Planning for Your Online English Lessons and Where to Find the Best Resources

If you are new to teaching English online, then you might be wondering how best to plan for your new students.

It’s one of the most common concerns that new teachers have.

This article gives you three tips to plan more effectively and includes links to my favorite resources and lesson plans so that you can go into your lessons with confidence.

Watch the video below or scroll down for the text version:

What Makes Online Teaching Unique

There are two main differences between online lessons and classroom lessons:

  1. The vast majority of online lessons are one-to-one, whereas, classroom lessons have many students
  2. You use platforms such as Skype or to deliver your lessons online

This creates a different dynamic and, in most cases, puts more focus on speaking and listening.

The one-to-one nature of the lesson means that lessons can – and in most cases should – be tailored to each individual student. This is a key point and something that will be touched upon throughout the article.

With those two things in mind, here are my three tips to help you plan for your online English lessons.

Planning Tip #1: Go Lesson-to-Lesson

Get your student and then plan.

Don’t feel like you have to build up a pile of resources before you start marketing your services. In fact, it’s advantageous to work with your new learner when coming up with a curriculum.

Every learner is unique and what works for one student won’t necessarily work for another. We can take this to the extreme: an advanced learner who has a weakness in speaking and is studying for the IELTS exam will need different lessons to a beginner who wants to learn some basic phrases and grammar.

How you decide to teach might limit this disparity. For example, if you only focus on IELTS preparation, then this will limit the scope of resources needed.

Yet, there will still be differences between your students and accordingly, a different class will need to be taught.

This can all be planned out starting with the initial trial lesson/consultation.

This is where you are evaluating the student and asking what he/she would like to get out of his/her lessons. A great question to ask is this: why do you need to learn English and how are you going to use it?

Answers to this question will help you both come up with a tailored plan for the next lesson.

Create lessons based on the English they need to know and work on weaknesses that come up during the first lesson. For example, if the student can’t use the second conditional, introduce this into the next lesson. Find resources that will help you (tip number three) with the teaching of this grammar point.

Go lesson-to-lesson and keep everything specific to your learner.

Planning Tip #2: Know that Most Lessons Involve a Lot of Speaking

As the majority of online lessons are one-to-one, there is more emphasis on speaking.

A typical classroom lesson usually includes group work, listening exercises, reading, and writing where the student often does this in silence. These type of activities aren’t as prominent in online lessons and, when given, are done verbally. Or in the case of writing, outside of lesson time.

From my experience, many learners want one-to-one online lessons so that they can get more speaking practice. They want to have an environment where they can express themselves and receive feedback on mistakes they make.

Having said that, this doesn’t mean that lessons have to only be made up of informal conversations. It’s important to still have a certain structure that makes up your lessons.

Here is how I structure mine:

Planning Tip #3: Use Online Resources or Make Your Own

You don’t want to spend hours and hours planning. Luckily, you don’t have to.

There are three ways to approach this:

  1. Use ready-made resources and lesson plans
  2. Create your own
  3. Plan quickly

After gaining experience online, you’ll be able to plan a lesson within minutes based on an ariticle, news story, or a video. Additionally, you will be able to plan while you’re teaching depending on how the lesson is going feedback from your student. With new students, you’ll be able to recycle past plans without having to review them first.

This is a great place to be in. However…

… if you’re new to teaching, this isn’t possible. Instead, I recommend using lesson plans that others have created and if this is in your plan, start creating your own too.

Here are some ready-made lesson plans that I have found useful in the past:

Off2Class: Lesson plans specific to online lessons with a student portal. Great for structured lessons.

Breaking News English: Numerous activities and conversations based on news topics.

Film English: Plans based on short films.

ITESLJ: All the conversation questions you’ll ever need.

Personally, I’ve never used a textbook with a learner. It doesn’t quite work as you both need the book for legal reasons and it’s much easier to screen share an article or parts of your plan using teaching software. You can even embed videos and have the sound play on both ends.

Creating Your Own Lesson Plans

If you create your own lesson plans, post them on your blog.

This not only helps your current learners review what they have done but also can help you attract new learners.

Share these plans on Facebook and with other teachers. This is how I attracted a lot of new students during my first years. One of my lesson plans got shared by the British Council and thousands of new students and teachers found my blog.

Be sure to include a call-to-action (either a trial lesson or a lead magnet) to capitalize on this new audience.

Including a clip of you teaching the lesson plan will help you build a connection with your new learner. Include one if you can.

Over to You

What tips do you have for planning online lessons and which resources/plans do you use? Leave a comment below sharing your favorites with us.

Thank you for reading!


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growing a teaching business and a family - jennifer-2

Growing a Teaching Business and a Family: Interview with Jennifer from English Outside the Box

I’ve got a great interview for you today.

Jennifer (English Outside the Box) and I discuss growing a teaching business while also growing a family, how to go from one-to-one lessons to online courses, and her tips for those getting started.

We get into the different platforms that you can use to host your courses, favorite social media platforms, the biggest frustration in the early days and much more.



Jennifer moved to Brazil with her husband and that’s when she started teaching English.

After three years of teaching in language schools, she wanted to have more independence. One night, started on a teaching platform before creating a website and profiles on Facebook and Instagram.

The biggest frustration at the beginning was managing student expectations and finding the balance between helping learners for free and creating an income.

Jennifer found students through Facebook in the beginning. She started with an old student who she used to teach and got many referrals from this initial student.

When I asked about her favorite social media platform, you’ll notice that this has changed. At first, it was Facebook, then Instagram, and she is currently coming up with a new strategy.

We then talked about YouTube and why she stopped giving a live lesson at the same time every week. She has seen growth since stopping this.


Jennifer started by putting her online courses on Udemy, then on to her own site, before going with Teachable.

Here is a break down of these platforms:

Udemy (affiliate link):

  • they host and sell your online course
  • marketplace for students
  • less control over your customer information and pricing

Selz (affiliate link)

  • digital product payments and delivery
  • no marketplace for students (market your own courses)
  • no online course templates

Teachable (affiliate link)

  • best all-in-one solution
  • not as much control than hosting it on your site

Own Website

  • most control
  • can be difficult to set up

Jennifer spent her evenings and weekends creating her first courses; like a side hustle.


Jennifer thought about maternity leave in advance.

She collaborated with other teachers so she had content to post for the first few weeks after giving birth.

She also decided to work asynchronously with her learners where she gave them feedback on their speaking and writing.

Routines are constantly changing. She worked while her son was napping. Boundaries are important.

She wants to improve the courses she has now and start doing live events.

Learn more about her company here.



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2017 Review - TESLO

2017 Review and Goals for 2018 (Did I Reach 200,000 Subscribers on YouTube?)

2017 Review - TESLOWelcome to my 5th annual review.

This is where I talk about what I achieved and learned in the previous year and outline my goals for the upcoming year.

Last year, my goals were to:

  1. Create a new product for English learners
  2. Reach 200,000 subscribers on YouTube
  3. Grow my teaching email list to 50,000
  4. Get in the best shape of my life

Let’s get straight into it.


In 2014, I created a program for English learners. This started on WizIQ before I transferred it to my website.

Although this program did well, I wanted to do something new; something that could sit beside my original course.

For the first two months, I brainstormed what my new product would be like, wrote several outlines, bought domain names, and started creating content.

But then, I decided to do something else instead: to take the course I already had and upgrade it.

The To Fluency Program, the course that I started in 2014, was heavy on theory.

It showed learners how they could learn English. It went through two main methods that they could apply to their learning and how to commit to a long-term plan.

Those who followed the course this saw great results. However, the majority refund requests focused on the lack of materials.

They liked the method but wanted downloadable materials made for them.

This is what I decided to do in March:

  • rerecord the entire course
  • include a pronunciation section with downloadable audio
  • create flashcards that went with the lessons
  • relaunch it and promote it on social media, YouTube, and to my email list

It was a big task but one that I felt was necessary at the time.

It turned out to be a big success. The relaunch went to plan and the feedback I’ve received has been fantastic.

After the relaunch, it was time to put my focus back on YouTube.



Last summer, we moved house.

This took over our lives for 2-3 months.

I won’t go into detail, but we ran into several difficulties that took up large parts of my day leading up to the purchase. Packing is no joke. It takes hours and hours. Unpacking too. One day was spent taking down, transporting, and reassembling the trampoline.

Our kids take up our mornings, evenings, and weekends. Therefore, the time I had to do all this was during work hours.

So, for 2-3 months, I was averaging 10-15 hour workweeks.

When this happens, it’s easy to lose a little motivation. I also got into cryptocurrencies at this time and found myself researching new coins instead of making videos.

My YouTube channel took a dive over spring and summer.

Here is a picture that shows this.

YouTube Views

Watchtime peaked in February but went down as I created my new course and moved house.

I made quick videos because I felt like I had to get something out there.

But I wasn’t excited about making these videos and it showed.

The momentum I had earlier in the year died out.

I didn’t panic, however. This had happened before. I’ve gone through periods where I wasn’t fully motivated. My mind was elsewhere.

Once things with the house started settling down – and my son went back to school! – it all came back. With a vengeance!


While I was brainstorming my course at the start of the year, I was killing the YouTube game.

As you saw, watch time exploded.

But with so much time spent on my new program – and with the hectic summer – I lost a lot of momentum.

In September, I did the following:

  • got excited about growing my YouTube channel again
  • researched the best ways to do this
  • consciously made my videos better
  • promoted them

I looked at what I was doing and upped my game.

Here is a video I made on this:

I made my videos longer (great for watch time). I increased the quality. I kept users on YouTube by suggesting other videos instead of constantly talking about my book. I went through past videos and changed thumbnails to make them more clickable.

In fact, one of the videos that got a facelift – a video I recorded in 2014 – has started to gain a lot of traction.

The changes I made worked. I’m very close to getting back to the highs I achieved in February last year.



We decided to spend the holidays in Manchester last year.

Leading up to this, I was realistic about how much I could get done before, during, and after this vacation.

I ended up getting sick and wasn’t able to do anything for 7 weeks. Again, I lost some momentum with my YouTube channel and in general.

In the weeks leading up to going away, I recorded 8 videos so that I could release them gradually.

This helped greatly and leads me to my first goal: to get ahead with videos.

I’ve always shied away from this as I like to introduce continuity; to tell stories and create open loops. But having videos that I consistently post is more important.

So, that’s goal number one.

Before I talk about the rest of my goals, let’s change pace.


I didn’t get much last year. The year before, I got new cameras, new software, the whole shebang.

Here is what I did get:

I got the background for my new course. I haven’t used it since.

The microphone stand and tripod have been great. The new light too. I don’t know where the clip on mic is, though!

Here is what I use when making videos – most of this was bought in 2017:


I lost 27 lbs while gaining strength.

I hit my goal and being consistent with diet and exercise works. Who knew? Here is a before and after picture:

Before and After

Before and after

The goal of reaching 50,000 email subscribers (for this brand) was pushed down the pecking order. This is more of a priority this year.


Alright, time for the juicy bit.

Instead of setting goals for the entire year, I am going to focus on the first three months.

I’m aware that, as I post this, the first month has already gone. This only makes Parkinson’s Law stronger!


Momentum with YouTube was lost because I wasn’t able to make new videos. Getting ahead will solve this issue.

If I have to take time off work for whatever reason, I’ll have videos ready to go.

By the end of March, I want to be six weeks ahead. I’ve seen other teachers do this and I want it too. I’m also going to be more consistent with this blog and YouTube channel.

Once I reach this stage, I’ll be able to dedicate more time to other projects knowing that I have content ready to go.

It will also take the pressure off if something happens.


I want to offer something new to my English learners and to you guys (coming soon!).

When I have started to do this in the past, a reason to not do it always cropped up.

I’m sure you know what this feels like. It’s difficult to do something new. It’s uncomfortable.

Whenever I get this feeling, I’m going to ask myself: what’s stopping me from doing this?

Writing things down helps. Taking that first step does too. If you want to create videos, for example, create a short one and share it with a few people. Take things from there.

Let’s all get out of our comfort zones. It’s where the magic happens.


This is something I’ve already started.

While sick in bed, I went through all my files and went on a delete spree. Everything is now organized and I’m going to stay on top of this.

When I start a new project like making a new YouTube video, all the files (video, audio, artwork etc.) will be in one folder. Once the project is complete, I file it all away.

It’s like I have an inbox for projects. It makes me focus on 1-2 projects at a time. I can also find what I need quickly because my files are all organized.

There’s nothing in my download or desktop folder.

I’m also going to get rid of anything that I don’t need (two bags of clothes are in the car ready to be donated). I’m embracing minimalism again. It feels good!


Being sick means that you can’t work or spend time with your children. I want to be present while doing both. I’m going to do whatever it takes to be as healthy as possible.

This is my number one priority.

Without this, nothing else matters.


Overall, I’m happy with how the year went.

It’s easy to make excuses for things not working out. I could just say that I didn’t reach my goal of 200,000 subscribers because we moved house and for other reasons.

However, I know that I have to get ahead to account for things that happen. To be consistently consistent 😉

I’m excited to get stuck into my goals and I’ll be sure to update you at the end of quarter one.

What are your goals this year? What do you want to achieve?

Let me know below!


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