Tools for Teaching English Pronunciation

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

Tools for Teaching English Pronunciation

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

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

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

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

A Quick Summary of How I Teach English Sounds

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds of Speech App: How to Make Different Sounds

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

Here is what it looks like:

uiowa

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s move on to stage two.

Audacity and File Sharing Apps for Drilling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using SoundCloud/Google Drive/DropBox to Give Feedback

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

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

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

SoundCloud

Giving IELTS feedback on SoundCloud

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

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

Over to You

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

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

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

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How to Become an Online Teacher

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

How to Become an Online Teacher

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

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

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

Let’s get straight into it.

Commit to Your Goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect and Collaborate

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, get out there and make connections.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

Over to You

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

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

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Build Trust English Learners

Six Ways to Build Trust with English Learners Online

Build Trust English Learners

Let’s say you have a website, you know your lessons are valuable, and you have a marketing plan that will bring English learners onto your site and social media channels.

It all sounds great, but….

You won’t get paying learners/customers if you don’t gain the trust of your audience.

As teachers, it’s vital that we make our potential clients confident that we are going to deliver for them. And working online makes this more challenging.

Luckily, there are many things that we can do to build trust online, and that is what I’m going to explore in this post, starting with first-impressions.

Make a Good First Impression

First impressions matter.

When learners land on your homepage, click play on YouTube or see your promoted post on Facebook, they instantly form an opinion about you.

If they get a bad impression, they leave/stop watching/ignore your stuff. Therefore, your website should be visually appealing and look professional.

This is because when a learner lands on your site, your design is crucial for getting him/her to stick around and learn more about what you do. People can judge a website in milliseconds.

Now, it’s important to point out at this stage that you may not get this perfect first time. But you should always be taking stock and looking at ways to improve upon what you have.

In addition to your getting the look right, you have to engage your audience with content that is going to impress them.

If you solve a problem that your learner has, then they will want to learn more from you. Having content that is useful will help you build a teacher/student relationship, and this will result in more sign-ups for your lessons. This goes for content on your site and elsewhere.

I have also learned that the way in which you present your content helps too…

Make a Connection through Video

So, now that we know a good-looking website with useful content, let’s move on to the best way to get your message across.

From my experience and research, there are two important factors here: personality and video. Learners want to know the person behind the content and they want to see that person in action.

When I advertised my one-to-one lessons more prominently on my site, my conversions increased once I included a video on my booking page. And since I started focusing on YouTube for my new brand, I’ve received many more requests for lessons without plugging them in any way.

What I recommend is having video across your site. This is easy to do these days and, if your first videos aren’t perfect, you can always replace them at a later date. Again, this is striking a balance between perfection and getting started.

And don’t be scared about sharing small details of your personal life here and there. This shows that you are a real person and it will help you make a better connection.

Be Consistent

Consistency plays a big role in gaining trust, especially if you are building an audience over the long-term.

As I revealed in this post, I lost a little momentum last year. I wasn’t consistent with new videos, posts, and emails, and I know that I lost the interest and trust of some of my learners because of this.

When you’re consistent with your online lessons, email responses, blog posts, YouTube videos, social media posting etc., your learners and potential students see you as someone who is trustworthy and committed to what you do.

And when it comes time to advertise your lessons or launch a new course, people will know that you’re going to deliver on your promises.

Communicate

As I expand my online business, I am looking to outsource my work more and more.

One area that I want to keep under my control as long as possible is email communication. This plays a crucial role in building trust and, ultimately, getting more sign ups.

I use TextExpander to help me with this, but I spend about an hour a day responding to emails and comments.

Giving a response within 24 hours shows that you care and that you are someone who takes customer service seriously. And we all know that when buying something, customer service plays an important role in our decision.

In addition to building trust, reading comments and emails helps you better understand your audience. In my series of automated emails that go out after someone signs up, I ask a variety of different questions. These answers have given me great insight and they have helped me build better products and courses.

Give, Give, Give

No one likes to be taken for a ride.

And, unfortunately, there are many learners out there who like to take advantage of teachers who offer things for free.

An example of this is the trial lesson. Learners have been known to request a free trial lesson even though they have no desire to pay for future classes.

A potential problem with this – in addition to giving free lessons all the time! – is that you can start to feel exploited, making you less likely to give your time to help others.

However, there are two types of people that matter to us online teachers: those who will potentially pay for your lessons and courses (the potentials); and those who will never pay for anything (the nevers).

Don’t let the second group put you off, and instead, make it a win-win-win situation by giving as much as possible.

You win because you build trust with the potentials and also feel good about helping others. The potentials win because they receive great content, trust you, and then go on to take lessons. And the nevers win because they get really good content.

That doesn’t mean that you have to give lots of trial lessons – over time you will learn to filter free trial lessons, for example – but you do need to give in order to build trust and to receive in return.

My favorite way to give is through my blog posts, videos, and social media posts. Interacting with learners, as discussed before, is another way that you can give to receive.

Use Testimonials and Add Social Proof

There is only so much that you can say about yourself to build trust. That is why getting others to do this for you is crucial.

The most common way to do this is through testimonials and/or case-studies. With my online courses, I have never directly asked for testimonials. But if I receive an email from a happy customer, I ask them if I could use their email as a testimonial on my site.

With one-to-one lessons, asking is much easier. The best time to do this is at the end of a good lesson.

Going back to a point I made earlier, a video testimonial is much more powerful than a written one. However, they are harder to get.

In addition to testimonials, you can also build trust by showing off your numbers. If you have a substantial amount of Facebook fans, Youtube or Twitter followers, put something on your site so that people can see this.

Over to You

Please leave your experience of building trust in the comment section below and, if you have further tips, please share them!

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3 Apps for Online Teachers

Three Amazing Apps for Online Teachers (Part Two)

3 Apps for Online Teachers

A few months back, I wrote an article looking at the benefits of using Evernote, Asana, and LastPass as an online teacher.

Since then, I have started using other useful applications, and today I want to share three that I’m sure you’re going to love.

These apps have helped me save time and become more organized; one has even helped me improve my writing.

So, let’s jump right in and start with my favorite.

Text Expander

Click here to check out TextExpander

This application has saved me a lot of time, and I can’t recommend it enough.

It works like this: you assign snippets to commonly used text and pictures, and when you type out those snippets, they transform into the pre-assigned text.

Here is a quick video showing how it works:

 

As an example, I get asked the same questions from English learners over again. If someone asks me to help them with their grammar, I have a 5 paragraph response with relevant links that I like to send. All I need to do is type ;tfgrammar and then personalize the email.

I have around one hundred snippets for URLS, stock email responses, email signatures, codes, post outlines, YouTube descriptions, and much more.

TextExpander is a Mac application – PhraseExpander is the Windows equivalent – and syncs across all Apple devices.

It works in every writing application, so you can use it when responding to emails, writing blog posts, and posting on Facebook.

The more snippets you add, the more you’ll get out of this application, and I highly recommend you give it a try. It’s $34.95 for a lifetime license.

Sunrise Calendar

Click here to check out Sunrise Calendar

Sunrise Calendar is the best online calendar I have come across.

It syncs with other applications meaning that you can have everything on one calendar. For example, it syncs with:

– Google and Apple Calendar (iCloud)
– Facebook events
– Asana
– Evernote
– LinkedIn
– tv Shows
– sporting fixtures (I integrated it with Preston North End’s fixtures, in case you were wondering)

Due to these integrations, I can avoid double booking myself without having to check different sites. As an online teacher, this is invaluable.

Personally, I love how it integrates with Asana, showing the different tasks I have for each day. If you use a different application for task-management, there will most likely be an integration for that too.

There are lots of little things that make the application so useful, for example, you can respond to Facebook events within the app.

It’s easy to use, looks great, and works on all devices. And it’s free.

Grammarly

Click here to check out Grammarly

With all the articles, social media posts, and emails that I write, I often make silly mistakes.

Grammarly, a grammar checker that works best through the Chrome extension, has made writing much easier for me. It claims to spot ten times the mistakes than common word processors, and from my experience, I have found that to be true.

This is what it looks like within WordPress (with the Chrome extension):

Grammarly Within WordPress

16 Advanced Issues!

When you click the red correct button, a pop-up window appears with suggested corrections and explanations, and you can make changes within the pop-up.

In addition to checking your writing, it detects plagiarism and helps you improve word choice with vocabulary suggestions.

I’ve improved my writing quite significantly since first using it. And as I mentioned before, having something highlight silly mistakes and typos has made a big difference.

It’s not perfect and can’t be compared to a professional proofreader or editor, but it’s fantastic if you need something that works wherever you write.

There is a free and a paid version available.

Over to You

Have you used any of the applications listed here or in my first post? If so, share your experiences using them.

Additionally, if you have any app recommendations for online teachers, please share them below!

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Starting a New Brand

Building a New Brand for English Learners (and Why I Started Again)

Last autumn, I stopped posting content for English learners on the website I started back in 2010.

The reason?

I was going in a different direction with my teaching and wanted to build a new brand that matched this.

I created my first site, JDA English, to promote my online lessons. When a learner landed on JDA English, the one thing I wanted them to do was to sign up for a trial lesson.

However, 2014 was the year I made the transition away from one-to-one lessons into selling online courses and group lessons.

And this is where To Fluency was born.

In this post, I’m going to talk about how things have progressed but, firstly, I want to go through the naming process.

Naming the New Website

One of the biggest reasons why I started a new brand was because I wanted a name that better fit my vision.

The name of my original site came from my initials. Although I wasn’t thrilled about it, I went with JDA English because I wanted to put focus on me as a teacher.

But with the change of direction, I felt I needed something new to get excited about, and that is why I made a fresh start.

There is a history behind the name To Fluency that I haven’t talked about before. In 2008, my wife and I started work on a website where language teachers and learners could meet, and we called it To Fluency. Teachers would be able to post a profile, set their prices, and have learners sign up with them. The lessons would take place in a virtual classroom hosted on the site.

The website never got completed – although, it came pretty close – and I let the domain name go, only to buy it again last year.

I feel the name helps get the message across that learning English is about the journey, and that there are certain things that learners should do on this journey to fluency (more on this later).

One thing to note is that it doesn’t have English in the domain. Having this would have been preferable but it wasn’t a big enough issue for me.

Making the Transition

In many ways, creating this new website was like starting all over again.

For example, I had to create new social media pages and a new YouTube channel. For anyone who has tried to build these profiles, you will know that it takes a bit of time and consistency.

If I had over 10,000 subscribers on YouTube, I would have thought twice about making the change. But when I started the new site, I had 1,000, and although I knew it would be a lot of work, I decided to go for it.

There were many things that made this transition easier. This includes:

– having my old social media profiles to share posts from To Fluency
– having over 5,000 learners subscribed to my email list
– having good traffic to my old site that I could redirect to my new one

Looking back, I made a couple of mistakes when making the transition.

Firstly, I lost a bit of momentum in the months leading up to the launch of the new site. There were times when I didn’t send out an email to those on my list for a few weeks. And secondly, I didn’t build up any excitement before launching.

Because of this, my email open rates dropped, and it has taken a few months to build them back up again.

But having an email list has allowed me to bring over followers from my old site to my new one, and this is another reason why prioritizing email is important.

My Goals for To Fluency and a Quick Update

To Fluency is all about helping English learners make fast progress to fluency in a way that is fun and sustainable over the long-term. I talk about learning methods, motivation, goal setting, and getting into the habit of learning English.

Over the past seven years of teaching, I have learned that lessons can only get a learner so far, and more needs to be done outside of the classroom. Those who make progress are the ones who use English on a daily basis and make English part of their lives.

The feedback I have received from my videos has been really positive, and I’m excited about seeing how far I can take it.

From a business standpoint, income comes from the To Fluency Program (an online course) and although not substantial right now, YouTube advertising.

In my yearly review post, I talked more about my goals and what I want to achieve with this brand, including:

– building my audience
– selling more courses
– posting on a consistent basis

Things have started strongly in all three of the above areas.

I’ve put a lot of focus on YouTube and videos in general. Video marketing is getting more important and powerful each year, and I have a structure so that I can crank out videos on a consistent basis.

I’ve just hit 650 subscribers on YouTube, with 90 coming in the last week alone. I’m really pleased with this, especially because I only started posting videos on a consistent basis in January of this year. My new goal is to hit 10,000 by the end of the year.

At first, it can feel like you’re doing a lot of work (new videos, social media posting etc.) without gaining any momentum. But if you stick at it, things start to click, and that is what I’m seeing now.

Additionally, I’m putting my efforts into areas that are working (80/20 principle). Therefore, I’m concentrating on three social networks while keeping the others ticking over, going all in on video, and spending time communicating with my audience through email and elsewhere.

Over to You

Having a substantial email list gave me a head start with this new adventure, but as I mentioned, it was like starting again with YouTube and social media.

I’m starting to see everything come together, and momentum is building. The ride has been enjoyable so far, and I’m looking forward to building my brand over the coming months and years.

Are you building a brand at the moment? If so, share your experiences in the comment section below.

And if you haven’t done already, click here to get your free guide to the tools and resources you need to teach English online.

Thanks for reading!

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Email Marketing

Why Email Marketing Is so Powerful (and How You Can Get Started)

 

Email Marketing

Over the past two years, email has been at the center of my online marketing efforts for my different brands.

But just like designing my site with WordPress, it took me a while to take the plunge and start building an email list.

I’m not sure what put me off; maybe I was scared of taking the next step. But after signing up for an account at Aweber, I haven’t looked back since.

In this post, I am going to talk about why having an email list is important for independent online teachers (or anyone selling their services and products online), give you an overview of how to use email in your teaching business, and then show you how to get started.

Why You Need an Email List

There are a few very strong reasons why it’s a good idea to start an email list; here are the two main ones:

  • it’s the best way to communicate with your audience, build trust, and sell your services
  • you own the email list

Let’s look at this in more depth.

Using Email to Communicate, Build Trust, and Sell Services

Email is still king when it comes to communication, and to bring learners into your lessons –  and to offer other services and courses to your audience – you will need to communicate.

Here is an example to bring some context…

In March 2014, I created a course for my English learners on an external platform. As a featured teacher on their platform, my course was advertised and pushed heavily on social media.

In addition to their efforts, I sent out emails promoting my course to those on my email list.

Out of everyone that signed up, 90-95% came from my list.

What made the difference?

Well, in addition to emailing my list with information and reminders about the course, in the months prior, I had sent out lots of free content. I had also replied to all emails that I received, meaning that I had slowly built trust through a medium that allowed me to communicate one-to-one on a massive scale.

Sending out free content (emails, links to articles, videos etc.), and engaging with your subscribers, gives you the solid foundation on which you can start promoting what you offer. It builds your brand and the trust of your subscribers. And once you have built that trust, email is the best way to promote your products and services.

At this stage you might be thinking, “Why can’t I just do that on social media?”

You should use social media in this way too. But email performs much better than social media when it comes to reach (click through rates, open rates etc.) and ROI in general.

To highlight why, think about how long you have had your email address and how often you check your emails. Most people will process every email they receive (even if this just means scanning the title).

On the other hand, social media sites come and go, usage levels vary, and algorithm changes can make reaching your followers much more difficult.

This is why email is so powerful.

You Own the List (And Email Is Here to Stay)

If you’re solely building your brand on platforms you don’t own, you’re making a mistake. As you have just learned, email has the best ROI, and beats social media pretty comprehensively.

But in addition to that, an email list is something that you own, no matter which email provider you use (options below).

The Real Life English team knew this and put their focus on email from the start. That is why when their Facebook group of 120,000+ learners got deleted it wasn’t a disaster for them.

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other platforms are amazing for reaching learners and building your teaching brand, and should be part of your marketing efforts. But building your brand solely on these platforms is risky.

(Note: In addition to your email list, having website that you own, preferably on open source software, is important too.)

Getting Started with Email Marketing

The first thing you will need to do is sign up with an email marketing provider.

My recommendation is Aweber. It’s very similar to its rival MailChimp in many ways, but the reason why I am prefer Aweber is down to their support.

Aweber offers free support (phone and online chat), and I have used this numerous times over the last couple of years. When I was thinking about making the switch to MailChimp, it took their support team over a week to answer a couple of simple questions I had, and there was no telephone number to call.

One reason why many teachers choose MailChimp is because it’s free for the first 2,000 subscribers. However, the free account is limited, and you will need a paid account to use even some of the basic features (like automation – more on this later).

However, the important thing to know is that both options will work fine in most cases, and they both will end up costing more or less the same. So just pick one and go for it.

One thing you will need, no matter which provider you choose, is a postal address. This is due to the CAN-SPAM Act, and you won’t be able to send out emails without including an address. If you’re uncomfortable putting your home address at the bottom of emails, you can get a P.O. Box or something similar.

Let’s move on now and talk about the types of emails that you can send to your subscribers.

The Three Types of Emails You Can Send

Let’s say that you’ve just written a new post on your website and want to share it with those who signed up for updates.

There are two ways that you can do this: send a blog broadcast or a regular broadcast.

The difference is that a blog broadcast goes out automatically when you publish your post (you connect your site to your email provider), whereas a regular broadcast allows you to write anything you want to write.

Personally, I never send out blog broadcasts, and use regular broadcasts instead (including the link to the article in the email).

When promoting your lessons or courses in a general sense, you’ll do this through a regular broadcast too.

The third type of email is an automated email.

For example, when someone subscribes, you can send them a welcome email that goes out automatically. In addition, you can send a series of follow up emails that go out automatically when you want them too. This is very useful if you want to promote your lessons or course through a series of emails in an automated way (see example later in the post).

Let’s now talk about how to get subscribers.

Getting Learners to Join Your List/Newsletter

Once you have everything set up, it’s time to start getting learners to sign up to your email list.

Generally speaking, you’ll get higher conversions if you give something away for free instead of just asking people to subscribe to your newsletter.

I’ve given away mini-ebooks, free 7/14/30 day courses (using email automation), and resource guides. When deciding what to give away, just think about what would be valuable to those in your niche.

Once you have your giveaway (or lead magnet in marketing language), there are many ways to get learners to sign up, including:

  • having an opt-in form (sign up form) at the bottom of your posts
  • having an opt-in form in the sidebar or in the menu bar
  • using a pop-up when someone comes onto your site
  • sending people direct to a landing page where they can sign up

On this blog, I use a plugin that is no longer available. But on my site for English learners, I use LeadPages for everything email related. I use it to create opt-ins on my posts, for pop-ups, and also for landing pages (explanation below). Alternatively, you could use the sign up forms that come with Aweber/MailChimp which are easy to set up and integrate.

For those that don’t know, a landing page is a specific page that you create to encourage visitors into signing up to your email list.

Here is what one my landing pages looks like:

Landing Page Made by LeadPages

Here is a landing page for my English learners. Visually, it’s not that great, but it converts really well.

I send learners to this page from social media, any advertising I do, YouTube, and other platforms. Once they enter their details, they receive a welcome email with a question, and then over the next few weeks, 17 automated emails.

Once they go through these emails, they are added to a list where they receive regular email updates (new posts and videos) and promotional emails.

Best Practices

Although there are many ways to use email marketing in your online tutoring business, here are some best practices from my experience and research.

Email on a Consistent Basis

As I re-branded my site for English learners, I made the mistake of not sending out an email for around six weeks. I’ve also been inconsistent at other times too.

I recommend that you post on a weekly/bi-weekly basis, but feel free to send more emails if you can make it sustainable. If you are promoting something, then you will want to send many emails around this time as this leads to more sales.

Be Yourself and Keep Things Simple

I used to send a more branded email, but now I keep things as simple as possible. At the moment, I don’t include a logo on my emails, and format them in more or less the same way as a personal email.

You might prefer to brand your emails, but try to keep things simple and easy to read.

Additionally, be yourself and let your personality come through.

Think Long-Term

I’ve had many English learners sign up to lessons or courses many months after joining my email list. One of the benefits of email marketing is always being there, meaning that when someone is ready to sign up to lessons, you will be on their mind.

This is key not only for one-to-one lessons, but for when you want to expand on the services you offer.

Overview and Resources

Here is an example of how you can use email marketing to get more sign ups for your one-to-one lessons:

– A learner comes across your video on social media, and clinks the link taking them to get their free download
– They go to your landing page, sign up to your email list, and enjoy your free guide
– The learner then receives emails from you (automated) that include free videos, advice, blog posts etc.
– They reply to one of your emails and you respond
– An email is sent out (again, automated) that outlines the lessons you offer
– As the learner likes what you have sent them, and because you have built trust with them over time, they sign up to a trial lesson

As you can see, this creates a way for you to give your potential learners value before you promote something. This works much better than just sending people to a page where you sell your lessons. And because the majority of this process is automated, it allows you to scale this process without having to put in any extra work.

Here are some of the resources that I mentioned in this post:

Email Marketing Guide: My free guide on getting started with email marketing
Aweber: My recommendation for email marketing (free 30 day trial)
MailChimp: An alternative to MailChimp (free for basic features up to 2000 subscribers)
LeadPages: If your budget allows, this is the ultimate software to create landing pages, opt-in forms etc. Easy to use and easy to integrate with WordPress and Aweber/MailChimp.

(Note: the above links are affiliate links)

Over to You

If you’re thinking about getting started with email marketing, I suggest doing this sooner rather than later, as email is king when it comes to ROI and building a brand.

Do you have an email list for your teaching business? If so, let us know about your experience with this.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below, or get in touch with me here.

Thanks for reading, and if you found it useful, please use one of the buttons below to share it.

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Equipment Tools Videos TESLO

How to Create Videos: The Equipment and Tools You Need

 

Equipment Tools Videos TESLO

With my YouTube Channels, social media profiles, and online courses, I’ve made around 200 videos over the last 12 months.

And in this post, I’m going to talk about the equipment and tools I use, along with alternatives to suit every budget.

A big part of my process recently has been to make it as easy as possible to start shooting a video; I have put my DSLR camera and lavalier mic away for the time being.

And because of this, along with speeding up the post-production process, I’ve brought down the time it takes to create a video for my English learners (from the initial idea to the uploaded video and post) from around 6-8 hours to about 1-2 hours.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at what you’ll need to create videos, what I use, and the alternatives out there. And we’ll start with something you’ll definitely need if you are going to feature yourself in your videos: a camera.

Camera Options

Most people already have a perfectly fine camera for shooting high quality video: a smartphone.

Using Your Smartphone

The benefits of using a smartphone are plentiful: you always have it with you, the quality is great (newer models), you can easily share video straight from your camera, and there are several apps that you can use on your phone.

If you do use your phone, then there are a couple of things you need to think about:

– how to improve the audio
– how to stabilize the camera

I have found that the iPhone earphones improve the audio quality (there is a mic on there), but there other options like this lavalier mic (cheaper options are available).

For some of my short and more relaxed videos, I just hold it up and shoot. But in most cases, you’ll need to think about where you can put it to get the shot you want. I’ve been using this tripod with my phone, and it’s a lot of fun as well as being functional. Alternatively, you can use a regular tripod with an adapter, or get a desk tripod if you are shooting from your desk.

If you are just starting out and have a smaller budget, and already have a smartphone, this might be the best camera option for you.

Webcam

Logitech C920

Photo: Amazon.com

I’ve been using my webcam for the majority of my videos recently.

The reason for this is because it’s the easiest way to start shooting; it’s always there just sitting on top of my computer at an angle that I like (it means I don’t have to tidy my room before recording!).

The quality isn’t quite as good as a smartphone (not with the webcam I have), but with a few tweaks, the videos look good – a big part of video quality from my experience is how you export your video (more on that later).

The webcam I use is the Logitech C920. It works best on a PC, but there are some tweaks you can make so that it works on a Mac too (this is the app I use). It normally sells for $70-90.

DSLR

The most expensive option is a DSLR camera. This is the camera I used when I first starting making videos (note: I have the t3i). Personally, I found it too much work setting things up and shooting this way, especially because I had to put everything away after recording. For me, it just created too much friction.

However, the video quality is amazing, especially if you get a good lens. Just like the smartphone and the webcam, you will need an external microphone as the sound quality is poor when using DSLRs.

I may go back to using this camera for future videos, but for now, my smartphone and webcam are perfect, and allow me to get more videos uploaded.

Microphone Options

Whatever camera option you go for, you’ll need an external microphone. Sound quality is important, and you just can’t get high quality sound from a camera/webcam/smartphone alone.

Shotgun Mics (DSLR)

One option that came up during my research for an external microphone was a shotgun mic (it sits on top of your camera), and this option from Rode is a popular choice.

I know other teachers who use a shotgun mic, and it will give you great audio if you have the budget for it.

Lavalier Mics (DSRL + Smartphone + Computer)

Lavalier Mic

Photo: Amazon.com

An alternative is to get a lavalier mic (this clips onto your top). You can connect it to your computer, an external recorder, or directly to your camera.

I used to use a lav mic connected to this external recorder, and then I synced the audio to the video during post-production. Things can get really expensive here (especially with wireless systems), so getting a $25-40 mic that connects directly to your camera is something you may want to start with.

And as I mentioned earlier, if you are using your smartphone, there are lavalier mics available for this too.

Desktop Mics (Mainly for Webcam Recordings)

As I’m using my webcam at my computer, I now use my desktop microphone.

I’ve had the Audio-Technica ATR2100 for a few years now and I still love it. The only drawback is that you need to be physically close to your desk, or wherever your mic is, when recording video. My stand-up desk helps me stay close enough to my microphone when I record.

If you’re not going to create videos with your face in them, – for example, a presentation style video using power point – then a desk microphone might be your best option.

As you can see, there are many audio options available, and what microphone you get will largely be influenced by the camera you have and the type of videos you want to film.

Lighting

Photographers and video makers constantly talk about the importance of lighting.

Shooting outdoors usually offers great lighting for your videos, but background noise and the weather can cause problems.

Therefore, you will most likely prefer to shoot indoors. If you’re in a well-lit room, then this won’t be as much as an issue. However, even if you have great natural light indoors, you may want to shoot video at night where everyday lights won’t suffice.

I decided to buy the Cowboy Studios kit, which is a bargain for what you get. There are DIY options for $10-20, but I decided that spending an extra $30 or so was worth it.

When I film, I place two lights either side of my desk, and because I’m far away from the back wall, I don’t need a back light. If you are filming against a wall, you can use the third light just behind you to eliminate shadows.

Post Production and Presentation Style Videos

Let’s talk about editing now as this is a big part of creating videos.

I use ScreenFlow and can’t recommend it enough. You can record your screen or from your webcam, it has everything you need for editing videos, and then you can export a video directly to Facebook, YouTube etc. It’s for Mac only, but I hear that Camtasia is a good alternative for PC users.

Alternatively, the free video editing software that comes with Macs and PCs is getting better and better. I’ve also played around with iMovie on the iPhone, and there is quite a lot you can do with this app.

Earlier on in the post I talked about how you export videos is important for video quality; if your software allows, bump up the bitrate. I export mine at 10,000 – 20,000; the file sizes are bigger, but the quality on YouTube and elsewhere is much better.

One more thing that you might consider getting is presentation software, preferably something that allows you to record presentations and export them as a movie file. Keynote (Mac) and Power Point have these features. If your software doesn’t, you can get around this is by using screen capturing software like ScreenFlow.

So, What Tools Do/Will You Use?

There are other things that you might need (animated intros, music files, extra gear), but the above will suffice in most situations.

No matter what you use, content is still the most important thing. But with the cost of creating videos decreasing, the barrier to creating something that looks and sounds good has been blown away over the past few years.

What equipment and tools do/will you use to create videos?

Leave your answers below (and please feel free to link to your videos)!

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Put Yourself Out There

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

 

Put Yourself Out There

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

If so, you’re not alone.

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

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

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

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

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

My Battle With This and How to Overcome Fear

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

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

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

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

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

What to Do to Overcome These Fears

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

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

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

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

Baby Steps and Improving Over the Long-Term

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

But keep in mind the following:

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

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

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

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

Putting Ideas Out There

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dealing with Trolls and Criticism

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

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

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

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

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

Fear of Failure and Committing to Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over to You

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

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

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Personalized Audio English Learners

Create Personalized Audio for Your English Learners

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

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

I explain all in this video and the post below.

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

Watch in HD!

Decide on What Audio to Send

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

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

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

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

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

Record and Share the Audio

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

In a nutshell, it works like this:

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

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

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

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

Getting Your Learner to Listen to the Audio and a Review

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

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

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

Working in Groups

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

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

Over to You

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

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

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

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

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Interview Justin Murray

Justin Murray on Connecting English Learners, Building an Audience, and Solving Problems

What would you do if Facebook deleted your group with over 120,000 English learners?

That happened to Real Life English (RLE), and one of the co-founders, Justin, joins Teaching ESL Online to share this story, and to give us an insight into how the RLE team built a very popular site for English learners.

Watch in HD!

What We Discussed

Justin started by introducing Real Life English as follows:

“It’s a global community of English learners and speakers dedicated to help people all around the world speak English through real life conversations, real people, and real learning materials.”

RLE got started with a party in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Justin, and his cofounder Chad, wanted to teach English in a way that would help people to live it. And after they saw how popular the parties were, they decided to start a blog.

For nearly two years now, they have been posting content (videos, podcasts, articles etc.) 4-5 times a week. One of their former cofounders started a podcast and a Twitter account. And talking about the podcast, Justin said:

“If you keep doing something over and over again, you get better.”

We then talked about the Facebook group that they built to over 120,000 members. But out of nowhere, their group was deleted.

“If you build your house on Facebook, they can always take it away from you.

This is why it’s so important to build your own blog/website and email list.

We then talked mored about Facebook, specifically organic reach (how many of your followers see your content when you post). Justin then went through the difference between a Facebook page (business page) and a Facebook group.

Justin’s former cofounder started their Twitter account and employed different tactics to grow their following (currently at 70k), using tools such as Tweepi. They also use Hootsuite to schedule their tweets.

They have a free ebook for learners and this has helped them grow their following. Focusing on email marketing has been a big part of their strategy from the start.

Justin and the team spend most of their time interacting with learners through email, and prioritize this over social media.

We moved on to talk about the different products they have sold. They have offered an audio version of the ebook mentioned before, a course called Fluency Plus, and a product that goes with their podcast. I’ve seen one of the podcast lessons, and it’s incredible how detailed and in-depth they are.

The RLE team are now in Chile in a startup incubator. They are shifting their mindset to try and understand what learners really need, and to build a business around this. And the problem that they are trying to solve is to help learners connect with others and use their English in a way that feels real.

You can learn more about Justin and Real Life English here.

Over to You

What was your biggest takeaway from this interview?

Leave your comments below!

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