Maximizing The Speaking Opportunities in Online TEFL Lessons

Ways To Maximizing The Speaking Opportunities in Online ESL/EFL Lessons

For a successful teaching-learning experience, a little creativity and imagination is needed on the part of the teacher and the learners both. Teaching English online looks like a truly striking career option for numerous teachers. Well, quite unfortunately, when they get into the virtual/online classroom, things don’t go as well as they anticipated at all times. Also, the year 2020 has changed everything, especially the marketplace for teaching English as a foreign language. Teachers who experienced face-to-face EFL/ESL classrooms have suddenly found themselves struggling to get students’ attention (mostly young learners), to take part in speaking activities or respond and so on.

So, how can you make sure that your learners are well-engaged and getting plenty of opportunities to practice English speaking?

Well, think about how can you modify the different concepts to suit different types of attention. Try to consider what online teaching tools you have access to, the most common media for delivering the course materials for online classes are via a PowerPoint presentation. These are easy to generate and can be uploaded to most of the online platforms.

But, have you heard the expression ‘Death by PowerPoint’? This is appropriate for language teaching specifically. The significant difference between the online/virtual classroom is that teachers generally get less direct feedback from their learners. These feedbacks are related to how the lesson is going for them, whether they’ve faced any issues and so on. You may be thinking your learners have their camera on but it can be actually problematic to recognize why your learners aren’t saying much!

Reasons can be many, maybe your learners don’t understand what you’re saying, perhaps they are confused, maybe they think it’s too easy, maybe they’re bored, perhaps they have temporarily lost their Wi-Fi connection and so on. One thing about the teaching practice that has been a persistent issue for the less-effectiveness of learning session is classes become less learner-centred. And in online teaching, teaching professionals have little control over the pace of the class where students can easily switch off and distracted by anything else that’s going on around them. In short, learners are no longer pleased paying expensive lesson fees to listen to someone who only talks.

Physical Communicative Classroom vs Virtual Classroom


So, how did you end up here?

When was the last time any of your learners talked with you?

In order to understand that, we need to recognize the fact why student talking is so crucial!

STT or the student talking time is one of the possessions that today’s ESL/EFL students expect most from their lessons. Nowadays, with the help of the internet, students have more and more resources than ever to advance their passive aptitudes.

How can you make the most of the STT?

A 50-50 balance of STT and TTT (Teacher Talking Time) is the industry standard, but some schools – and instructors – boast 70-30, or even 80-20 ratios in their classes.

Here are some teaching ideas that you can take away and use in your online sessions:

Record Function

Try to use the record function in your online class. Prepare some creative short speaking activities, and ask your learners to record it. Then listen back to these in class, and get students to critically involve with the footages in some way. This helps in developing the speaking skills of your learners immensely.

Ask Students To Read Instructions

Well, this needs no effort on your part other than just a simple command. It is a great activity for the lessons where you use textbook, workbook or worksheet exercises often. For example, all you’ll have to ask is something like, “Maria, read the instructions clearly in front of others.” This aids you to build the background for the activity and form persistence.

Interaction Patterns

Strategize your interaction patterns well. This is much more than in a face-to-face class, you need to think about how your learners can interact through online. You can also include the private chat to prompt students to ask each other questions. Sometimes, your students will talk more easily if you set up the activity and then turn your camera off (of course, after having nominated a student to lead the activity).

Focus on Full Sentences

Try to give emphasis on full sentences every time! Certainly, it’s not natural to speak only in complete sentences all the time. But, for improving the STT, full sentences are the key. They also highlight your students to think about their grammar and syntax as well.

Maximize Group Works

Maximize the pair works or group works. In online group lessons, students should practice with each other at all times. When learners do pair and group work, they create and set teamwork and communication practices. These types of activities will improve the STT and give them the prospect to learn from each other well.

Speak for a Minute

Here, you select different topics and put them on the board. Learners then pick a topic to talk about. Give them some preparation time. Students take turns to talk for a minute on that subject. Give some other activities to the other learners, e.g. listen for specific words/phrases and make a note of them. This is a good lesson – activity for your online ESL/EFL learners.


You may create a poll consisting of a few questions (anything). Your learners will answer the questions. Show the results for learners to describe and you can turn the audio off while learners practise their sentences on their own. Name the learners to say their sentences.

Well, apart from these, there are a lot of other asynchronous speaking activities as well that may help you:

  • A short drama
  • A mock interview
  • Debate
  • Personalised descriptions
  • Story starters
  • Quiz questions
  • Allowing your students to do summaries of the sessions
  • Keeping your signs and instructions simple
  • Building the community through social media
  • Gamify your lessons with badges plus certificates

And so on…

Hopefully, these strategies along with a TEFL Course in Chennai program will help you to keep your ESL/EFL learners driven! When in doubt, just think of that as the 21st century EFL/ESL teacher, you are there to support your students through the learning development.

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