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.
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.
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:
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.
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!