Tips and Resources for Planning Online

19 Successful Online English Teachers Share Their Tips and Resources for Planning Online Lessons

Tips and Resources for Planning Online

Thanks to everyone who contributed!

I receive A LOT of emails from online teachers (and online teachers to be) about planning; namely, what they should include in their lessons and what resources they should use.

As there are many areas of English and different teaching methods, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What I do and what I use might not work for you and your learners.

However, there are some common practices and amazing resources that you can use in your online lessons.

And as a way of celebrating the incredible teachers who create their own content so that we can use it with our students, I have put together this super post.

I asked 19 online teachers for a tip or an app when it comes to lesson planning, and for them to share their resource.

As well as being a handy guide for you, this might also inspire you too to create content for your learners (if you’re not doing this already).


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(At the bottom of the post there is a chance for you to add your own resources.)

Gabby Wallace

Gabby Wallace


Make sure that each lesson has a clear takeaway. Make sure that the viewer can understand what he or she is going to be able to do by the end of the lesson.


The All Ears English Podcast is an engaging way for your students to learn real English and connect with native speakers online. Free episodes can be used as a tool for language learning and discussion:

The Go Natural English Video Lessons are a quick and easy way to learn English skills and build vocabulary from anywhere. Free video lessons can be used as a convenient tool for answering students’ common questions:

Kieran Docherty

Kieran Docherty (cropped)


As my area of expertise is film in language teaching and all of my lesson plans are designed around short films, I’m going to explain a little bit about Vimeo which is a tool I use when planning nearly all of my materials. Vimeo is a video sharing site where users upload and share their short films and videos, very much like YouTube.

There are a number of reasons why I prefer Vimeo to YouTube: it’s a small niche community of film-makers which means that the quality of the short films is much better and more artistic than those on YouTube and that it’s much easier to find quality content (there are no cat videos); the layout is much cleaner than YouTube and it’s much more user-friendly and intuitive; there are no distracting ads so the primary focus is on the short film and nothing else; and finally the comments are nearly always constructive, you don’t get the inane comments and insults that appear under many YouTube videos.


Film English is the first ELT resource site to use short films critically and creatively and to promote film literacy – the ability to analyze and interpret moving images – in the language classroom. It is an award-winning, highly practical resource bank with over 120 detailed and ready-made lesson plans for the busy teacher, which is user- friendly, intuitive, colorful, fun and meticulously organized.

All of the lessons are categorized according to age appropriateness, level and topic. All of the short films and worksheets are embedded right into the lesson, meaning that teachers don’t need to download videos or worksheets; they can show the entire lesson through a data projector. However, if teachers prefer, they can download the lesson instructions and worksheets in PDF format.

Mau Buchler

Mau Buchler


Prepping classes online doesn’t have to be arduous or time-consuming. If you begin by asking them simple questions (as you would in a normal conversation), that allows you to see where they are making mistakes. You then correct what they’re doing wrong, and get THEM to come up with different ways of practicing it.

Nevertheless, make sure you have something fun up your sleeve, just in case. A funny video, a short story, or an activity that you can use as back up, but most of the time you probably won’t even use it.


I created to be the perfect resource. It can be used every day as regular course material, but it can also be used to supplement other existing ESL materials. All teachers need to do is use it once in a while in class, and it takes on a life of its own. Students use it in their free time, and the platform directs them to bring their doubts and discoveries back into the classroom/course. The teacher truly becomes the supervisor of the students’ learning process.

Sylvia Guinan

Sylvia Guinan


For creating digital content it’s best to use a lot of imagery as too much text doesn’t translate well to the screen. Materials need to be attractive and brain-friendly. You can add links to further text-based resources so that students can follow-up on the extra detail.

In keeping with attractive design, it’s great to store lesson content and especially multi-media links on Tackk or PearlTrees. This way, students can click into a beautiful visual library full of easy to access multi-media, goodies, ebooks etc.

Additionally, have Google Drive and all the cool Google tools attached as a home base for lessons and content – and then link Google Drive to your visual library. Back-up everything if you are using the cloud.


My personal blog is described as “Brain-friendly learning methods, tools, environments and communities.” You can learn from my blog which has reviews, interviews, lesson plan ideas, educational technology ideas, creativity, webinar coverage, professional development and all kinds of educational issues.

I also have a webinar tab where you can access my webinar recordings.

Drew Badger

Drew Badger


Every lesson should be a solution to a problem, so begin with the needs of learners. Keep things simple and you can’t go wrong.


My YouTube channel features over 200 simple video lessons for all levels. Everything is taught in English, so lessons can be used with students in any country. If you’re looking for videos that make the language intuitive, so students can understand and learn to use English without the need for forgettable rules or confusing explanations, visit

Vickie Hollet

Vickie Hollet


Make your students your resource by asking them to pick a topic and lead a discussion. You can give them ideas. E.g. a news story they’re following, a website they find useful for learning English (and why), the pros and cons of a (controversial) topic or idea, a talk on how to…(they choose something they can teach). You want to enthuse and inspire, but let them take control. The results can be magic.


(Sample activity from Vickie’s site): Watch one of the short videos on a false friend students find tricky at (E.g make vs. do, sensible vs. sensitive, lend vs. borrow) Then pick another pair of words they often confuse and get them to teach the difference. They can use PowerPoints or make a video – whatever they wish, but when students become teachers, they can learn a lot.

Minoo Short



(If recording lessons for groups) A tip that I have that I think is important in planning online group lessons (MOOC) is: Remember that some of the students will not be able to attend the live session and will only watch the recording.  Therefore the lesson should be planned in a way that it remains engaging for anyone watching later as well, not only for those who are able to join the chat with you in the live session.


I have two resources that teachers can use: My YouTube Channel ‘Anglo-Link‘.  Here, they can find lessons on different aspects of the language for Intermediate and Advanced students.  Most videos feature exercises as well.

My website covers similar topics and provides online written and audio exercises as well as downloadable audio and pdf files.  Some of the content is free, but to access all the exercises, it is necessary to upgrade to Premium or Premium Plus Membership.

Michael Marzio

Michael Marzio


My one tip for planning an online lesson would be to get to know your student’s objectives and interests in detail, and also to determine his or her level, in order to prepare the best possible online learning experience for your learner.


Real English® is an extensive online video library of spontaneous dialogues of people interviewed in English-speaking countries, organized according to traditional functional, lexical and grammatical criteria despite the obvious spontaneity of the interviews.

In other words, Real English is based on a very simple idea, the organization and pedagogical exploitation of spontaneous speech. “Spontaneous” goes way beyond the current catchword of “authentic” video, which most often refers to Hollywood films as content for ESL/EFL teachers & students. There are no actors in Real English®. Students tend to identify with ordinary people, i.e., the famous interviewees, especially when we put them on the spot.

In addition to the video, we make extraordinary interactive lessons for the short (easily digestible) portions of the videos for the exercises. Our most recent lesson (81)  includes 100 exercises for 8 short interviews. There is so much natural repetition that even the difficult passages are appropriated by learners in a natural way, watching real people being themselves, as students learn to understand everything on their own.

Shayna F. De Oliveira



With online lessons, it can be harder to keep the students’ attention than in a traditional classroom. You can help students stay engaged by making your online lessons short and easily digestible. When possible, mix up the format with interesting visuals, different activities, quizzes, and practical applications.


On the Espresso English blog and YouTube channel, each lesson is short and sweet, focusing on a single concept. Teachers can use the videos in classrooms or have students watch them as homework, helping them stay connected with English for a few minutes every day in between regular classes.

Adir Ferreira

Adir Ferreira


Hello there! When planning an online lesson is to think about who I’m going to teach and what I want them to learn. Usually, I choose a main text or listening passage and try to make the most of it by using short-timed activities around that topic. Thought-provoking and vocabulary-building activities are my favorites!


My blog has hundreds of posts for Portuguese-speaking students who are learning English. These posts include lots of idioms (I love these!), grammar, songs, and vocabulary. Most of them can be adapted into other languages and it’s a really good resource.

Jason R Levine

Jason R Levine


Spend more of your time and effort planning how you’ll observe your students what they like and don’t like, what they need more help with, how much time they need to complete activities-than in precisely what way you will teach them.


I make songs and videos on YouTube to teach and learn English, especially boring or hard to learn vocabulary and grammar structures. Teachers can play the videos in class or have students watch them at home or “on the go”, with or without accompanying materials (available by emailing me:

Kris Jagasia

Kris Jagasia


In a conversation based, online ESL lesson, the focus is usually on building confidence in order to promote the student to speak. Due to the form factor of the virtual classroom, there is also a lot of empty space on the student’s screen that presents a great opportunity for screen sharing lesson content. Workbooks, exercise sheets, and class homework are not great tools to increase energy levels during an online lesson (nor are they ideal for screen sharing).

When we design our lesson content, we aim to create conversation guides, prompts that naturally direct conversation while reinforcing target grammar and vocabulary. Pictures with small amounts of text arranged using slide presentation software such as PowerPoint or Prezi are ideal.

Our biggest piece of advice to other online teachers is to adapt your lesson content style for the online environment and to test your content and refine it based on student reactions. Think about the difference between a meeting or conference where the presenter shows up with a well-structured PowerPoint presentation used as a visual prompt, rather than text-heavy, bulleted slides. The brighter and more inspiring your lesson content, the more energy and motivation there will be in your students and the longer you will retain them as loyal paying customers.


Off2Class is a project to build and release ESL lesson content purposefully designed for private ESL teachers and tutors. Over the years of teaching private ESL lessons both online and offline, we realized there were not enough high-quality content resources designed for ESL teachers running one-on-one or small group lessons. We have a library of 150 (and quickly growing) ESL lesson plans, that are loaded onto an easy to use web/tablet platform which is well suited for screen sharing (if you are running online ESL lessons). We are currently in private Beta and are offering free accounts to teachers who are eager to give us feedback. Teachers can request an account on the Off2Class homepage.

Sean Banville

Sean Banville


One of my favorite tools to use for making online lessons is the site In my opinion, it is one of the very best resources ever for anyone who wants to create interactive activities for articles or any writing. It is also one of the simplest – paste your text into a box, press a button and then you have 55 online activities!


I have nine materials sites, the best-known of which is Breaking News On this site, new lessons are uploaded every two days based on a very current news story. Lessons are graded at seven levels. Each level had multi-speed reading and listening, 30+ online activities, a 40-activity printable handout, a 2-page mini-lesson, and more. This site and the others are at

Justin Murray

Justin Murray


Encourage your students to incorporate relaxed, enjoyable daily lifestyle English habits into their lives as fundamental components of their processes. This could be anything from reading the lyrics and singing along to their favorite songs, watching an episode of a TV series every day, reading a book or magazine, attending a local language learning meetup, or making new friends with other learners online. It’s also important to revisit the topic on a regular basis (if not every class), to celebrate successful examples, and to even create systems, processes, and logs, that measure and reinforce these habits.

RealLife English is a community-based English/ language learning platform for teachers, students, and native speakers with a mission to inspire, empower and connect the world through English, both online and in-person.

We do this through our web site, which has over 500 articles, podcasts, and videos, all teaching English in fun, dynamic, and imaginative ways that seek to motivate students to connect their English to things they enjoy and make it a convenient part of their daily life.  We also have an online social network, forum, and a worldwide network of in-person language learning events.

By helping teachers and learners change their perspective on English, cultivate the psychological tools necessary for success, and complement their learning programs with authentic, real-life experiences, we’ve found that it’s possible not only to accelerate the path to true, lifelong fluency but also to enjoy the process a lot more.

Lisa Biskup

Lisa Biskup


Use Google Drive documents to share articles and other reading materials using the screenshare feature in Google Hangouts. This allows you and your students to view the same page so that you can point out grammatical structures, vocabulary, and expressions while reading along together. Set the share permission so that your student can view and/or edit, depending on the objectives of your lesson.


My site is Teachers can use this site with their students to provide high-quality upper intermediate and advanced English materials, including free blog lessons and podcasts. These materials are excellent for helping students prepare for TOEFL, IELTS and other English proficiency exams. You can also use the materials as jumping-off points for in-depth discussions and conversations.

Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat

Shanthi Street


I don’t do any formal preparation when it comes to my online lessons! I am very much directed by my clients and what they’d like to discuss. My clients are all business people and use their lessons as fluency and accuracy practice. Their goal is to be able to talk about a range of topics. As the conversation gets going, I develop the language around it.


I started my blog in March 2013. It was originally intended for learners of English. I wanted to share my ideas and love for the English Language and Literature. Over time I realized that more and more teachers were using my posts in their classrooms. In their comments on my blog, I found out that they were using my posts as a useful reminder of grammar or lexical point and adapting them to their lessons.

Vicky Loras

Vicky Loras


When planning online lessons, it is always very important to think about how you will send students materials they can use during or after the lesson, and feedback. Will there be a chatbox in the platform? Will it be via email? It needs to be planned beforehand.


I have my blog divided into pages: simple blog posts with tips or experiences, my Business English page, my poetry page (with poems I have written that teachers can use in class, if they wish), my Literature page with activities I have created based on books, or activities others have created and I have collected them all there. I also have a Presentations page, where teachers can download links, handouts and slides I have used in my presentations.

Stephen Mayeaux

Stephen Mayeux


I’m in love with Evernote because it’s such a versatile tool for both students and teachers. After each lesson, I write detailed notes about what was covered along with the student’s strengths and weaknesses. I can even include multimedia in the notes and share them with my students via e-mail, SMS, or directly through Evernote if they also have the app.


My blog’s really great if you’re students are hip-hop fans or anyone who wants to learn informal English, such as idioms and phrasal verbs. I’ve got tons of lessons on these, but teachers should check out my 15 Ways to Use Hip-Hop to Teach English resource ( They’re very practical and easy to set up and can be used with music of any genre.

Jason West

Jason West


Prepare learners for one-to-one conversations with non-teachers. Guide them through towards comprehension of some target language, appropriate to their speaking level and which will be of interest to their speaking partner. Help them to make connections.


Our English Out There resources work anywhere two people can talk (e.g. Skype or Hangouts) because they evolved over seven years of supported real practice with complete strangers on the streets of London. They guide and scaffold natural second language acquisition. Professor Stephen Krashen called an online case study with a typical adult Chinese English learner, “Remarkable… a major contribution to our knowledge about what works. Thanks for posting this”.
You can listen to before and after clips of that learner’s course experience here:

Easy to Reference Resources

All Ears English

Go Natural English

Film English


Sylvia’s English Online

English Anyone

Simple English Videos

Anglo Link

Real English®

Espresso English

Adir’s Blog

Collolearn on Youtube


Breaking News English

RealLife English

English Fluency Now

English With a Twist

Vicky Loras

ESL Hip Hop

English Out There

To Fluency (my site)

Why not save them all to a folder in your bookmarks, or take Stephen’s advice and use Evernote, and tag them all “English Resources.” (I’ve just done the latter!).

Over to You

Do you create your own resources? Do you have tips for teaching online?

If so, please leave a comment below; I will update this post with YOUR resources (and favorite resources) here.

AND… please share this post by clicking the social icons below; I really do appreciate it.


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Interview Michael Marzio

Making Videos, Solving Specific Problems, and Adapting: An Interview With Michael Marzio

I’ve got a great interview for you below: Michael has been making videos for English learners (you’ll find out who he is specifically targeting later) since the 70s! He’s the perfect example of someone who has adapted to change, and has managed to build a very big audience of English learners through his different channels.

We talk about his story, how he solved a specific problem, the ways that he has adapted throughout the years (27 different cameras!), his website, and his tips for English teachers who want to create videos.

There are some incredible takeaways here. Watch and enjoy (in HD)!

Are you an English learner? If so, CLICK HERE.

What We Discussed

While on vacation in Paris in the early 70s, a friend asked him if he wanted to stay and teach English. And that is what he did.

After teaching in different schools he created a brick and mortar language school in Avignon, then in Istres (near Marseille).

His Niche Born Out of a Specific Problem

Michael has always taught working adults – people who really need English (professionals). He found that they had a common problem that needed solving:

They would come back from their business meetings… and would say, ‘It was easy to speak to so and so about anything that had to do with work… but when we had to sit around the dinner table it became very difficult.”

That is when Michael started going to the States and the UK filming people speaking spontaneously so that his learners could get exposure to this type of natural (or real!) English.

His own students liked the videos he was putting together and other teachers used them too. He continued creating these resources and ended up with a large video library (which has been online since 1994).

All the interviews are spontaneous (no actors), and to begin with, he had to film 20 interviews before finding one that was acceptable.

Michael’s Website and Filming

Michael built and coded his own website back in 1994 after learning HTML. We saw Michael’s site when he shared his screen; here is the summary:

– There are two options (main site and mobile site).
– He makes two videos: with and without subtitles.
– There are 10-20 exercises for each video.

Here is the video that Michael showed in the interview and is a great example of what he does:

Michael has gone through 27 cameras (he told us how the VERY expensive camera that he had in 1994 has a similar quality to the lowest setting on the cheapest mobile device today!).

He started with Adobe Premier (pro version) for editing videos and has used it ever since (I have my own recommendations below).

Tips for Teachers Who Want to Create Videos

Michael has some great tips for teachers who want to create their own videos. These are:

  • Know what you want to do: have a plan for your videos.
  • Find a niche: something that is fun for you, unique, and gives learners a reason to go and subscribe to your channel.
  • Put the camera on a tripod!
Michael has over 560,000 Facebook likes on his page. He really enjoys communicating with the learners, and answers all student and teacher questions about his site and about English in general!
He now wants to concentrate on Google+.


The biggest takeaway I got from the interview is how Michael has adapted throughout his ELT journey. Going from selling VHS cassettes to having a very popular Youtube channel is really impressive; as is coding his own website in HTML way back in 1994.

Michael also shows how powerful it can be when you find a solution to a problem. His learners were struggling with everyday English, so he flew out to the US and the UK to film spontaneous conversations to help them gain exposure to this.

All of this is so inspiring. There are so many opportunities for English teachers these days to do their own thing; and although Michael said he was lucky with different opportunities, he is a great example of someone who takes action and creates his own luck.


Here are some resources from what we discussed:

Michael’s Website: Real English

Michael’s Youtube Channel

Michael’s Facebook Page

Screenflow for Mac (my favourite video editing software)

Camstasia (the equivalent for Windows)

Over to You

Do you have a Youtube channel for English learners? If so, leave your link below!

If you don’t, are you planning on making videos in the future? What type of videos do you want to make?


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Teaching English to Young Learners Online

Teaching Young Learners Online, Getting Students, and Lesson Planning: An Interview With James Heywood

I connected with James and his business partner Kris around a year ago, and if you are a regular reader of this blog, you will remember that Kris wrote a guest post last year (click here to read it). I was excited to get one of the guys back to talk about their new creation for English teachers, and to share their experience of teaching English online to young learners.

Kris stepped forward, and in the following interview, he gives some really powerful advice about teaching young learners online, how to find students, and how his new site can make planning for online lessons much easier.

There’s a lot of value in this interview. Here it is:

What We Discussed

James talked about his background, and how he travelled around teaching in different countries before settling in Turkey. He was receiving requests for private learners, and was spending more time teaching these types of lessons and finding them more rewarding.

He then decided to move his teaching online. The reasons for doing this included: he saw online learning was growing, he liked the online teaching environment, wanted to save time by not having to commute, and wanted open up his lessons to a broader market.

So, this is how his first site (TurksLearnEnglish) was born.

Specializing and Finding a Niche

“The name is basic, but that’s exactly what it is: it’s a site built for Turks to learn English.”

The vast majority of his students are young learners from Turkey. James talks about how important it is to have a niche; to specialize in a certain area.

We then both discuss the advantages of doing this, including knowing the culture, the language, and other things about our specific learners to ensure that we can offer them the best value.

Teaching Young Learners

James argues that taking young learners online helps increase motivation, turning technology from a play instrument into a learning instrument.

“The student’s focus is increased enormously because there’s not somebody sitting at the other side of the class throwing a piece of paper..”

Having the different tools and applications, you can make the learner focus more on the lesson, bringing the child’s attention on to what is happening in the class. James has found this to be really empowering for his young learners.

Some tips when teaching young learners: the learner needs to learn in a quiet space, don’t allow interruptions by the parents, don’t allow other devices, communicate with their parents, use their own environment for learning props, and be flexible with the lesson. When starting with a new child, offer a trial lesson with the parent present.

Getting Learners

James then gave his advice on how to fill up your schedule with online learners. Firstly, he states how important it is to be confident when starting out. He was able to move all but one of his learners to his new online learning environment, and recommends talking with your current learners about making this change.

Word of mouth has worked really well for TurksLearnEnglish (something that I and other teachers constantly talk about). To do this, get a landing page up (here are the options available for this); this gives referrals and new learners the ability to know more about you and to be confident that you are a legitimate teacher.

Turks Learn English

The TurksLearnEnglish Landing Page

James and Kris know their market well and have a very specialized niche. He doesn’t recommend spreading yourself too thin, but instead, be attractive to a segment of the English learning market. Finding the first student is the hardest thing; that it why it’s important to have a strong landing page.

We then talk about the important of keeping contacts (something I have written about here).

Lesson Planning (Off2Class)

I receive lots of emails about the best resources for online teaching. And James and Kris have started something really exciting: a database of lessons plans that you can use online through sharing your screen or through student and teacher logins.

It was created to remove the amount preparation time for online teachers, with the lessons being effective for 80% of the students 80% of the time. Here is an example of a lesson:


Off2Class Lessons

You can see the lesson notes on the left hand side and the slides on the right. When a learner is logged in, they don’t see the lesson notes, but as you move through the lesson, their screen will show the slide that you are currently on.

As you saw in the interview, there are lots of material involved in each lesson. They are still in BETA, but you can request an account from their homepage.

Click here to get an account

About James

James Heywood has lived and worked in Sydney, Paris, Auckland, Dubai, and has a background in language and linguistics. He is a strong believer in the use of technology in the learning environment. After years of teaching in language institutes and private schools, he made the leap to online in late 2012.

He has taught a variety of ESL students online including young learners, adults and adolescents in one-on-one and group settings. Off2Class (lesson plan content for private ESL teachers) was launched to provide lesson content resources targeted to teachers running their own private tutorials.

Over to You

As I mentioned during the interview, I have no experience teaching young learners online, so it was fascinating for me to learn about this. Let us know if you have experience teaching this age group, or whether James has inspired you to do the same.

Additionally, I recommend signing up to Off2Class. If you do, please let us know your thoughts. And as always, feel free to leave whatever comments you have about the interview.

Thanks for watching!


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Mark Barnes Interview

Student Centered Learning, Social Learning, and Twitter: An Interview with Mark Barnes

There was an article popping up in my various social media feeds the other day called, “Why Everyone Should Be On Twitter.” I then realized it was by Mark Barnes, another fellow presenter in the TTO MOOC. I then read some more of his stuff, asked him for an interview, and a couple of days later we met on Google Hangouts.

In the interview discussion we talk about student centered learning, narrative feedback, social learning, why teachers should be on Twitter and how best to use this platform.

Below the interview I break down what was discussed and relate this to ELT.

Here is the video interview:

What We Discussed

Mark was a teacher for 20 years, and left the classroom two years ago to focus more on his writing and professional development. Let’s start with..

Creating a Results Based Environment

Mark talks about how he was a “traditional teacher” for the first ten years of his career, but after taking some time to research motivation, he decided to do something different. His biggest focus for this was the final result: learning.

To achieve this he created what he calls a chaotic environment, one where kids are working on different things, have long-term projects, and use different technology to head towards a goal and learn whatever the objective is at that time.

“The most important thing of all was I eliminated traditional grading… I’m tired of measuring kids learning and punishing them if they don’t turn something in… that turned out to be something really exciting.”

Narrative Feedback

Mark talks about a system that he pulled from other systems called SE2R (Summarize, Explain, Redirect, and Resubmit). This is using descriptive feedback to eliminate subjectivity and comparisons. It gives the student to go back and revisit prior learning.

“I think that education should be about mastery learning and not punishing kids with grades.”

We then go on to discuss the tools that we can use to achieve this.

Social and Mobile Learning

Mark then goes on to talk about social and mobile learning and how we should find ways to incorporate the devices our students have into their learning.

“We are heading to a place, very soon, where every kid will have a mobile device.”

“Educators have to face it, and they have to prepare for it.. I have to be ready to use it myself.”

There is then some great advice given in terms of how to do this: watch online videos and actually use the devices and applications that you want to use. And learning how to use these tools will take less time than you think.


Mark’s article went viral this week. And he gives a couple of reasons why everyone should be on Twitter (click here for the full list):

1. Free Professional Development: Twitter has an advantage in that it is very professional. Following other educators and following specific chats gives you access to advice and resources in your industry.

2. Kids are moving to Twitter from other platforms.

When joining Twitter, it is important to follow these discussions, find “How to Use Twitter Videos,” follow people in your industry (more specifically, find one person who you look up to and follow who they are following), and post with hashtags when first starting.

Relating this to ELT

Throughout the interview I related what Mark discussed to ELT. Here are some ideas I talked about and more on reflection.

Traditional Marking and feedback: The language schools that I worked in liked exams, and it seemed like half our time was spent on either studying for an exam, taking an exam, or reviewing an exam.

I really like the idea of trying to achieve mastery in learning, especially in our industry. Having running feedback, using Google Drive for example, means that we can ensure that our students stop making mistakes that seem to be engrained. This is something that I have implemented through creating audio resources for my learners.

Repetition is such an important part of learning a language. It is our job to make this fun and engaging.

Student Centered Learning: Although we didn’t talk about this too much, it is really important that we help our students find their intrinsic motivation. This is what I believe to be at the core of a results based classroom, especially when talking about online ELT.

An easy way to do this is to make the lessons centered around the interests of your learners. For example, I have one learner who is an athlete (running, rogaining, skiing, and biking!). The materials we use are centered around these topics. By doing this, we talk about things that she is interested in and she also learns the language that she needs to know.

I recently posted a video for my online learners that talks about how to read interesting things and how to subscribe to blogs (click here to watch it).

Social and Mobile Learning: As I mentioned in our discussion, I convince my students to change the language of their devices into English, and use these devices to read, listen, and watch things in English.

This really helps when it comes to getting the input needed to make progress in English. People are going to use these devices; as educators we need to think about ways to use this to our and our student’s advantage.

Twitter: Mark has given me the motivation to follow more discussions on Twitter and to use this platform for professional development. If you follow Marks advice, you will get so much out of this platform.

Resources Mentioned in Our Discussion

You can follow Mark on Twitter and check out his blog: Brilliant or Insane.

Here are Mark’s books:

Role Reversal

The Five Minute Teacher

Teaching the iStudent

And, here is the website Learn it in 5.

I also mentioned the Twitter discussion #ELTchat, you can find out more information about this here.

Mark talked about Daniel Pink and his book Drive (I’ve just ordered it – I’ve been wanting to get this for a while now), and research from Alfie Kohn.

Over to You

I would love to hear your feedback on student centered learning, social and mobile learning, and narrative feedback. Here are some questions:

How do you keep a narrative feedback with your learners?
How are you incorporating devices into learning?
How are you bringing out your learners’ intrinsic motivation?

Please leave your comments below; I really appreciate them.


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Rich Kiker Interview

Using Google Products and Apps to Teach Online: An Interview with Rich Kiker

Rich Kiker was one of the presenters at the Teachers Teaching Online MOOC hosted over at WizIQ. I learned a lot watching his presentation, and as the number one voted Google Apps Trainer in the world, I was eager to interview him so he could share his knowledge and experience with us online English teachers.

In the interview I ask Rich about using free Google products and apps as a way to connect and collaborate with our learners. I have used many of these products and know how useful and effective they can be when teaching online.

There’s a lot of value in this interview, and below the video I summarize what we talk about, post some resources, and expand on the ideas.

Here is the video interview:

What We Discussed

We talked about several different Google products and applications during the interview. Let’s start with Hangouts.


We started by discussing how to connect with learners online using Hangouts. I was using Google Hangouts on Air (I wrote about this here) for the interview, and Rich talked about the distinction between Hangouts and Hangouts on Air.

Hangouts on Air are live events where you want to reach a big audience (or to record the interview like I did), while a private Hangout is what you need to teach your one-to-one or group lessons online.

Rich talked about the different features of Hangouts, especially how we can integrate Google Drive.

“What’s beautiful about Hangouts… it also has its own mini app platform. When you’re in a Hangout, on the left of the screen, you can see a range of tools.. you can share Youtube videos, and watch a Youtube video together in theatre view… there are screen sharing apps… I think, for this audience doing online instruction, the most powerful feature is the direct drive integration.”

Here is how to use Google Drive inside of a hangout:


Hangout Google Drive Integration

Google Drive

Rich talks about Google Drive and highlights two big picture features:

1. The anytime, anywhere access. The ability to use a cloud based application and work with students no matter where you are or what device you are using.

“The any time any place access is critical, especially when we have students using mobile devices.”

2. Using Google Drive as a way to collaborate with learners, both live and asynchronously. This is both for written and audio feedback.

“Online… is a better platform for delivering feedback and providing quality assessment to students to have second chance learning, and evaluate writing, and also to give them the opportunity to provide revisions.”

Here is the application that Rich mentioned so that you can leave audio feedback for your learners, and vice-versa: Kaizena. This is something that I’m going to start using with my students.

There are other add-ons that you can find through Google Drive. Here is how to find them:

Add ons Google Drive(1)

Google Plus

I then asked Rich about Google Plus and how an online teacher could use this platform to communicate with learners and attract students. He mentioned a guide from Eric Curts as an easy way to get started: click here to access this.

Rich gives a great tip about to to find those within your niche: search and go into communities that are already active and then…

“… like any other social network, like Twitter or LinkedIn, you gain value by adding value.”

You can build your network by adding people to your circles (like following/friending someone on Facebook). You can ask people to share their favourite circles, and start networking within this community.

Just like any platform, it’s all about becoming familiar with how it works, connecting with others, and adding value. Here is what Google Plus looks like (when searching for communities):

Google Plus Communities


Rich was using a Chromebook for this interview, and said:

“I absolutely would recommend a Chromebook to anyone in an online space.. there’s no anti-virus, it turns on in eight seconds, there’s no versions, it’s always on the latest update and updates don’t cost anything.”

Rich goes onto to say that they are much more powerful than people give them credit for and he actually replaced his thousand dollar computer with a Chromebook..

I found it really interesting when he talked about the difference between local and cloud based applications, and how companies are moving their applications to the web. I feel that getting a Chromebook is a great option for those who want a low cost device as it has everything a teacher needs to teach online.

(Note: A Chromebook is a laptop that uses Chrome OS. Applications such as Skype, iTunes, and Photoshop can’t be used on this device. Any browser or cloud based applications can be used, including: Hangouts for teaching online, Pixlr for editing photos, and Google Drive for spreadsheets and documents.)

The Chromebook that Rich uses is currently available for under $300. Here is more information about this.

Conclusion and Discussion

Although Rich and I only talked about Google products and apps, I think this interview really highlights the progress in tools available to online teachers and learners in general.

Two points really stood out for me: firstly, the fact that applications and work in general is moving from the local space to the cloud, and secondly that collaborating with learners online through the tools mentioned is in many ways more effective than traditional teaching methods.

I would love to know your thoughts on these issues and the other things that we discussed. Also, if you have used any of these tools, then please let us know how you are using them and any tricks and tips that you have. For example, how would you use a tool such as Kaizena?

Leave your comments below.

You can connect with Rich through Twitter and Google Plus: @rkiker and +richkiker.


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Three Ways to Use Hip Hop in Your Next English Lesson


I love featuring teachers who are doing their own thing online, giving others an opportunity to share their story and and their ideas, inspiring us all as we strive to succeed.

Today I bring you Stephen Mayeux from ESLhiphop. I’ve known Steve for around a year now, and in that time we have connected on a monthly basis to share what we are working on and to help each other to grow and reach our respective goals.

Stephen is the perfect example of someone who knows the important of choosing a specific niche; he has built his teaching around this niche, using his enthusiasm, creativity, and love of what he is doing to help English learners improve.

It brings me great pleasure to introduce you all to Stephen. He has three very creative teaching ideas that all involve an online tool called Rap Stats. Take it away Stephen!

Three ELT Activities Using Rap Stats

Yo! I’m Stephen “Big Nasty” Mayeux, and I am in the house, or rather, on the homepage to spit some knowledge! Jack and I are very good friends, and he has been a supporter of ESLhiphop from the very beginning. Since I started that blog a year ago, there have been other exciting developments in hip-hop education which have legitimized the genre more and more for instructional purposes.

In 2013, GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan teamed up with a professor from Columbia University’s Teachers College to create Science Genius, an initiative to promote science education by having New York City students write science-themed rap songs. And earlier this year, data scientist Matt Daniels analyzed rap lyrics and classic literature and discovered that several contemporary hip-hop artists have better vocabulary than Shakespeare or Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Now there’s another innovation in hip-hop education (ooh, I rhymed!) from the makers of Rap Genius, an online community that annotates rap songs. Rap Stats is an online tool that plots the frequency of words appearing in hip-hop lyrics from 1998 to present, and it’s also free to use and very addicting to language nerds! Simply enter one or more words and phrases in the search box, and Rap Stats will generate a color-coded line graph.

In this post, I am going to share three ideas for using Rap Stats to practice English. If you’re in a brick-and-mortar school, your classroom will need to have Internet access in order to use any of these activities. Other than that, everything that I am going to suggest requires very little preparation.

#1 — IELTS Writing Classes

In the Academic module of the IELTS, test takers must analyze and interpret a graph, diagram, or process and describe it in about 300 words. There are dozens of test-preparation books and even more free websites with sample writing prompts, but why not spice it up and make writing more fun? ETS (Education Testing Services) probably has no plans to include Rap Stats in the newest version of their exam, but your students can still have very useful writing practice by responding to frequency analysis reports. You could use the sample graph below in order to practice the language needed to:

  • make implications
  • describe positive and negative correlations
  • highlight trends over a period of time
  • predict future usage


Rap Stats Teaching English

#2 — Dictogloss <> Illustrate <> Check

This activity is similar to the one above, but the procedures have simply been reversed. (Secret ELT Trick: If you ever run out of ideas, just think of everything you’ve tried before and do it backwards!) Instead of producing text after seeing a graph, students will produce a graph after listening to and writing about the data. This is how I would set up and run the activity:

  1. Create a Rap Stats graph ahead of time and describe it to your students. You can either write a short paragraph before your lesson or just describe it on the fly. Whatever you decide to do, don’t let your students see the graph yet.
  2. As in a typical dictogloss activity, students must listen without taking any notes and then reconstruct your description in a short paragraph. Students can work either individually or in small groups.
  3. Students then produce graphs based on their own writing or from another group.
  4. Display the graph that was described in step 1 and have students compare their work to the original.

#3 — Discovering Recent and Outdated Slang

A few months ago, Business Insider ran a story on my blog, and one commenter wondered if listening to hip-hop would only introduce obscure and outdated slang words and idioms making English learners sound unusual. It’s a legitimate point to bring up, and it’s the basis behind this next activity aimed at helping students acquire recent slang words and avoid using ones that have died out.

  1. Create a list of slang words and idioms before the lesson begins. Have students decide which words are still used today and which ones are outdated and irrelevant.
  2. Have students group the words in a number of different categories. For example, you might have students group the words by part of speech.
  3. Students use Rap Stats themselves and run analysis reports on the list. In small groups, students examine the data together and determine which words and phrases are still used today.
  4. Review the words as a whole class, and then follow up with a speaking or listening activity.

Your Turn

I hope this blog post was helpful and interesting. Try it out with your students and let me know how it goes in the comments below. If you use Rap Stats in other ways, then I would love to hear about it. Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter, and tell me all about it!

This guest blog article was written by Stephen Mayeux, the founder of He teaches private English classes on Skype. He’s also a worldwide ambassador of peace, love, and hip-hop for Gallery Languages.

Peace, love, and hip-hop

Big Nasty Steve



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Drew Badger from English Anyone

Get Sold (Guest Post by Drew Badger from

Drew Badger from English Anyone

When talking with Drew Badger, it is soon obvious just how knowledgeable he is about marketing.

He has built a successful online course that solves a big problem for English learners: becoming conversationally fluent. He also has a very successful Youtube channel with over 200 videos.

In this post he shares what he believes to be the most important skill in business. This is great stuff for anyone looking to get into the world of online teaching and product creation.

Take it away Drew!

Why Most Businesses Fail

Aspiring entrepreneurs usually fail because they build businesses backwards. They spend time coding websites, printing business cards, thinking up killer company names, designing products and a thousand other things that, while potentially helpful in the long term, just aren’t necessary when starting and proving a business.

Not all businesses need websites. Not all businesses need physical stores. What all of them do need, however, is paying customers. So why not focus all of your attention on getting those first?

Starting Backwards

I know the story of business failure intimately because I lived it when I first ventured online. I had this great idea for a book that could help Japanese children learn the alphabet in a few hours. I was convinced it was genius and spent the next year and a half designing the book, creating its illustrations, and even founding a company to get the book into online stores. In the end, I had a beautiful book available on, but very few sales.

The odd thing is that I thought this failure meant I was doing everything right. I was incredibly frustrated, but undeterred because I assumed I was supposed to fail many times before I found success. If I could just work harder and come up with a better idea, I believed, I’d eventually reach the Promised Land.

Follow (Only) the Leaders

It took another two years – and many more failures – before I finally questioned the assumptions of the path I was on and decided to do something different: follow only the advice of those who’d actually built successful businesses.

Money is a funny thing. Everyone seems to have an opinion about it, so it’s easy to be lead astray by well-meaning individuals who’ve never built successful businesses. I know I certainly had been. It made perfect sense to visit a baker if I had questions about bread, or consult a doctor if I had concerns about health, but, until only recently, that same logic never transferred to the realm of things financial.

What I had begun to learn while studying great entrepreneurs was that the source of this disconnect in my brain was the mythology of business in popular culture. I take full responsibility for my failures, of course, but I was finally uncovering the foundation of the paradigm that stacked the odds of success heavily against me.

The Dangerous Myth of Success

The story of the dreamer who created something in a garage/basement/dorm room and turned it into a wildly successful business, though inspirational, carries with it two hidden, and extremely dangerous, messages. The first is that a clever individual created something independent of a problem requiring a solution people were willing to pay for. The second is that people should sell a product or service after creating it. (Yes, you read that right.) Together, these messages mutate the idea of business in the mind of the entrepreneur from the simple act of profitable service into a complicated trial by fire promising years of pain and struggle in return for little hope of success.

With the help of those who’d gone before me, I’d finally broken the spell the myth of entrepreneurship had cast on me. Entrepreneurs should be serving a market by addressing a need – like solving a painful problem – and selling their solution before creating their product or service.

If this sounds at all alien to you, or even downright impossible, that’s understandable. It certainly threw me for a loop when I discovered it. But when I considered the alternative, I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Get Paid First

To make things a bit more concrete, here’s how my book example would have looked had I known then what I know now. First, I would have gone to teachers and parents and asked what problems their students/children were experiencing. I would have dug deep until I found something that was really holding them back. Whatever that would have been, I would have worked with them to design the ideal solution while cultivating a customer base primed to purchase what I’d create.

Next, I’d make an offer to those most eager for the solution to receive it faster – and/or with more favorable terms – in exchange for the money to fund the creation of the product or service (which is entirely possible if you’ve built up enough trust, and have a desirable enough solution).

Contrast this with the path I took only a few years earlier. That one brought frustration, confusion and uncertainty while this one virtually guarantees success. Much, much faster.

The True Nature of Selling

The way of the successful entrepreneur also makes selling so much easier because you’ve solved a problem you know people are willing to pay for. With your market! That means there’s nothing to push onto customers. In fact, they’ll be begging you to sell your solution to them! Honestly, great salespeople only want to sell things to people eager to buy them. Wouldn’t you rather shoot fish in a barrel, too?

If you’re still with me, your homework is to master the formula of solution to painful problem → sales → product/service from the best. I want you to join the mailing list of Perry Marshall, one of the greatest information marketers in the business right now, AS WELL AS the mailing lists of three other leaders in completely unrelated industries. Search Google until you find pages with email opt- in boxes (those little forms where you put in your name and email address to instantly get access to some beneficial gift). Open all of the mails you receive, study their systems, notice how they write, read between the lines and get sold!

[divider scroll_text=”Info About”]

Disappointed by the failure of my book, I turned, as most beginning entrepreneurs do, to the next “can’t miss” idea. began as a way to leverage the lessons I’d created for the classroom. It’s since become my English lesson laboratory and personal business school. helps students speak fluent English clearly, confidently and automatically. We have over 200 video lessons available on YouTube, and produce a premium, monthly video course called Master English Conversation that uses our innovative Fluency Bridge method to help learners who struggle to speak finally become fluent.

By Drew Badger.


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