Many teachers now have one-on-one or small group Zoom classes with their students.
These can be great opportunities for learning — even better in some ways than live in-person classes.
But sometime online classes can “go south”, if the teacher is unprepared or has unrealistic expectations.
Here are 5 tips to make sure your Zoom conversation classes are successful.
1. Be an active listener!
Try to “be with” your partner. Take time to “tune in”. Take a deep breath. Find your student’s natural pace. Don’t try to rush the student. Show interest. Be receptive. Respond to your student’s ideas, not just their English!
2. Be patient!
Patience is super important. Keep the pace relatively slow. Give lots of think time — time for the student to prepare an answer and work through how to say what they want to say.
Learn to grade your language – move up and down a scale of difficulty. Think “simplify”. Use short sentences. Use basic vocabulary. You don’t need to simplify your ideas – but you do need to make your ideas more direct. This way, the student has more time to process! It creates a more comfortable exchange.
4. Slow down
It’s important to speak slowly, especially with beginners and intermediate students. But don’t pause after every word. Speak in “pause groups.” (Speak/ in pause groups.// But don’t pause/ after every word.//) Pause after each set of words. This will create a comfortable pace.
5. Prepare some “core speaking activities”
“Free conversation” – natural, spontaneous, unscripted – is great practice. Some students are good at keeping up “free conversation” and learn a lot from it, but many students will need some structured activities. Prepare a few “fall back” speaking activities that you can use again and again, especially when the student doesn’t feel comfortable with open conversation.
If you try these tips, you can have great conversation practice – even with beginners!
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Michael Rost, principal author of Pearson English Interactive, has been active in the areas of language teaching, learning technology and language acquisition research for over 25 years. His interest in bilingualism and language education began in the Peace Corps in West Africa and was fuelled during his 10 years as an educator in Japan and extensive touring as a lecturer in East Asia and Latin America. Formerly on the faculty of the TESOL programs at Temple University and the University of California, Berkeley, Michael now works as an independent researcher, author, and speaker based in San Francisco.