We find that EFL teachers are increasingly expected to offer elements of their courses online, but very often are not sure where to start, or how to teach online. That´s why we wrote Teaching Online – to provide teachers with exactly this sort of guidance.
The book has advice about online tools to use, what part(s) of your course you could offer online, and above all, a great set of activities you can use to teach online. By teaching online, we mean that you and your students are doing the activity 100% online and at a distance from each other (not in a computer room together, or using a connected IWB in class!). Here are some of our favourite online teaching activities, and you can find more on our respective blogs (links at the end).
1 My window, my world
This is a getting-to-know-you activity. Start by taking a photo of your regular workspace (preferably including the closest window and what you see out of it when you aren’t looking at the computer). Prepare a short written description of it. Post both the description and the photo to your discussion forum* or class blog. Learners then do the same. You and the learners then read each other’s descriptions and comment on them.
It’s a great way to get a window into what the other people on your course are like. The idea for this originally came from our colleague based in Italy – Valentina Dodge.
*If you are using a VLE (virtual learning environment) then you will be able to set up different discussion forums for activities
2 Five clicks away
This is a great reading activity that really can only be done online. First find a visually attractive web page on a topic of general interest to your learners. Choose one that has several links on the page, preferably in one area of the page. A news or magazine site will work well, or a site on a specific topic, such as the World Wildlife Fund or a film review site. Tell the students they must start at this site. They begin reading on whatever takes their interest. However, they are ONLY ALLOWED FIVE CLICKS away from that page. At the end of five clicks they stop browsing and take a screenshot of the page they reached and prepare a description of 1) the end page they got to and 2) the steps they took to get there. They post these to your course website.
It’s often very interesting to see how different people ended up in completely different places.
3 Follow that story!
Here’s another reading activity. Find a large news site in English and choose four to five news stories that you think “have legs” (that is, they will keep going for at least a week, e.g. the world cup would have been a good one in July). Give the list of news stories to the students, and provide them with the URLs to several news sites in English. They must “follow” their news story for a week, reading or watching items relating to it in English from a variety of news sites. At the end of the week, they summarise their findings into a report and post it on the course site (or email it to you).
4 Sounds of me
This activity can be used at the beginning of an online course. It helps learners to get to know each other a bit. Choose four or five songs which are significant to you in some way, and add them to an online play list (Grooveshark is a good one – http://listen.grooveshark.com/#/ ). Provide a link to your playlist (e.g. in a forum in your online course, or in a blog). Include why you chose each of the songs, and why they are significant to you. Your learners can listen to your playlist, and then respond to your posting with comments or questions. Learners then create their own online playlists, and post a link and explanation for each. They listen to and comment on each others’ choice of music. Instead of using audio, you and learners could create online video playlists e.g. in a site like YouTube. People often have strong emotional ties to certain pieces of music, so this can be quite a powerful sharing activity. I especially like the way this activity brings in other media (audio or video) – one danger in online courses is that they become too relentlessly text-based.
5 My precious…
This is another great activity to help learners in an online course get to know each other better. Get learners to take a digital photo of an important/significant object that they own. This could be a piece of jewellery, a souvenir, a talisman or good luck charm, a drawing or painting, a CD, a piece of furniture that has been in the family for generations … (If your learners don’t own digital cameras, they could find an image of a similar object on the Internet, and use that). Learners prepare a 100-word text explaining what the object is, and why it is significant. They post their photo and text to a forum in your online course, or to a blog. They then read about and comment on each other’s objects. Like ‘Sounds of me’ above, this activity enables learners to share meaningful personal information with each other, and can really help the group to ‘gel’. It also brings in another form of media – digital images – which helps add variety to course content.
6 Find more activities…
These are just five of our favourite activities – there are plenty more in our book! You´ll also find more resources and online activities on the links below:
- Downloadable resources and extracts from Teaching Online
More favourite online activities in our blogs:
- E-moderation Station [Nicky´s blog]
- Six Things [Lindsay´s blog]
- Nicky´s Teaching Online guest posts on the Delta Development blog