latter here.

I’ve used a variety of different tools to give feedback asynchronously. SoundCloud is my first choice as you can leave comments at specific points during the audio.

In addition to pronunciation, I’ve used it to give feedback on IELTS speaking questions and on presentations.

SoundCloud

Giving IELTS feedback on SoundCloud

Another option is to use Google Drive and the Kaizena app or to have the audio sent to your DropBox using the DBinbox application.

Working asynchronously has a couple of benefits: firstly, it allows you to be more flexible with your schedule and, secondly, you can take your time with the feedback and listen more closely.

Over to You

In addition to teaching sounds, I also use this method and the relevant tools to help my learners with connected speech, intonation, rhythm, stress, other parts of pronunciation, and speaking in general.

I have used this both in one-to-one lessons, group lessons, and in my online courses.

If you have used other tools to help your learners with their pronunciation, please share them below. Thanks for reading!

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How to Become an Online Teacher

Three Things You Need to Do to Become a Successful Online Teacher

How to Become an Online Teacher

Working closely with online teachers has given me a great insight into what ultimately makes someone a success online.

Having a plan in place is crucial and, recently, I discussed the importance of building trust with learners online.

But in this post, I want to highlight three things that you need to do to ensure that you reach your goals, allowing you to take control of your teaching and income over the long-term.

Let’s get straight into it.

Commit to Your Goal

When I made the transition into online teaching, I was fully committed to making it work.

My goals were different back then; I was very content teaching around 25 one-to-one lessons per week. I had no set plans to teach group lessons, create courses or earn more of a passive income. But I was pretty single-minded about reaching this initial goal.

There were so many ups and downs in the early days: the high of my first student; the low of my second student going AWOL after a couple of weeks.

I also had problems with my website – I knew nothing about coding or WordPress in those days – and these early setbacks and challenges can make a big impact on your confidence. It’s easy to give up when something goes wrong. It’s easy to think that each setback is a sign that it won’t work for you.

But the good news is this: if you are committed and consistently do the right things, then you will achieve your goal. It’s just a matter of when.

If you have this mentality, your YouTube subscribers, email followers, and lesson requests will keep increasing. And if you manage to build some momentum, then there is the potential to see exponential growth.

On the other hand, if you take small setbacks to heart and don’t have the mentality to keep improving and keep consistent, then things will most likely not work out for you.

I’ve seen some teachers achieve their goal of having a full schedule in a matter of weeks. Some take longer. Others never get there. Everyone is different and there are many factors at hand. But those who end up being successful are those who are committed to making it work.

When you have this mentality, it shows in the way you communicate, on your website, and in your videos. It’s contagious and something that learners will pick up on.

Commit to your goals. Commit to overcoming obstacles along the way. And commit to your improvement as a teacher and and as a marketer.

Connect and Collaborate

As I mention in my webinars and interviews, I was a lone-wolf when I first started online.

Whenever I came across another site offering online English lessons, I would worry about my learners finding it. Competition made me anxious and I thought that there was limited room for online teachers.

But I have since learned that there is no competition if you set things up correctly.

I saw massive growth in my online business once I started reaching out and collaborating with other teachers. It was incredible to connect with others who were doing something similar; we learned from each other and also offered support and advice when it was needed.

I’ve been part of two wonderful mastermind groups over the past year. Sharing my goals, and being held accountable for them, has given me the motivation and the commitment to keep progressing. And I’ve gained so much from seeing how others are achieving their goals.

Since first putting myself out there and reaching out to others, I’ve seen an online community of independent teachers grow stronger and stronger. There is a definite sense of togetherness and collaboration. And this is only a good thing for us teachers and our learners.

So, get out there and make connections.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

When I made the decision to expand my business, I had to get out of my comfort zone.

At the time, I was comfortable with my income and daily routine. In fact, I’m very comfortable right now, too. But it’s important to be always moving forward otherwise things can quickly go stale.

If you’re new to online teaching, then you will most likely have to get out of your comfort zone too.

Why?

Because it involves doing things that are different. The majority of teachers won’t know much about making videos, online marketing or creating a website that converts.

I knew very little about these areas back in 2010, but I invested in myself and made the commitment to make it work.

Along the way, there were many instances of when I had to get out of my comfort zone. But each time, I’m glad I did. Sometimes things worked out (great!), sometimes they didn’t (I still learned something).

And today, as I look to grow a large audience and move into new areas of online teaching, I need to keep doing things that are a little bit scary. I need to keep experimenting.

Because as the popular meme states, this is where the magic happens.

Over to You

Moving online is a journey with so many future possibilities but, as I mentioned, there are certain things that you will need to do to make it work.

In the comment section below, please share your journey and let me know if this post resonated with you.

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Put Yourself Out There

Why You Should Put Yourself Out There as an Online Teacher (And How to Overcome this Fear)

 

Put Yourself Out There

Are you nervous about putting yourself out there as an online teacher?

If so, you’re not alone.

I speak to a lot of English teachers who want to move online, but fear is holding them back.

I know how inhibiting this can be: it affected me for a long time. In certain ways, it still does. It’s scary creating something that is centered on you, especially when it has the potential for the whole world to see and judge.

Overcoming this fear is important; if you want learners to take lessons with you online, you’ll need to put yourself out there.

Learners want to be able to connect with their teacher before signing up to lessons or courses, and the best way to do this through your words, pictures, and videos.

I’m going to have some advice for you if you are apprehensive about all of this, but before I do, I want to quickly share my story.

My Battle With This and How to Overcome Fear

I’ve gone from someone who was really apprehensive about posting a photo on my site – you couldn’t really see my face on the first photo that I posted – to someone who now creates videos and does live webinars.

Looking back, getting started was scary. I was nervous about what people would say about my pictures, my voice, and my content.

It took me a long time before I made videos, started an email list, and really got things going. I think the following explains why:

– I was worried that my content wouldn’t be good enough
– I was worried about what my old friends would say if they saw my videos
– I was scared of it all failing
– I hated hearing my own voice
– I was worried about trolls

However, I managed to slowly overcome these fears, and now I want to share my experience and some advice for you if you are apprehensive about moving online.

What to Do to Overcome These Fears

I’ve been asking teachers in my recent interviews if they felt nervous when first putting themselves out there.

If you have watched these interviews, you will know that all the successful teachers that I have talked to were apprehensive when first starting out, especially when it came to posting videos.

They had the same concerns as I did. But what did they (and I) do?

They wrote their first post/created their first video/recorded their first podcast for those who they wanted to serve, and built on this initial post.

Baby Steps and Improving Over the Long-Term

Something that I think is really important to know is this: your first homepage/article/video is not going to be perfect. It takes time to find your voice and make something that people enjoy and derive value from.

But keep in mind the following:

– You don’t need to publish your first draft
– You can get feedback from others to help you improve on what you have
– You’re going to get better if you keep doing it

When I created my first video for English learners, it took about ten takes for me to be content with it. My website for English learners has gone through about 12 redesigns. I have edited/proofread this post on five separate occasions.

You are going to get better, and it will all get easier, but you still have to start.

If you’re really nervous about publishing that first post, send it privately to a few learners first and get the validation you need to share it publicly.

Putting Ideas Out There

I was a little nervous about starting this blog as I was talking about something that no one else was at the time. Putting ideas out there is scary too, especially if what you’re talking about can be divisive (input vs output in language learning, vegan vs paleo, religion etc.).

In my opinion, it’s all about gaining the confidence that your ideas and materials for English learners are going to help others. And the more you teach, write, and do, the more you will have to say, and the more you will improve.

Focusing on one area of English (IELTS, pronunciation etc.) will help you create things that others are going to really like. You will become an expert in this area, and therefore, the articles on your website, your videos etc. will be of higher quality.

Another concern that I’ve heard from other teachers, and something that I definitely felt, is when you see what is already out there, you might think that your materials won’t be beneficial. Making comparisons can be paralyzing.

But what you offer is unique, especially if you have one area of English that you enjoy teaching. The right mentality to have is to think about the problems your learners have and solve them. Don’t worry about what others are doing and how your materials compare, especially at the beginning.

If you dedicate yourself to this, then you will soon have valuable and unique content to share.

Dealing with Trolls and Criticism

I was really worried that I would receive a lot of comments from others who just want to be negative.

This hasn’t happened that often (there is one guy who uses has troll in his usernames and turns up every six months or so), and when it does, it’s not that much of a big deal. Sometimes, it can affect you, but this feeling doesn’t last long.

One of the best things about your site, YouTube Channel, and social media profiles is that you can delete comments and ban users. That is what I do now if someone is trolling: I delete it, ban them, and move on.

It’s very easy to get sucked into what they ultimately want you to do: feed them. This happened last week, actually. A guy emailed me with a bunch of abuse. I responded to his first email in a very brief way (mistake), he replied with an essay of attacks, and I was into my second paragraph when realized what I was doing was a mistake. I discarded the draft and moved on.

Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is different. It’s great to get feedback from others, and I encourage you to ask for it. I ask my learners what posts they like, what posts they don’t like, and how I can better help them, and this feedback is invaluable.

Fear of Failure and Committing to Success

Something else we all have an issue with is fear of failure.

I’ve talked to a lot of teachers inside TEOC and over email, and fear of failure is holding a lot of people back. The thought of investing yourself in something like creating a site for your English lessons, making videos or even a course, and then for you and everyone else to see it flop, can put you off starting.

One thing that I’ve been working on in this area is to see everything as a learning experience to detach myself from the results.

It’s easier said than done, but the idea is this: if you commit to making a success out of teaching English online, work through the obstacles that are put in front of you, and are willing to learn and pivot as you go, then you will get there.

If your first website doesn’t work, make it better. If your first video is terrible, rerecord it. If your student doesn’t show to the trial lesson, email them and do something to find other learners.

Success isn’t based on your first attempt – you may get it right early on – but on committing to this for the long-term. It’s beautiful seeing someone embark on the journey and making improvements over the weeks, months, and years.

Over to You

This post is based on my experiences and conversations with online teachers and online teachers to be. And as you will have picked up, the main theme running throughout this article is to get started, focus on your learners, and improve the content you produce as you go.

What I want to know is if you are nervous about putting yourself out there, and if so, why? Also, if you have overcome this fear, please share your story.

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Personalized Audio English Learners

Create Personalized Audio for Your English Learners

Do you have English learners that keep making the same mistakes week after week?

If so, then sending personalized audio can help your students overcome these mistakes and internalize correct English. This works for pronunciation and grammar errors, and it can also help them remember new vocabulary.

I explain all in this video and the post below.

(Please note: this is based on my experiences teaching one-to-one online, but at the bottom of the post I talk about how you can apply this to traditional lessons)

Watch in HD!

Decide on What Audio to Send

I send sentences based on what we go through in the lesson and the mistakes my learner makes (grammar, pronunciation etc.).

When mistakes are made, I write corrected sentences into the chat box. This allows me to easily record audio after the lesson, and additionally, I prefer correcting learners at a specific time instead of interrupting them while they are speaking.

Adding one or two more examples helps your learner with the problem they’re having. For example, if a learner says, “I enjoy to go there,” then you can create the following sentences:

  • I enjoy going there
  • Jack enjoys playing football
  • I enjoy walking around the city

What you decide to record depends on many factors, but I suggest that you try to keep things as relevant to your learner as you can.

Record and Share the Audio

I prefer to use Audacity, but there are many other programs that allow you to record audio.

In a nutshell, it works like this:

  • You record the audio for your learner
  • Export the audio as an MP3 file and use the sentence as the name of the file
  • Upload it to a folder learner has access to

When recording the audio, you might want to extend the recording so that your student can listen to the sentence and repeat it out loud without having to pause the individual tracks. I did this in the video above.

I use both Dropbox and Google Drive (GD) to share the audio with my learners. And like I mentioned in the video, using a desktop client for these programs makes uploading the audio much easier.

Alternatively, you can open dropbox/GD and drag the files into the relevant folder.

Getting Your Learner to Listen to the Audio and a Review

Some learners will listen every morning, while others will forget to do it. This post will help you if your learner is reluctant to do work outside of class.

I ask my students to listen three times a week, and repeat the sentences two to three times. If you want to systemize this, then you can create Anki flashcards.*

I like to review the sentences in the following lesson and beyond. I do this by asking the same or similar questions. And I think it’s important to view this as a long-term solution, especially for ingrained errors (one of my students took a LONG time before she started saying “people are” instead of “people is”).

Working in Groups

If you are teaching in a language school and work with groups, then you can still create personalized audio; it just won’t be as personalized.

For example, let’s say you’ve done a class on the present perfect, and you spot some mistakes made by one or more of your students. You can create audio for everyone in the class – they download this at home – based on the present perfect and the mistakes that your students make.

Over to You

I have found this method to help my learners create correct sentences in English and to overcome errors that a simple correction won’t fix.

And once you have the system down, it should only take you five-ten minutes to record the audio and send it your student.

Please let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about this.

* Spaced repetition software helps you create digital flashcards (with or without audio) and review them according to an algorithm that you set.

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Four Ways to Get Your English Learners to Do More

Four Ways to Get Your English Learners to Do More

Four Ways to Get Your English Learners to Do More

One of the biggest frustrations of teaching English is when your learners don’t do anything outside of class.

When a learner starts taking lessons, they say the right things and seem motivated. But this initial enthusiasm usually disappears after a few weeks.

I feel that as teachers, part of our job is to inspire our learners to do more, and to think about how we can help our learners to stay consistent over the long-term.

This is something that I’ve put a lot of emphasis on over recent years. In fact, I even have a course for English learners helping them specifically with this.

And in this post, I want to share four ways that will help your learners to consistently do more outside of class.

Please note: This is specific to teachers who teach one-to-one online, but the following can be adapted for traditional group lessons too.

I believe it all starts with a conversation and a plan.

Set Expectations and Come Up with a Plan

I believe one of the biggest reasons why intermediate speakers don’t become advanced speakers is because they don’t comprehend exactly what it takes to reach this level.

Taking two lessons a week and then doing nothing else will mean little progress. It takes much more than that to achieve a higher level of English.

You can approach this by doing two thing: Firstly, ask your learner what level they want to have and when they want to reach this level.

For example, you might have a learner who has a B1 level. And after talking about their goals, they say that they want to have a C1 level by this time next year.

This is definitely achievable, but they will most likely have to make some changes and do more. Therefore, the second thing to do is to come up with a daily learning schedule and general plan to ensure they reach their goal. Additionally, helping your learner get into the habit of using English on a daily basis will make a big difference.

One thing to bear in mind is that you need to make this sustainable and fun. If you ask your learner to do too much too soon, they will most likely feel overwhelmed and lose motivation.

They need to get into the habit of learning – and enjoy what they are doing – to keep this up over the long-term.

Do Things that Interest Your Learner

Making things relevant to your learner is incredibly important if they are going to do more outside of class.

A small percentage of English learners will keep up with grammar exercises and course books over the long-term; the majority need to do something that really interests them.

One way to do this is to have your learners send you things that they have enjoyed reading or watching in English.

One of my students was really interested in personal development. He read a lot of articles in his native language on this topic, so I encouraged him to learn about this in English instead.

We found a bunch of blogs and videos together, and he sent me articles that he enjoyed on a regular basis. I then created a lesson plan around what he sent, something that after doing a few times, didn’t take me too long to do.

Additionally, I encourage my learners to subscribe to YouTube channels and blogs that interest them. Getting this regular email with a link to an article/video in English gives them a reminder to do something in English. And because this is something that they enjoy, the motivation to read/watch something is stronger.

Set Long-Term Projects instead of Homework

Mark Barnes gave me the idea to this during our interview.

In a nutshell: you let your learner decide on a long-term project and you then collaborate on this together.

I did this with one of my learners last year; he wrote a book on a topic that he was interested in, and we used Google Drive so that I could correct his English and give feedback.

Using this approach gives your learner more authority over what they do, and again, because they decide what it is they want to create (a project, a video, a book, a presentation etc.), and in the area of their choosing, they are doing something that is relevant to them. And something that they are excited about doing.

Connect and Communicate with Your Learner

One of the benefits of teaching online is that you can connect with your learners in different ways; using email, social media, Google Drive, for example.

This means that you can send reminders about your lessons and keep the communication flowing with your learners outside of class.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time on communicating with your learner. A simple Tweet or email a couple of times a week will only take you a few minutes. And what this does is shows your learner that you care and that you are invested in their learning, and it will also send them a small reminder to do something in English.

If you want to make this more involved, like a daily email or support, then you can make this an added extra on top of the lessons that you offer.

But I’ve found that the more I communicate with a learner, the more they ultimately end up doing. And this is especially true with learners who need direction with their learning.

Over to You

Setting expectations, coming up with a plan, doing things that interest your learners, giving your learner more authority over their learning, and keeping the communication flowing will help your student do more in English.

What tips do you have to encourage your learners to do more outside of class?

Leave your comments below!

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Interview Gabby Wallace

Gabby Wallace on Teaching Online, Youtube, Podcasts, and Online Courses

In this latest interview, I speak to Gabby Wallace about teaching online.

Gabby has a very successful YouTube channel, co-founded a popular podcast, and has created various online courses for her English learners.

We discuss the above and much more in our interview below. Hope you enjoy it:

What We Discussed

We started off talking about our mastermind group. Now, a mastermind group is where you meet either online or in-person to brainstorm, share your successes and failures, give advice, share resources, and give each other support.

“For me, it’s been really motivating and it’s held me accountable too.”

Like Gabby said, it’s about collaboration, not competition, and we both recommend finding people who have something in common with you if you want to start your own mastermind group.

Gabby has been teaching language for over ten years in many different settings and age groups. About five years ago, she picked up a copy of The Four Hour Work Week, read other entrepreneurial books, and liked the idea of moving online and helping more people.

But before all that, she started making short videos that answered the questions she had in the classroom, and uploaded the videos to YouTube.

There was no business plan at this point, but she started receiving positive feedback, and made more videos. YouTube has now become a focus for her online teaching business (driving people to her website and to continue learning with her).

She was a little self-conscious and worried about putting herself out there at first, but it’s something she has got used to.

Gabby has also had a lot of experience with podcasting and has been very successful in this area. She was the co-founder of All Ears English. It was, and still is, hugely popular. But after a year or so, Gabby started her own podcast and concentrated all her efforts on her own brand.

Before starting the first podcast, Gabby admitted that she had never listened to one before. There were a lot of things that she had to figure out to get things going, but once she had gone through this process once, she knew exactly what to do the second time.

After creating around 100 videos on her YouTube platform, she posted her first course on Udemy. This year, she posted a new course on her own site, which is solely video based. She has a total of six courses with a new one on the way.

Just like Stephen, Gabby listens to her learners and creates her courses based on the feedback she gets.

In the past, Gabby couldn’t get things to work on her own platform, but changing the software she used made a big difference. When creating her courses, Gabby sets a deadline, pre-sells the course, and then gets the material out there.

Gabby’s plans for the future are to continue working on Go Natural English, and also wants to help online teachers become successful online through her blog, Laptop Language Teacher.

Here are some links to her social platforms:

YouTube for GNE
YouTube for LLT
– Her Facebook page

Thanks Gabby for sharing your story with us!

Over to You

Did you enjoy the interview?

Please comment/ask questions on anything we discussed. Gabby and I will respond to any questions you have.

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Pop Culture in Online English Lessons

Utilizing Pop Culture in Online Lessons: Guest Post by Paul Mains

Pop Culture in Online English Lessons

The following is a guest post from Paul Mains…

As any online teacher can tell you, using the Internet to teach English comes with a host of benefits.

You can work from home, giving you the flexibility to choose your own hours. If you so please, you can even continue working while traveling the world, so long as you have a stable Internet connection. And with the vast collection of lesson ideas, tips and tricks, and other useful resources that is available online for free, theres never a shortage of materials to use for online classes.

My favorite aspect of teaching online, however, is that it opens the door for meeting diverse people from different cultures. Indeed, given that your students will be from all over the world, teaching English online gives you the unique opportunity to meet people with different stories, opinions, and life experiences. In this way, online English teachers serve as both linguistic and cultural liaisons for the English-speaking world, a role that is both challenging and extremely rewarding.

A great way to teach students about both language and culture is to incorporate elements from pop culture into lessons. Specifically, Ive found it particularly fruitful to introduce grammar points with clips from popular music and television. And luckily, with the technology available on video platforms like Skype and Zoom, its easy to share these clips with students, even if they cant access YouTube or Netflix on their own computers.

Here are some examples…

Teaching Prepositions of Place with Maroon 5

Maroon Five

The members of Maroon 5. Image: Eva Rinaldi / Wikipedia

As an online teacher, your students will come from all over the world. As such, they will struggle with different grammar points, depending on their native language. Notoriously, Spanish-speaking English learners struggle with the difference between the prepositions inand atwhen talking about location (e.g., Im at the mall in New York), as in Spanish both concepts are expressed with the same preposition, en.

Using a popular, upbeat song is a gentle, entertaining way to introduce this kind of challenging and often frustrating semantic subtlety. For the difference between atand in, I recommend using Payphone by Maroon 5, which is embedded below:

Specifically, the following lyrics illustrate clearly the difference between the two prepositions:

– Still stuck in that time
– When we called it love
– But even the sun sets in paradise
– Im at a payphone, trying to call home
– All of my change I spent on you

With prepositions of place, atis generally used to specify a specific location at the restaurant, at the entrance to the park, at 100 Main Street. Conversely, inis used to indicate a general, imprecise location in the city, in New York, in the ocean. Sure enough, the lyrics to Payphone show this: the singer is at a payphone(a specific location), and laments that the sun sets in paradise(a vague, general place).

In addition to giving students a real-life example of prepositions of place being used in English, this is a great way to pique studentsinterest and open the door to other topics. For instance, after talking about prepositions of place, you can segue your way into prepositions of time, which follow the same pattern of specificity (e.g., at 8:53am vs. in the 1990s).

And if you (and your student) are feeling brave, you can introduce on, which generally falls somewhere between inand atin terms of specificity (e.g., at 8:53am on Friday in January).

Indefinite Articles with Waynes World

Wayne's World

Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, the twoWayne’s World lead actors in Wayne’s World. Image: -alice- / flickr

As I mentioned before, the aspects of English that students find to be difficult will depend on their native language. Whereas Spanish speakers may struggle with pronouns, Mandarin Chinese speakers may struggle with the concept of definite and indefinite articles (i.e., theand a), as Chinese does not contain articles.

One of my favorite ways to introduce the complex topic of articles is to use the following clip from Waynes World, in which Waynes ex-girlfriend gives him a gun rack as a birthday present:

Wayne responds, bewildered:

“A gun rack… a gun rack. I don’t even own *a* gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack. What am I gonna do with a gun rack?”

Though the grammar underlying English articles is littered with exceptions, in general, definite articles refer to a specific object or person (e.g., Look at the man over there), whereas indefinite articles refer to any non-specific item in a group (e.g., I want to see a movie).

And in just three sentences, Wayne produces five instances of the indefinite article a. His emphasis on the article when he proclaims, I dont even own a gun!is both humorous and really drives home the essence of the indirect article: Wayne speaking in non-specific terms; he does not own any gun.

You can follow up this scene with several questions that further illustrate the difference between definite and indefinite articles. For instance, you could ask your student if they have ever seen a gun rack before, and if they recognized the gun rack that the woman was holding.

And further, depending on your comfort level with your student, this could potentially open up an interesting cultural discussion about gun ownership. In China, gun ownership is highly regulated by law my student was surprised that owning a gun is both legal and fairly common in certain parts of the United States, which led to an interesting discussion.

Whether teaching prepositions, articles, or anything in between, showing a clip from a song or movie is a great way to ease students into grammatical topics that can otherwise be frustrating or tedious. And with the possibility of screen-sharing on Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts, you can share these materials with your students even if their access is limited by their location (my student couldnt view the Waynes World clip, for example, from his computer in Shanghai).

Ultimately, as online English teachers are often tasked with the dual role of linguistic expert and cultural ambassador, sharing clips from pop culture is a great way to teach your students simultaneously about both language and culture.

Paul is an English teacher who gives classes in-person and online in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He writes on behalf of Language Trainers, a language tutoring service offering personalized course packages to individuals and groups. You can check out their free English accent game and other language-learning resources on their website. Feel free to visit their Facebook page or contact paul@languagetrainers.com with any questions.

Over to You

Do you have any resources, lessons plans, or tips for using popular culture in English lessons?

If so, let us know in the comment section below.

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Interview Stephen Mayeaux

Hip Hop, Making Connections, and Online Courses: An Interview With Stephen Mayeaux

In this post, I interview my friend Stephen Mayeaux over at ESLHipHop.com.

Stephen started his blog after his experience teaching an elective course at UC Davis.

His main focus at the university was academic preparation, but in his elective, he was free to do something different. This is when he started using hip hop in the classroom.

In this interview, we go deep with his use of hip hop with his English learners, the feedback he has received on this, how he got started online, and then, we learn about a new course he is creating for a specific niche.

Watch in HD!

Interview Notes and Resources

We start off with how we connected, and briefly talked about the importance of making connections when working online.

I love how he talks about the struggles he had when he first started using hip hop in the classroom. This was mainly due to the cultural differences, and he gave the example about his Japanese students not understanding the social issues of the police in the U.S.

He had his friend help him create his site using WordPress (he is now quite adept with coding). The feedback he received from the lessons he created was really positive, both from teachers and students.

He blasted 100 lessons out in the first year, but has slowed down his output since to about one lesson per month.

Using Hip Hop in English Lessons

If you want to use hip hop in the class, he recommends going back in time to the old school era, for example, The Beastie Boys and MC Hammer. Additionally, he recommends using the hook and the chorus of modern hip hop.

I really wanted to know about the response Stephen has had about using hip hop in the classroom. I love his answer to this: he is focusing on his students and what they can get out of it, and that, haters gonna hate! But generally speaking, he hasn’t received much negativity.

A Course for a Specific Niche

We then moved on to what Stephen is currently doing; he is in Korea at right now working for a local school – we talked about how they are trying to introduce new teaching methods there.

He has a new video course coming out in March in a very specialized niche: OPIC. It’s not a very well known exam, but after seeing that his students were asking for more help in this area, he decided to create something for them.

He is completely engrossed in this process, and is learning new things each day about what creating a course entails. Stephen said something key about how he is creating the materials for his course:

“…Listening to my students, their concerns, and what they really want.”

He is creating the content for his course based on what his learners are asking for.

We then talked about deadlines and the power of setting a specific deadline (his deadline is March 14/15th – he wants you to hold him to this!).

He has hired a freelance marketer to help him with the marketing side of things. I then talked about outsourcing, and specifically, the two types of tasks to outsource: tasks that you are not skilled at and don’t want to learn; and also the mundane and repetitive tasks.

In my case, outsourcing the transcripts for my course helped me in a great way.

We then moved on to social media, and how he uses Facebook and LinkedIn. We focused on using these platforms to make and maintain connections. An example he gave was connecting with Gallery Languages and how they have partnered on many projects.

Here is an example of one of the video’s he mentioned:

Over to You

Have you used hip hop or other music genres in your lessons? Have you thought about creating a course for English learners?

Answer these questions and/or leave any other comments below…

You can connect with Stephen by using the contact form over at ESLHipHop.com. You can also connect with him on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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