Time for Email

Using Email to Bridge the Gap Between Offline and Online and to Grow a Following

I’ve mentioned many times how important it is to have an email list if you teach online or have a website. But, what if you don’t teach online?

Well, if you currently teach in a traditional setting, you should seriously consider getting in on the online action and start an email list. Not only does this set you up for the long term professionally (and personally), but it also opens up a whole world of opportunities to make your lessons creative, more engaging and relevant, and more effective.

Email remains the most powerful (and safest) way to connect with your students, past and present. Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, if used correctly, are great communities that teachers should be using to engage with past, current, and potential students, along with other teachers. But, using a platform that you don’t own to build your most important contact list is risky. Additionally, these platforms can’t compare with email when it comes to engagement.

When discussing what it is like to teach online, Mau Buchler, in his recent guest post, talked about why it’s important to work your connections (ex-students) when trying to find clients for your online lessons. I’ve been able to do this to a certain extent, and it has proven to be a very effective way of finding students to teach. In fact, along with referrals, contacting ex-students has proved to be the best way to fill in the gaps in my schedule.

However, I have missed out on countless opportunities because:

  • I didn’t kept a record of the students that I connected with during my time in Spain.
  • I should have started an email list for my website as soon as it went live.
  • I didn’t keep a special list for all those who got in touch to take lessons.

Everyone who starts to collect subscribers for their blog always seem to say, “I wish I had started doing this earlier.” I feel exactly the same way. I’m not one to dwell on the past, but thinking about all those students who I have lost contact with makes me feel like I wasted a big opportunity.

Mau’s post got me thinking about how we can all keep a better record of all those English learners that we come into contact with and make the most out of this list. Let’s start with those of you who don’t teach online, focusing on why you should be doing this to make your classes more effective and to build up a following for your future.

I’m really excited about sharing these ideas with those of you who work in traditional classroom settings.

Teaching in a Traditional Setting

(Note: I recommend that you speak with your language school/employer first before implementing these strategies.)

There is nothing quite like creating special teacher-student relationships. When there is an understanding, chemistry, and progress, the connection can last a life-time. But, in most cases, students come and go and we lose touch.

Maintaining these connections, for both personal and professional reasons, is best done through email. There are two main ways to collect email addresses when teaching in a traditional setting:

  • In your personal email address book.
  • In a specialized email delivery service.

The first option is free and easy to do, but has many limitations. The second option is a little bit more complicated (and usually costs a little money), but has the features you need to make use of the methods listed below.

There are different ways to get current students onto your list. Signing up your one-to-one students should be straightforward, while your group lessons offer more of a challenge. But, with this challenge comes the opportunity to make your lessons different, exciting, and more effective.

Bring Online Activities and Communication to Offline Lessons

Imagine a class of 10 adult learners that meets with you twice per week in a language school. It’s a traditional setting in the sense that you work through a textbook, set homework, and meet in a classroom. However, your classes are different because you find a way to engage with your students online by using an email delivery service.

This opens up so many possibilities to make your classes extraordinary, opening up a new world of online resources and activities. Because I teach one-to-one online it’s easy for me to send the best resources to my students and set online tasks. Using email within this traditional classroom setting makes bridging the gap between the offline and online world much easier, and helps you easily communicate with your students outside of the lesson.

Homework could include pronunciation exercises, videos, online exercises, listening practice, writing practice (sent directly to your email and corrected online), and you could use countless other online resources.

With email you could send reminders about homework (or even automated reminders about lessons), get in contact with your students who have missed a lesson, send out pre-lesson tasks, and much more. With an email delivery service you can send out materials and homework at a specific time.

Imagine that you are in a class and you say, “Okay check your phones. You should have just received your homework.” And there it is, a minute old in their inbox.

In my upcoming webinar at Wiz IQ I’m going to be talking about how you can use email and other online resources to help your students work on their pronunciation outside of class; this will include how you can use the best online resources, send audio files specific to your students, and have the ability to evaluate and leave feedback of your students pronunciation, all done online and in your own time. Being able to communicate through email is vital to be able to do this.

Teachers don’t have to be restricted by just using the resources that can be brought into class. Email can help you introduce a new world and engage with your students on a different level.

Keep in Contact With Your Ex-Students

It’s summer and your class of students are now moving on. You don’t know if you’ll get to teach them next year. But, because you have their email addresses, you can keep in contact and share information with this group.

Let’s say that you now have 120 emails from your time teaching that year. Here is what you can do with this list:

  • Keep everyone updated about where you are in the world and what you’re doing professionally.
  • Let them know about the new blog you started and ask them to share it with their friends.
  • Invite them to join your new Facebook group.
  • Let them know that you are offering one-to-one lessons over the summer.
  • Inform them that you are now teaching online and that you are looking for new students.

The online world is full of opportunities for language teachers, and if you are considering entering this world, your ex-students are the first place to start. They are your initial followers, the ones who you have already inspired. Having them in an easily accessible email list makes your ability to capitalize on this much easier and much more effective.

For Those Who Teach Online or Have a Website

From November 2011 to April 2012 the amount of visitors to my site increased dramatically. I was getting 13,000 unique visitors per month, the vast majority from Google. I had a stream of enquiries about my English lessons, but I didn’t receive as many as I should with all those numbers.

My visitor numbers dropped severely in April. It was the month when Google made a big change to the way it ranked websites in their search results. To say that my site didn’t fare too well is an understatement: my visitor numbers dropped from 13,000 per month to just 1,500. Looking back, it was one of the best things that happened to me as it changed the way I approached getting new students and how I spent my time.

During the big traffic months the vast majority of visitors came to my site, got the information they wanted, and then left. I didn’t do enough to engage them – I didn’t feel that I had to due to the number of visitors I was receiving. There was no real reason for them to come back to my site (unless they bookmarked it!).


Imagine if I had offered them something for free in exchange for their email? Instead of just coming for information, I could have engaged them by giving something valuable away, and then followed this up with informational mails on a weekly or monthly basis.

When you give away something for free by email, and this thing is incredibly valuable, the whole relationship between you and your visitor changes. I wanted to test this by giving away something quite remarkable, so I recently started a new 30 day email English course that tries to turn average English learners (of the someday/too tired today mentality) into motivated, pumped up, learning machines. They receive an email each day (sent out automatically) from me with advice and challenges. I respond to every email I receive and offer them the opportunity to practice speaking and have it evaluated with having to be present in real time.

The response that I’ve received from this has been incredible and it has already made a big difference to those who have taken the course. They are a little surprised that they are getting this for free. It takes me 5-10 minutes each morning to evaluate the submissions I receive, although it took me some time to initially create the course.

The best thing about it is that these people all came from a guest post on another website. Instead of reading that post, coming to my website, taking a look around and then leaving, 150 people signed up to take the course. In return, I built (and am building) a following that trusts me and wants to know more about what I do.

First Dates and Email

A good analogy is dating: in most cases you can’t ask someone to enter a relationship with you on the first date. You have to build things slowly so that they get to know you and trust you. My goal is to get students to sign up for online lessons and future courses that I offer. They are much more likely to do this once we have been on a few engaging dates.

Once the learners have gone through the initial 30-day course, I then have the ability to send emails to them. If I choose to, I can send them information about my lessons, information about different products I recommend, and news about any future courses that I may offer. Any information I send them will be full of free valuable information. Trying to hard sell your course early on in your new relationship will, like dating, get you nowhere.

An email list also allows me to divide the list by country, by how much they engage with the content, or by other criteria. Personally, I’m going to separate this growing list into different countries and adapt the messages accordingly. I’m also working on doing a similar course specifically for those in my niche.

Think about how you could start building your list. How could you get people to sign up? How could you engage with your audience by email? How could you benefit from having such a list? How could you use it with your current students both in traditional and online settings?

(Note: To see a good example of a website that has built up a good email following, check out Real Life English.)

Recommended Email Providers and Resources

The only one that I can truly recommend is Aweber (affiliate link) as it’s the only one I’ve had experience with. It’s pretty straightforward to use but will need a little time to set things up and understand the ins and outs of it. It’s $19 a month (for the first 500 subscribers) with the first month being $1.

Mailchimp is another popular choice because it’s free to begin with. But, that obviously limits what you can do. And, you could always use your regular email account, especially if your goal is to just to keep a record of your contacts. Just bear in mind the limitations.

I also recommend pushing people to sign up for your Facebook groups and other online groups as this is where the sharing happens. As I want to focus on building my list I’ve been pushing more and more people to email first, and then once they have signed up, I ask them to join my other online groups. I also ask them to share the course with others once it is completed.

For those who want to look into email further, here is an informative podcast that gives an overview of using email: Pat Flynn on how to win using email (part one of two) | part two

Over to You

I would LOVE to hear from you regarding your experiences with email, your general thoughts on this post, and what ideas you have for using email in both traditional and online lessons.

As always, please share this post if you enjoyed it. Speaking of email, sign up below if you aren’t already a subscriber!


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Mau Buchler of Tripppin Drops In to Give Advice on Teaching Online

We love to feature people who are making a mark in the online world, and today I have another guest vlog from Mau Buchler. Mau recently launched his unique English learning platform Tripppin. To give you a taste of what this is like, take a look at the introductory video:

Speaking with Mau, I know how much work and passion he has put into this unique project. The platform is truly incredible and it’s fantastic to see something like this come to fruition.

So, I asked Mau if he could share his experiences of teaching online with everyone here at Teaching ESL Online.

In the following video you will learn about:

– Mau’s English teaching history.
– The similarities and differences of online teaching.
– The skills you need to teach online (the basics).
– Different approaches to English teaching (accents).
– The easiest way to get online students.
– Working your connections (go back to your ex-students).
– The advantages of online for students.
– General advice for pricing and converting new clients.
– How to use Tripppin to find students.
– How to approach students.

The Video

I love Mau’s approach to finding students. You should always work your connections and keep a record of the contact details of your current and ex-students. There are many great ways to do this, and I’ll go more into this technique in a later post.

I hope you enjoyed the video and got inspired about moving your teaching online.

More About Mau

Mau has been traveling since he was two, teaching since he was 17, and working with e-learning since 2004.

He hosted a radio show in Australia for three years on Eastside FM, has worked as a translator, and owned a bar in Brazil. He’s also done a Ted Talk.

Check out his work on Tripppin – a space for students and teachers to come together and learn in an interactive and fun environment.


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Online Learning and Group Lessons (Guest Vlog by Jason R Levine)

Today we welcome our second guest poster to the blog: Jason R Levine.

Jason and I have been collaborating on a few things recently, and I really wanted him to share his knowledge of online teaching here at TeachingESLOnline. So, below you’ll find a video that he kindly put together that gives some great advice for us online teachers.

A lot of you may already know about Jase (Fluency MC), especially if you connect with other teachers on social media. He is probably the most prolific poster I know, and his ESL raps and songs have had millions of views on Youtube. He has recently become an ambassador for Wiz IQ where he trains English language teachers.

In the video he talks about his transition to online teaching, why it is important to make real connections, the future of online learning and teaching, and much more.

More specifically, you’ll learn about:

– What he first thought about teaching online and why he now loves it.
– Why we should pay attention to how people are learning in social media spaces and how to take this to the next level.
– His first MOOC and what he learned from it.
– How to get started teaching online and the mind frame needed.
– Why it’s important to make real relationships and be open to people’s needs and interests.
– The difference between one-on-one and group lessons.
– The future of online language learning.

The Video

As I’m currently looking to build on what I already do by offering more than just one-to-one lessons, I took a lot from this.

One thing that really stands out for me is the point Jase made about building real relationships and learning from your students (see my last post on connections about my thoughts on this).

I see my current students as the ones that are dictating what is going to be included in my future courses. This is because as I learn more about those in my niche, I can better shape my courses to meet their needs.

I would love to know your thoughts on what Jason discusses, so whatever you have on your mind, leave us a comment below.

More About Jason

Jason R Levine (Jase, for short) has fifteen years of experience in ELT as a teacher, teacher trainer, and materials writer. He is the creator of ColloLearn, an approach to English language learning based on the songs he writes and performs as Fluency MC.

Online, Jase maintains the ColloLearn YouTube channel and the Fluency MC Facebook page.


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Why Connecting With Others Brings You More Students and Makes You a Better Teacher

One piece of advice that I give to teachers starting out in this online world of teaching is to create true connections with English learners, students, and fellow teachers.

My approach to reaching out and connecting with others online has changed dramatically over the past couple of years, and it’s only recently that I have truly come to realize why this is so important when doing what we do.

However, things were much different when I first started out.

When I created my website and started teaching online back in 2008/9, I felt that there were only just a handful of people doing something similar. I did a little research into my “competitors,” and I had a sudden rush of panic when I found a website that was trying to achieve something similar to me.

I came across sites that had better marketing plans and designs, and I mistakingly thought that there was only a certain amount of room for creative teachers who wanted to move their make their mark online.

It took me a long time to reach out to my fellow onliners, and for many years, I remained isolated.

In addition to being disconnected from my fellow teachers, I didn’t put enough effort into setting up my site in way that visitors could connect with me. I was very apprehensive about putting information about myself on my site and on other platforms. This meant that I wasn’t giving English learners the ability to make that important initial connection.

But, after receiving a lot of referrals a couple of years ago, my confidence as a teacher started to grow, and this is when my mentality changed. I started seeing the wonderful things that resulted from making meaningful connections, and I went from being a lone ranger to someone who felt supported by like-minded people.

If you are involved or want to be involved in online teaching, read on to learn how connecting with others will help you find more students, improve your teaching, and make you feel part of a greater collaborative community.

Why and How to Connect With English Learners and Students

On Your Website

Your website is a place where your potential students come to find out more about you and your lessons. When visiting new teaching websites, I far too often see a message that is impersonal and one that makes no attempt to resonate with the English learners who visit the site. I see the same mistakes that I made being played out over again.

Instead of going through the problems, desires, and solutions, many sites focus on features and facts. In addition, sometimes there is no face or name to be found anywhere.

But, as I have learned, students want to connect personally with their potential teachers before signing up. They want to know that there is a real person behind the information who is dedicated to and effective in what they do.

To ensure a high conversion rate you must make connecting with your learners a priority. This can be achieved by including information about who you are and by injecting your personality into what your write. Include pictures, and if want to take that extra step, videos.

It might be hard for some of you to take this step (like it was for me), but it is such a vital part in you becoming a successful online teacher.


Once you have worked out your message and feel confident about putting yourself out there, the next step is to connect with English learners on different platforms.

Don’t just post things with links back to your site, but instead think about ways that you can connect in meaningful way. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend hours communicating with English learners on forums, as sometimes just showing that you are care about what you do is enough.

To highlight this, I want to share a little experiment that I did this week on Facebook.

I looked at the new likes that I had one of my Facebook pages and added those in my target martet as friends. Around 40% accepted my request, and those that did received a little message from me. This message was very basic and just thanked them for liking my page and asked them a quick question about their learning.

From the ten people that I contacted, two messaged me back asking for a trial lesson.

What I found interesting about this is that they had both known that I offered lessons before I sent the message. But, the friend request and message most likely made them feel connected to me and gave them the nudge they needed to take the initial step.

This is just one small example of why I believe it is important it is to ensure that you are connecting with learners in your niche, and I’ll be experimenting with other methods in the coming weeks.

Your Current Students

One of the things that excites me most about teaching one-to-one online is that you become much more than just an English teacher. In my case, I am also a friend to my students, a mentor, a motivator, and a language coach. There are also days when I feel that I am a life coach!

To be able to be all of the above to online English learners from around the world is what I love most about my job. The connections that I make aren’t just important in terms of the relationships that we share, but also an integral part of ensuring that my students make the progress that they desire.

This connection can’t be made with every student, and that is why I suggest choosing a niche that has they types of English learners that you enjoy working with.

In addition, I also strive to help my learners make a connection with the English language. When I start working with a new student, I go through the process of finding the resources they need to make English relevant to them and give the information and motivation they require to immerse themselves in the language.

Finding the music, television shows, podcasts, articles, and other resources that are relevant to your student, and introducing these materials into your lessons, is the key to your learners fully connecting with the language, which in turn resuls in a burst of motivation and progress.

Why You Should Connect With Other Teachers

Through this blog I’ve been able to make some great relationships with other online teachers and with those who want to move their teaching online.

As mentioned in the introduction, I was very hesitant about doing this for the first couple of years; I guess it came down to me thinking that it would be exciting to do everything on my own.

But I’ve learned that connecting and collaborating with other teachers is just so much more rewarding and has helped me grow as a teacher. I feel incredibly excited about what working with others in the same industry is going to bring over the next months and years. This change of mentality was the driving force behind the creation of this blog and my renewed motivation for creating something that really matters.

I have learned so much from connecting with my fellow teachers, and I have come across so many great resources that have improved my lessons.

But, there is much more to it than that. These connections also make me feel that I am part of something bigger. Speaking with other teachers who share my passion for online teaching, and ELT in general, gives me the extra motivation to continue what I’m doing and to keep growing as a teacher.

Over to You

I would love for you to share your ideas in the comment section below about how you currently connect with English learners. Speaking of sharing, if you have enjoyed this post, I would be so grateful if you could share it with others.

And finally, I love hearing from my fellow teachers. So, don’t hesitate to get in touch and connect with me.


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Six Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Your Teaching Website or Blog

I love helping teachers create their own online platform. There are so many ideas and creative elements that we as teachers want to showcase, and building a site using WordPress (WordPress.org not WordPress.com) allows anyone to realize those ambitions without having to learn how to code.

Sometimes though, because WordPress can do almost anything, you can get caught up in the things that aren’t important. Instead of focusing on what matters, it is easy to get swept away in something that, in many cases, gets in the way of what you’re trying to achieve.

Going through the process of creating sites with different teachers, and having built many sites for myself and others, I see common mistakes being made when teachers are setting up their own online platforms.

This post is mainly for those who want their website to be a tool to get more students for their one-to-one lessons. But, I hope that it will also be useful for other ELT sites, such as teaching blogs.

So, if you are thinking of starting a new site, or want to improve your current one, here are the six mistakes to avoid.

1. Using a Free Domain Name

I strongly recommend getting your own domain name and hosting your site with Bluehost or a similar provider. Using a domain name like yoursite.wordpress.com or yoursite.blogspot.com not only makes you look unprofessional in the eyes of your potential students, but also means that you are putting all your content onto a site that you don’t own.

I’m pretty sure that the free blogs provided by WordPress.com and Blogspot aren’t going anywhere soon, but there have been too many examples of free hosting services or blog platforms suddenly shutting down, leaving their users angry and confused.

Getting your own domain name and installing WordPress (WordPress.org) is really easy to do and shouldn’t cost more than $60-80 per year to keep running. To get you started, here is a new trick that I’ve found: enter “Godaddy $0.99” into Google search, and you should see a link that takes you to a special landing page where you can get a domain name for $0.99 for the first year.

(NOTE: If you have or want to create a blog for other teachers, then having a free blog works fine in some cases. However, it does look better and is safer to have your own domain name and use a hosting service.)

2. Not Showing Your Audience Who You Are

When creating a website for your online lessons, you may not feel comfortable including details and pictures about yourself. I was really hesitant to do this when I first created my site, but I soon learned something really important which made me get over my fears:

Students buy into the teacher and want to make a connection with you.

They won’t be able to do this unless you put yourself out there. When creating the copy for your website, you not only need to make it about your students (more about this later), but also about you. Talk about your experience, your skills, and you as a person, and don’t be afraid of linking all of these together and packaging them in a way that make visitors to your site get excited about working with you.

To go that extra mile, make a few video that talks to your learners directly and place them on your site. Words and images can only do so much, and you’ll find that including videos will dramatically boost your conversions.

I’ve only recently started making videos. At first, I hated seeing and hearing myself on camera, but after a little while this feeling disappeared. Just try it out and let those inhibitions fade away and enjoy the creative process.

3. Getting Too Fancy

As an introduction to this point, I’d like to share with you a page that I came across recently.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you use a design as simple as that page. But, this example shows that words are the most important thing to focus on; your design should be used as a way to support your message.

Having a simple and great looking design is easy with all the beautiful themes that are now available. You can browse through the different options and choose a layout that best fits what you want to achieve.

The problem usually comes when you start realizing that there is a plugin for everything, and you feel the urge to add all of those fancy features.

Additionally, it’s easy to get carried away with the design by adding too many colors and images, and using fancy fonts.

Doing this usually just gets in the way of your message.

When thinking about adding a design element to your site, ask yourself the following: “Is what I’m including improving the experience for my visitor and does it help me achieve my ultimate goal?”

If the answer is “no”, don’t include it.

4. Not Highlighting the Problems and Learning Goals of Your Students

The best way to resonate with your potential students is to tap into both the problems of your audience (the frustrations of the learners in your teaching niche), and their English language goals. This is done through the copy that you put on your site.

I feel that the main job of a one-to-one English language teacher/consultant is to find out what those problems are, and to create a plan of action that will help the student achieve their goals.

To do this effectively you need to put yourself in the shoes of the learners in your niche and ask the following questions:

– What problems do my learners have?
– What are their language learning goals?
– What do they need to do to achieve them?

It might take some time to adequately answer these questions, but it is worth it if you really want to make a connection and have your message resonate.

Once you have gone through this, base your website copy on the answers that you come up with. Make your visitors feel that you know what it is like to be in their position, and clearly explain how you can help them finally achieve their English learning dreams.

5. Making It Difficult for the Visitor to Do What You Want Them to Do

As we’re focusing on offering one-to-one lessons and converting as many students as possible, you shouldn’t shoot yourself in the foot and waste all of your hard marketing work by making it difficult for your potential students to request a lesson with you.

In addition to creating copy that resonates, keep things simple and include a clear call to action. This usually comes in the form of a button to click that takes the user to a new page where there is a form to fill out.

Don’t confuse your student with too many choices either. Having seven different packages to choose from can create “analysis paralysis.” Make it clear which action you want your user to take, and set up your site in such a way so that everything leads to this desired result.

6. Not Building Your Subscriber Base

I’ve definitely been guilty of this one, and it has meant that I’ve had to play catch up. Not having the ability for my website visitors to subscribe has meant that I have missed out on hundreds, if not thousands of sign ups.

The reason that starting an email list and encouraging sign ups is so important is because communicating by email is much more effective than through sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Myspace is a good example that highlights how having a big following on a specific platform might be more or less useless one day.

An email list stays with you forever, and is the the number one way to engage with your audience. Having subscribers who trust you enough to give you their email address means that you don’t have to rely on external sources to stay in the minds of your potential students.

There is a place for social media, and I highly recommend that you use it to attract new visitors to your site and interact with your followers. But, it doesn’t come close to the power of email.

I use Aweber for this site and I have recently introduced it on my teaching site. To start an email list and to interact with your subscribers:

1. Sign up for an account with Aweber (it’s $1 for the first month).

2. Follow the instructions to create your list and to introduce a sign up form.

3. Place the form on your blog.

When someone signs up, they’ll receive your blog updates, general messages, or a series of emails that are pre-written and automatically sent out.

I now add those who request a trial lesson to my subscriber list. Doing this ensures that those who don’t go on to take lessons with me will receive my email updates.

Don’t wait to start building your email list; do this as soon as you start your teaching website or blog.

If you want to learn how to create your own site, then follow my step-by-step guide on how to do this using WordPress.

And, if you have any questions regarding this topic, then become a subscriber and get in contact with me. I’d love to help you get your site up and running.


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The Ultimate Guide to Getting Students For Your Online Private Lessons

Hands down, the number one question that I get asked from fellow online teachers is, “How do I find more students?”

I have a big interest in all things marketing, so thinking about the different strategies that can be implemented to get students is one of the things that I most enjoy about having an online teaching business. I’m a stats guy and love analyzing and testing different methods to see what is effective.

I’ve tried many different strategies, and have talked extensively with other teachers about what methods are successful for them.

This post is my longest and most in-depth post to date, giving you all the information you need to fill your schedule with dedicated and paying students.

But, that doesn’t mean that you have to do everything listed here or over-complicate things.

Your marketing plan will be based on your niche and your short and long-term goals.

What works for one person may not work for another. Your target market is unique in that you are offering something that no one else can: your English teaching skills.

You are also offering lessons to a specific group of people. And, these different groups, or target markets in marketing speak, resonate with and respond to different messages.

As an online teacher, you will have to define your market, know where to find these English learners, bring them to your website, and convert them into paying students.

I’ve talked about how you can define your audience in a previous post; now it’s time to look at the rest of this process. Each step is equally as important, but our focus here will be mainly on how to bring more visitors (English learners in your niche) to your website.

But before we do, let’s divide our marketing strategies into two categories: short-term and long-term. I’ll also give you some general marketing advice and tie everything together.

Short vs Long-Term Methods

Sometimes we need to find a student right now. This is usually the case when first starting out as our schedule is empty and we want to start filling it up, get teaching, and bringing in income.

There is a lot of things that we can do that brings in students straight away.

An example of this is advertising. Most platforms will approve your advert within a few minutes, and it’s quite common to receive a lesson request soon after your advert goes live.

On the other hand, there are long-term strategies that we can implement. These methods take longer to produce results (paying students), but in most cases, are much more powerful than advertising, for example.

Creating videos is the perfect illustration of this. It takes some time to produce and market a series of videos with the end goal of bringing in new students. But, if done properly, then the potential to attract English learners to what you offer over the long-term is huge.

I split the methods listed here into these two categories, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t advertise once you have a good schedule. There are many short-term strategies that I implement every now and then, and I know teachers who do nothing but advertise to attract paying students.

Your Goals Will Define Your Strategies

My first website was primarily concerned with getting students to sign up to take lessons with me. At the same time, I was also really interested in learning about search engine optimization (SEO). So, I put my energy into ranking highly to attract English learners to what I was offering.

I wasn’t necessarily focused on creating the best content out there for learners; I just wanted to bring in students. In that regard, what I did was a great success.

My goals have changed and this is reflected in how I now market different websites.

The best way to approach the different marketing strategies listed later in this post is to think about your long-term plan.

Do you want to just bring in students (like I did)? Or, do you want to create something else? Is creating a website that attracts thousands of learners each week part of your plans? Does making videos with thousands (if not millions) of views excite you?

If you want to create something bigger than just offering private lessons, or at least leave this open, then there are certain things that you have to consider before you jump in. These things can be introduced later, but it is smart to at least have something outlined from the beginning.

The most important thing is your website, and we’ll sink our teeth into this very soon.

As I see more teachers create their own resources these days, mainly down to the tools that are now available, it excites me to think where things are now, and where they potentially will be in the future.

If you are a teacher who wants go that extra mile and create something that makes a difference, then stick around as this is something I want to explore through this blog in the months and potentially years ahead.

A Teacher Should Always Look His/Her Best

First impressions are important, and if you want to attract paying students, then everything that you do has to be of the highest quality.

This includes your website, your adverts, your videos, anything that you put out there. You need to make the best first impression no matter what you do.

On classified websites, I’ve seen too many teachers just post a line or two and say the same thing as everyone else. But, to make your campaigns more effective, you have to do something different and stand out from the crowd, wowing your potential students.

Both the look of your advertisements and your copy are important. But, approach the design as a way to support your message.

Knowing what will resonate will depend on your target market. But, always leave a good first impression.

Website Website Website

Your website is going to play a vital part in filling your schedule, so investing a little time and money upfront (you can get things started for around $60-80) is going to make things much easier for you.

If you don’t have a website, WordPress will soon become your new best friend. Anyone can build a teaching website with just a few hours work (check out my free tutorial on how to get started with WordPress if you haven’t already).

There are no limitations with WordPress; it can be used to build something simple and small, but is also powerful enough to easily implement forums, paid membership sites, and lots of other great features.

The reason your website is such an important part of this process is because it is the platform that we use to firstly attract English learners, and then to convince them that they will benefit from taking lessons with us.

Finding Where Are English Learners Are Hanging Out

Fortunately for us, English learners are everywhere.

I prepare students, predominantly from Russia, for the IELTS exam. Some of my students were purposefully looking for an online teacher such as myself, and therefore found my website through search, a referral, or by other means.

Other learners were hanging out in different corners of the internet, and while not actively seeking a teacher, once they learned about what I offer, they got excited about preparing with me over Skype.

There are many ways that we can bring students to our website, ultimately turning them into paying students.

And so, we have now reached the nitty gritty of this post: my list of marketing strategies that will bring English learners to your website and ultimately to take lessons with you

Let’s dive straight into it.

Start With These

We’ll start with three strategies that you will bring in students right from the off. These can also be used when you quickly need to bring in more students.


Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn are three of the most common platforms on which to advertise.

My favorite is Google Adwords as it has always brought in the best return on investment (ROI).

LinkedIn is more expensive, but if your niche suits that type of platform, then it could be lucrative. You can target people by location on all three above; this is really important if your lessons are specific to a certain area.

Another way to advertise is to target websites that attract the type of visitors who are in your niche.

My advice is to create a relationships with website owners before requesting advertising space. Start with researching which sites are related to what you do, and make a list of potential partnerships.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started. And, at the moment, my recommended hosting plan is offering a $100 voucher to spend on Google Adwords – Click here for more details.


One of the best free ways to bring in students is to find online classified listings that are specific to your niche. Unless you are looking for students based in the country where you are now, you will have to research a little and find the classified website where your target market use.

Include lots of great information on your classified posting, and make sure that you have a professional picture too. Make your listing stand out, and create something that will make your potential students excited about taking lessons with you.

Use Your Network

Sometimes, you just gotta hustle. Take a look at your contacts on different social media platforms, and think about the best way to approach those who are currently learning English and could possibly be interested in taking lessons with you.

I feel the best way to do this is to send a personal message stating that you are now teaching one-to-one English lessons, offering a free 15 minute chat over Skype.

You shouldn’t hard sell anything. In fact, ask your friend/ex-student if they know of anyone who could benefit from your lessons, and ask kindly if they wouldn’t mind sharing your website with others. They most likely will do this, and might start taking lessons with you themselves.

Long-Term Strategies

As mentioned earlier, many teachers get by on just using the three initial methods above. But, if you want to create something bigger, something more exciting and engaging, and potential something that could evolve into something more than just private lessons, then creating content and being active on social media is what you should be doing.

Although not a direct way of bringing in students, a lot of these methods are much more powerful.

Your website becomes more important as you start to implement these strategies. Let’s start with the type of content you can implement before talking about social media.

Content on Your Website

Having great content on your website will attract learners, while also showcasing your skills as a teacher.

The type of content you create will very much depend on the lessons you are offering. Most teachers focus on creating lessons, explanations, or exercises.

You can do this by introducing different media, such as video, pictures, audio, and some interactive elements. Many teachers love to do this, and take great pride in creating useful content for their students.

Creating content is the best way to organically attract learners in your niche without spending money. If your content offers great value, people will share it on social media, and it will rank highly in the search engines (more on SEO later).

Content Elsewhere

As well as posting on your own site, you can create content on other platforms to attract learners to a landing page.

Two of my favorite methods are: creating videos on Youtube and writing guest posts or articles on learning blogs.

To give you an example, let’s imagine that you give preparation lessons for the speaking part of the TOEFL exam. You can create a video where you give tips for the speaking section, and then include a link back to a page that gives more information.

On this landing page, mention that you give one-to-one preparation lessons in a way that excites your visitor. If you do all of this correctly and take the time to promote your video, you will attract large numbers of students to your site that convert at a high rate.

Social Media and Forums

Being active on social networking sites is another great way to bring in students over the long-term. There are two important features of social media that make it such a powerful tactic.

The first one is using it as a way to connect with your students and learners in your niche. Setting up a Facebook group or page is really easy to do, but you have to work at it to make it worthwhile; to make social media work for you, you have to be social.

You also want others to share your content, whether on your site or elsewhere, with others. Make this as easy as possible do, and don’t be afraid of asking others to do this.

If you have a large following on one of your platforms, then you should you use this as social proof. What I mean by this is that when a potential student comes onto your website and sees that you have a large following on a specific platform, they will feel much more confident that you are going to offer them great value. On the other hand, if you only have three “likes” for your page, you should hold off putting this on your site.

The thought of being active on platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, and online forums can be a little daunting.

A lot of teachers choose one or two platforms, the ones that are suitable to what they are doing, and put their time and energy into creating something worthy. Researching which sites your target students use, as it may be best for you to target one outside of the big four.

A lot of traffic can be gained from social media if you engage your audience, offer value, and interact with others.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This is linked to the three previous strategies. Getting targeted traffic from the search engines takes time to come to fruition, but there are things that you can do right now to optimize your site.

There are two types categories of SEO: onsite and offsite. Onsite SEO means doing everything possible to make your website search engine friendly, targeting the search terms that are related to what you do. Using the example from before, having a landing page that targets the search term, “TOEFL exam tutor” will bring in learners who are searching for exactly what you offer.

Offsite SEO is mainly concerned with getting as many inbound links as possible. In addition, social media “likes” are becoming more important too.

There are ways to “game the system” by posting links to your site using software or by buying links. But, as Google is trying their best to punish those who engage in such practices, I don’t recommend doing this. In addition, it’s not the best thing to focus your energy on.

Concentrating on creating the best content you possibly can, getting links and “likes” naturally using the methods explained above, and optimizing your site for the search terms for your niche, will put you in a great long-term position to rank highly in the search engines and potentially bring in thousands of visitors every month.

The Referral

I love referrals.

There is no better feeling when a student contacts me after being recommended by one of my students.

Firstly, it gives me satisfaction to know that my students are happy with what I am doing and want to tell their friends and family about my teaching.

In addition, a referral comes to you already sold on what you offer. Your students can sell your lessons and your methods to others far better than you ever will. When I receive a request for a trial lesson from somebody who has been referred, I know it’s just a matter of ironing out the details and ensuring that our schedules line up.

Do everything you can to get more referrals. This all starts with offering lessons that truly benefit your current students, and looking after them in such a way that they want to share you with others.

And don’t be afraid to ask for your current students to recommend you.

Connect With Others

I suggest that you do this anyway as teaching online can be quite isolated if you don’t have a support network. But, creating relationships with teachers who do something similar to you can lead to a situation where you can pass on and receive students from each other.

At the moment there is no real platform to be able to do this. I’ve just created a group on LinkedIn for online teachers to connect, and I hope this grows into something useful for everyone who joins.

If you are have a LinkedIn account, you can find out more about the group here – ELT Online LinkedIn Group.

Do What Works For You and Your Long-Term Goals

Using the well-known Pareto principle that states 80% of the effects will come from 20% of the causes, I recommend looking at what works for you and focusing your efforts on that.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, what you will end up doing to bring in students will depend on many factors.

Having a long-term vision of what you want to achieve will help you decide whether you want to implement some or all of the strategies listed above.

You will also have to think about your niche and how this will affect your strategy.

Interested in Teaching Online?

If teaching online and being in charge of your teaching and income is something that interests you, or if you are already an online teacher, then sign up to receive updates, resources, and to connect with me.

I have a lot of exciting posts and projects in the works, and would love for you to be part of that.

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If you have found this post useful, please share it with your network. I really appreciate you doing this, it means a lot.


Five Barriers to Break Down Through Online Teaching (Guest Post by Turks Learn English)


A great looking site: TurksLearnEnglish.com

Note from Jack: Today we have a special guest post from TurksLearnEnglish.com. When Kris left a comment on one of my posts pointing back to his new website, I was immediately impressed with the design and the message.

Kris and his co-founder James have done a great job of finding a solution to a specific problem. The niche that they chose is one that they have experience with.

Talking with Kris about their initial success, it is obvious that their content resonates with their audience, and that they are doing a great job helping English learners from Turkey.

I hope you enjoy this post and get inspired by TurksLearnEnglish.com!


TurksLearnEnglish.com is delighted to craft our first guest article for Teaching ESL Online!

When we chat with educators considering whether to take a leap and begin teaching online, we often hear reservations. Will my private students really get the same value in an online setting? Will they really want to pay my full private rate for online classes?

We (TurksLearnEnglish.com) launched a site dedicated to conversation classes for Turkish speakers in May 2013. So far, we’ve found that the online experience can actually be more powerful than the in-person traditional English lesson.

For any teachers humming and hawing whether to take their business online, we present to you five barriers that are removed when teaching online:

1: Kill the commute:

As urbanization grows across the world, the commutes in many of the world’s largest cities can be hellish. Many students learning English as a second language are also young professionals working long hours.

If a young professional leaves work at 6:00 pm they may not arrive to a centrally located language school until 7:30pm.

Three hours of class later and they are lucky to arrive home by midnight. This cycle is not sustainable. Offering online classes in large cities removes hours of unnecessary travel time. In rural or remote areas, you are offering a service that is simply not available in person.

2: Focus on conversation

Most adult students do not need another grammar lesson; they need communication confidence. As any online teacher knows, the virtual world is a great platform for developing language communication ability.

When a student pops on their headphones, they are able to focus with concentration that is rarely seen in a physical classroom. Better yet, the online classroom does not inhibit students in the way that a traditional classroom does.

Fewer students and the webcam somehow boost a student’s willingness to take risks and make the mistakes every learner needs to advance in a language.

3: Between classes

Video self-study lessons for outside of classroom reading and listening are extremely powerful. These video lessons can enrich your students’ experience and provide them with an additional way of connecting with you as a teacher.

At TurksLearnEnglish.com we’ve created a series of videos called İngilizce Dersleri where we read current event articles related to Turkey and introduce new vocabulary. So far they are a big hit with our students.

4: Location flexibility

Your students likely travel. If they are working in a competitive field, sometimes they’ll have to travel without much notice. Even if they don’t travel, they often have to stay late at work and do not have time to get away to an 8pm class.

We’ve all seen this in the past; a busy student misses two weeks of class in a row and suddenly drops off, partly due to embarrassment. Online lessons give your students they ability to stay up to speed with their lessons even if they need to skip town for a week or work late.

5: Additional tools

There are many things that can be done online that cannot be replicated in the real classroom. Running games and quizzes using pre-developed lesson plans and screen sharing is more natural online and can be great for motivation. Using the chat function to help a student while conversing is also a great tool.

Recording lessons can also be powerful. We’ve found that many of our students like to go back to lessons they found challenging and review them.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our story. We would love to hear your thoughts!

James and Kris are co-founders of TurksLearnEnglish, a site dedicated to getting Turkish speakers to build communication confidence. For any online educators out there, feel free to take a look at and use our online-self study videos in our İngilizce Dersleri library. You can get in touch with them through the contact form on our site or email info@turkslearnenglish.com.  

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Want to Earn More Money Teaching English? Online is the Answer

Let’s face it, most of us didn’t get into the ELT industry for the money. In my case, going to Spain meant that I could live in a great country, learn some Spanish, do what I love, and be with my girlfriend (now wife, Kate).

At that time, Spain was the only country where we could both work legally. I am a European citizen so it was easy for me to move there, while my wife was accepted on a program called, “Auxilliares de Conversacíon. I had long dreamed of living and working in Spain, so I felt incredibly fortunate that Kate got into this program.

We had a great experience, first in Bilbao and then in Valencia. But, the pay was terrible. Kate’s stipend was around $1000 a month, and I brought in just a bit more to begin with. I taught a few private lessons which earned me some extra income, but having to go from place to place limited my ability to teach many lessons in one evening.

The money wasn’t the reason we were there; we were looking to have a good time and experience what it was like living in a foreign country. But we soon wanted to settle down and find something that brought in more money.

I had no intention of continuing down a path of little pay. So, I started my own online language school with the initial goal of earning double what I was earning in Spain while working similar hours.

But, before we get into that, let’s look at the places abroad where you get paid the most to put things into context.

Where the pay is good abroad

I came across an article the other day listing the top nine best-paid countries for English teachers. You can see that from the salaries listed (and the comments) that you can earn a good income when teaching in these countries (your definition of “a good income” may be different to mine).

I do know, however, that in a lot of these places you are expected to work very long hours, and some of those countries aren’t on my list of potential places to live.

Many of you reading this, and I include myself in this, see teaching abroad as a temporary thing. I would love to travel more and work in other countries again someday, but with a family and a house, my current situation doesn’t align with a globe-setting lifestyle at this present time.

So, going back to my story, after working in Spain for a couple of years, we decided to settle down in the US. More precisely, in a small city called Asheville in North Carolina. It’s a fantastic place to live, but it is difficult to find work here.

Since we moved here back in January 2011, I have been teaching full-time online. At first, I was a little hesitant to charge what was necessary to have a “good wage.”

But, one of the biggest things that I have learned about online teaching is that you can charge much more for online lessons than most people expect. 

It’s all about finding students who are willing to pay what you want to charge.

Earn more online

It seems like the conventional wisdom is that you can’t earn as much online as you can face-to-face. I imagine this is because online lessons aren’t seen to be as valuable as the more traditional lessons by teachers.

I saw a discussion a couple of weeks ago where someone was arguing that you won’t be able to get close to $30 an hour for online lessons. His reasoning was based on the fact that some teachers offer lessons at $5 an hour.

This is the wrong way to approach pricing and, in fact, the opposite is true; teaching online and freelancing gives you the ability to charge much higher prices.

To illustrate this, let’s take the second best-paid country for English teachers from the list above: Saudi Arabia. Personally, I wouldn’t like to go and teach in Saudi Arabia (for reasons that I won’t go into). But that doesn’t mean that I can’t teach Saudi Arabians.

I have done this in the past and have made some special relations with my students from this country. This new line of thinking, being able to reach students from anywhere in the world, is key to earning more money as an ESL/EFL teacher:

As an independent online teacher, you can reach any English learning market in the world while living wherever you want.

Those of us who teach English online aren’t in competition with teachers who charge $5 per class. We are in competition with language schools and teachers who teach the students we want to target. And, if making money is your goal, then we want to target students who are willing to pay higher prices.

To earn more money, it all comes down to choosing the right niche, offering value to your students, and marketing your lessons.

The potential to earn what you believe is a “good wage” is huge. There are students out there are who desperate for a teacher like you to solve their problems and help them make the improvements that they desire. The best thing is that you don’t have to leave your house, let alone your country to do this.

We don’t have to settle for a low wage or have to move somewhere else to earn the money that we want to earn.

This in turn, means something really special to most teachers: we can continue doing what we love.

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Defining, Refining and Choosing Your English Teaching Niche: Two Questions to Ask

This post will greatly help you if you already have a teaching niche idea or if you are stuck trying to find one. Even if you are planning on offering generic English lessons, I’m sure that the following information will help you think about how you are going to offer your lessons, and how you are going to find students.

There are two questions that you definitely should ask before getting started. Doing this will help you define your niche and will go a long way to helping you avoid making the same mistakes that I (and many others) did when starting out.

The most important questions to ask before starting

1. Can and Will They Pay?

You can have the best website in the world, the best teaching methods, and the best promotional campaign, but without students who both have the ability and willingness to pay, you’ve basically got nothing.

This may seem simple, but I’ve seen English teaching websites come and go because this initial question wasn’t asked. One site built its whole brand around the keywords (what you type into a Google search), “English speaking course.” This is a term with over 12,000 searches in Google per month.

At first, this seems like it may seem that this keyword is golden. It is targeted towards English lessons and it has a high search quantity. But, when you delve deeper, from those 12,000, over 10,000 come from India and Pakistan.

This is such valuable information because the vast majority of people from these two countries don’t have the necessary credit/debit card to be able to pay online. In fact, Paypal isn’t available in Pakistan at all. Also, most people who are reading this will want to charge much more than the average person from these two countries can afford.

When answering this question, don’t just focus on the country potential students come from. A student’s ability to pay isn’t just limited to geographical demographics (more on this below).

2. Am I going to enjoy teaching this group?

I won’t include any examples here as I don’t want this discussion to be about stereotypes, but I’m sure that you will all agree that certain students are much more enjoyable than others.

A lot of the time, this isn’t determined by nationality (from my experience anyway). But, there are certain types of students that are highly motivated, dedicated, and don’t cause any problems. And on the other end of the spectrum, there the kind of students who cause a whole variety of problems.

You don’t want to start with a new niche and find out later that you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing. Loving what you do really important in general, but even more so when teaching.

Those are the two questions to ask. Now let’s take a look at finding out exactly how we can define our niche and how we can find better answers.

Defining our niche: how to answer these questions with two more questions

What turns my niche on?

What makes your audience tick? What do they like? What turns them off? Are they motivated? Are they potentially good students? What are their values?

These are are questions related to what is called, “Psychographics.” This is important because you need to know who your audience is before you decide to go ahead with your niche, and when you do decide, you’ll need to know what resonates with them (remember this when you start marketing to your niche).

Knowing the psychographics of your niche will greatly help you know whether you are going to enjoy taking lessons with this niche and whether your student is able and willing to pay.

Who is my niche?

This is less sexy than question two, but equally as important. Demographics will play a large role in deciding our niche. Here are some variables to think about:

  • Age
  • Nationality
  • Current location
  • Job
  • Wage
  • Sex

A note on the last variable: If you are a female teacher, you will find it impossible to get male students in certain countries, and vice versa.

Defining your niche through demographics is especially important when doing the research on whether your niche will be able and willing to pay.

(Re)Choosing Your Niche

If your original idea now seems dead in the water – Good! I hope that I have saved you from going into something that won’t work out in the long term. If this is you, or if you haven’t decided on a niche as yet, then don’t worry, there is something that you can do to help you find the perfect niche for you.

(Note: Look at what you enjoy teaching and what you have experience in first. In most cases you can offer something quite general, but then target specific students within that general category).

Firstly, think about your perfect type of student (psychographics). Next, think about what type of students are willing to pay you what you you want to charge (demographics and psychographics). List the traits, countries, jobs, etc. that define this super student.

Once you have done this, think about how you can best target this person. What type of lessons could you offer this group of students, and how can you word your website so that your message resonates with them?

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Second Conditional Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan #3 – How to Teach The Second Conditional

Teaching the second conditional can be a lot of fun if taught in an engaging way. This lesson plan will involve videos, songs, explanations, and exercises to ensure that your students know how to use the second conditional and when to use it.

Level: Pre – Intermediate + (can also be adapted for lower levels)
Language: The second conditional.
Type: Grammar

Approaching and Introducing the Second Conditional

Please note: I teach one-to-one online and, on the whole, teach grammar when the need naturally arises during a lesson. The following plan is not a rigid one, can be stretched out over several lessons, and is based on how I teach; but, it can be adapted for different teaching situations. Use what you feel is necessary, and adapt and improve on everything here.

Usually, the need to teach the second conditional comes about during conversation, something like this:

Me: So, what did you do yesterday?
Student: I was really busy yesterday.
Me: Are you normally busy?
Student: Yeah.
Me: If you had more free time, how would you spend it?

How I use the following materials and suggestions all depends on how my student deals that question.

If you want to introduce the second conditional specifically (for example, for an exam, or if you know that your student(s) don’t use it properly), you can talk about the lottery and use the first video (see below). Here are a couple of questions that you can ask that lead into the key question:

– “Do you play the lottery?” -> follow up questions.
– “How much money can you win playing the lottery?” -> followup questions.

Have a little conversation about this, and then ask the key question:

“If you won the lottery, what would you buy?”

It is the question that most students are familiar with when it comes to the second conditional, and usually they can answer this one. When they can’t answer this, they usually understand the concept behind it.

If not, go through the different forms used (if + past simple, would | would + if past simple) and that they can be reversible. For example:

– If I won the lottery, I would buy a new car
– I would buy a new car if I won the lottery.

Now it’s time to talk about when it can be used before going into more examples.

When to use it

The next stage is to explain when the second conditional can be used: for imaginary / unreal situations. From the first example, winning the lottery is an unreal situation, therefore, we use the second conditional (with would) to talk about what we would do if that situation were true.

The if clause uses the past simple. At this point, I usually ask my student to complete some sentences, and here are some examples:

– If I had more time, I…
– I would be really happy if…
– If I could travel anywhere in the world, I..

Try and think about more questions that are specific to your students and correct where necessary.

Introduce a video

Now is a great time to introduce a song (or this can be used as a warm up along with the talk about the lottery). The following song by the Barenaked Ladies, fits perfectly with this lesson plan. It’s called, “If I had a Million Dollars.”

After your student has watched the video, go over some of the lyrics. But first, introduce the contracted form used in the song (I’d = I would). A good way to lead into this is to ask your students if they noticed the contracted form, or by asking them to look out for it before the video.

Next ask, “What would the singer of the song buy or do if he had a million dollars?”  There are lots of examples in the video, including: a house, a car (K-Car), a tree-fort (with a fridge), a fur coat (not a real one), an exotic pet (llama or emu), John Merrick’s remains, crazy elephant bones, your love, expensive ketchups, art, and a monkey.

Some good conversations can result from this video.

How it is used for advice and was -> were

After you have gone through the video, put the following into Skype or on the board:

– If I _______ President, I would…

Most make the mistake here of putting in was instead of were. Show your students that was -> were when using the second conditional. This is great to lead into the next use of the second conditional: Using it for advice; here is an example:

– I wouldn’t do that if I were you.

At this stage, I usually explain that this can be used for advice, similar to using should. I then put some problems into Skype and ask my students to answer them starting with, If I were you.. 

Use problems that are specific to your student, but some general ones are relationship problems (“I think my boyfriend is cheating on me.”) or work problems (“I need a pay rise.”) I then go on to explain that in most situations, the if clause (if I were you) is omitted.

Using ‘could’ and ‘might’ instead of ‘would’

I also like to point out that we can use could and might in place of would. To do this, I give my students the following sentences and ask them to explain the difference.

– If I had more time, I could start learning the guitar.
– If I had more time, I would start learning the guitar.

Do the same with other sentences that are specific to the student.

A little practice

This can be done at anytime during the lesson, but it is a good idea to just do a few exercises to make sure that your students understand how to form the second conditional. The following questions can be done in class.

I always ask my students to read out the sentences instead of writing them out. These can also be given for homework. I then try and ask similar questions related to my student after each question.

Comparison with the first conditional

Depending on what you have already taught, or what the student already knows, you can go into the comparison between the first and second conditionals. The best way to do this is firstly show some examples of the first conditional, explaining that this is used for real situations, and then show them the following sentences, asking what makes them different.

– If I won the lottery, I’d buy a car.
– If I win the lottery tonight, I’ll buy a car tomorrow.

In the second sentence, the person has a ticket and is playing the lottery, while in the first example, the person is imagining what it would be like to win the lottery.

Comparisons with the third conditional and wish

Going through the third conditional is perfect after the second conditional. I actually think the best time to introduce this conditional is after reviewing the second conditional in a separate class. (Third Conditional lesson plan to come).

Also, it is really beneficial to introduce the verb wish and how this is related to the second conditional. The following will show this:

– I wish I had more time. If I had more time, I could do so much more.
– I wish we had more money. If we had more money, we could go on vacation this year.
– I wish it wasn’t raining, then we could go to the beach.

Explain how this relates to the 2nd conditional and that we use wish when we want a change of circumstance.

Further videos and homework

For homework, I usually give a couple more videos and set a writing exercise. The first video is an interview with different people asking them what they would buy if they won the lottery, and the second video has lots of songs that use the second conditional:

For homework, you can give the above videos, more exercises, and ask your students to write some sentences using the second conditional and wish.

Problems with pronunciation

A lot of students have problems with pronouncing would and it sometimes sounds like they are saying good. To get around this problem I ask my students to say the following words:

  • Win
  • Wing
  • Wood
  • Would

Usually, the problem isn’t the w sound, but confusion about how would is pronounced. Practice the difference between would and good until your students can say them both clearly.


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Please Share

If you have found this lesson plan useful, then I would be really grateful if you could share it with other teachers. Thanks so much in advance, and please also get in contact if you have any questions or suggestions.