Are you ready for the next step in our ESL Curriculum Development Series? In this installment, we will discuss how you can adapt and perfect your curriculum for your ESL school's platform. We will also talk about the importance of incorporating interactive materials into your ESL lessons.
Technology is a very important aspect for both of these goals of curriculum creation. We will address how technology can help you are develop the best ESL resources for teachers and students, and the questions you need to ask yourself when thinking about classroom technology integration.
Understanding How Your Online Platform Will Affect Your ESL Curriculum
At this point in your ESL curriculum development, it is important to take a step back from content creation and assess how your teaching platform will affect your materials. Let’s begin by discussing the ways your platform can affect how your educators who will present your content. Educators face a multitude of challenges on a daily basis no matter what their platform. One way you can limit these challenges is by crafting a curriculum which can quickly adapt to the needs of the teachers who will be presenting it.
The Challenges of Teaching ESL in an Online Classroom
The first step online ESL educators must take to avoid an out of control online classroom is to establish clear and unbending classroom rules. The second step is student engagement. Keeping things interactive and exciting within the world of online learning is essential if you want to avoid a group (or an individual) of rowdy, distracted students.
Technology is a wonderful thing, but let’s face it, the technology used for online ESL learning is still relatively new. Even if you use an incredibly reliable online teaching platform, like Your Agora, things can still go wrong on your end! Power outages, internet glitches, and coffee spilled onto the keyboard can sometimes set lessons back for several minutes, hours, or even days!
Some students, especially young ELLs, are shy no matter what the context, but general sheepishness and social anxiety are exacerbated when the student is placed in front of the camera or on the phone. Even if a student is not shy, however, some educators still find it challenging to build rapport with students they have not, and probably will never, have the chance to meet in person. Get to know you games and questions are a vital part of online ESL courses.
Keeping students motivated
In addition to building rapport with students, never, or rarely, interacting with students in person can lead to motivational challenges. Even though many online schools have forums through which students and teachers can communicate outside of class, it is difficult to provide the same level of motivation as a teacher can in person. It is not impossible, however, to keep your students motivated through your online platform, it often just takes more intentional time and effort on the educators part.
Keeping students engaged solves the problems online ESL teachers have with classroom management, building rapport, and student motivation. Student engagement on its own, however, is often another one of the challenges of teaching online ESL classes. Well-prepped lessons and a well-stocked arsenal of engaging activities like warm-ups, role-playing, physical movement (primarily for young learners), and clear direction resolves these issues almost entirely.
Five Steps to Engage Your Online ESL Learners
Student engagement solves many issues online educators face. Here are five steps to engaging students in your online ESL curriculum.
Create clear expectations for your students
Always provide a FUN brain warm up
Use your advanced students as helpers
Activities, activities, activities
Provide quality, timely feedback for every student
By talking with your students about the expectations you have for their academic performance, you will be providing them with a clear set of standards they must meet for every classroom activity. In addition to the classroom rules, you should communicate these standards on a regular basis either formally or informally.
The rule of fun does not just apply to young learners. Providing your students with an entertaining, brain-stimulating activity at the start of every lesson will help them to let go of the stress of their daily life and get in the mood for an engaging lesson. It will help your students feel relaxed as you present the days material.
If your online classrooms involve groups of students rather than individual lessons, remember that just as in a traditional class, it can be beneficial to group struggling students with a helpful partner. Fostering interaction between your students will automatically create a more positive classroom environment.
Always incorporate activities into online classes, no matter what age group and no matter how long the lesson, to allow your student to have a more hands-on experience that is often lacking in online learning. Providing a variety of activities are the most critical aspect of creating student engagement in your online ESL classroom.
Feedback for online students is critical because, just as setting expectations, it provides students with concrete steps towards improving their English skills. Quality feedback is also essential for young ESL learners whose parents are rarely able to communicate directly with the online ESL instructor. Timeliness of feedback keeps your student focused on classroom goals after the webcam goes off.
When creating ESL curriculum for online classes, it is vital to keep these issues in mind. Addressing this issues through a well-prepared system of classroom materials will allow your online teachers to conduct smoother lessons and will help your learners prepare for their futures.
Steps to Building an Interactive Curriculum
If you are creating your curriculum for an online ESL classroom, then you cannot skip this step. Your online ESL curriculum must be interactive if you are going to develop a successful program for your educators and their students.
If you are crafting a curriculum for a traditional classroom, however, you have two choices: leave the interactive materials up to your teachers, or incorporate carefully chosen interactive materials during the development process. Either way, you should address interactive materials in some form through your curriculum. Let’s begin by talking about the value of these materials.
Understand the Value of Interactive Lessons
Creating interactive materials and environments for your ESL school can be very challenging and time-consuming. This section will focus on convincing you why creating interactive materials for your teachers is vital to the success of your ESL school.
Studies have shown that students with teachers using interactive methods learn six times more than students in non-interactive classrooms. In addition, multiple studies were done by Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, the University of British Columbia, and others, where researchers have observed that even inexperienced teachers can teach effectively using interactive methods. Educators have also seen an increase in retention rate when they use interactive methods. If that hasn’t convinced you to create a curriculum for an interactive classroom, then I don’t know what will!
As you create your new ESL school and curriculum, I’m sure you desire to craft materials that will help retain your students and help them achieve their highest potential. So, follow these few steps to create your interactive material.
Questions to Ask Before Creating an Interactive Curriculum
Asking yourself this question might seem like a step backward, but it is important to understand how the interactive curriculum you will now be developing will fit into your school.
- Does interactive curriculum fit into how your school currently operates?
- Do you have the resources to create an interactive curriculum?
- How will this type of material operate through your platform whether it’s online, in person, or a mix of both?
The answers to these three questions should help set your expectations for the interactive materials you will be creating. It will also help you understand how your teachers can incorporate interaction into their daily lessons and student activities and how best to use the appropriate assistive technology for ESL students.
Incorporating Fun Into the Classroom
Now that you understand why and how you will improve your curriculum with interaction, you are ready to take steps towards helping your educators make their lessons more fun and engaging.
Here are several ways to make your curriculum more interactive:
Always include a warm-up for every lesson. This is the first and most significant step in creating an engaging classroom environment. No matter what time of day your educators hold classes, their students will always need to prepare their mind to learn English. Do your educators a favor by including warm-ups you have found or developed to complement the materials in the coming lesson.
Only use interactive, informal assessments. In the previous installment in the Curriculum Development Series, I discussed the importance of informally assessing your ESL students on a daily basis. If you choose to include this in your curricula, then you already have a built-in form of student engagement. Informal assessments can be very exciting for students and can often come in the form of a game or classroom activity.
Create interactive structures, not just activities. These structures are similar to activities but can be adapted to contain different information depending on the objective of the current lesson. A popular example of these structures is Fishbowl because students of almost every level will be able to take part in this task. There are many of these types of activities that can be found online to include in your curriculum.
Create time within your curriculum for adequate student-teacher interaction. When writing your curriculum, it can be beneficial for you to include many opportunities for the students to interact with their teachers and each other. This can come in the form of discussion questions, integrative technology, or a variety of activities.
If you begin integrating interactive materials in the curriculum development stage, then it will become a natural part of the teaching methods of your educators.
Involving Technology in Your Curriculum and Your Classroom
Every year, more technology that will improve the experience of English language learners and teachers. As an educator, it is essential to be aware of the latest technology trends so you can understand the realities of your young students. It is also your responsibility to understand the benefit of incorporating technology into the classroom.
You can learn more about the types of technology available to ESL instructors in this Your Agora post.
Here are several reasons why incorporating technology into your curriculum can be beneficial:
- It provides portable materials - this point is particularly important for ELs because they often learn more when utilizing their language skills outside of traditional classroom time. Teachers can integrate language tools on laptops, phones, or tablets to ensure the students continue thinking of their language lessons outside of class. There are even English video games students can play to ascertain specific language abilities.
- Technology helps students learn valuable technological skills - technology is an invaluable part of everyday life, and for young students, it will only continue to become more vital to their professional and personal growth. The students will also learn how to translate their language abilities to the digital world. You might even consider doing a lesson on technology itself!
- It can be used as a way to increase student engagement - due to the excitement technology can bring to a lesson, students become immediately more engaged by materials if educators incorporate technology.
- Using technology often saves time for teachers - when developing your ESL curriculum, take into consideration the amount of time your educators could save if you provide technology that will make grading and administrative tasks easy for them!
We just talked about several of the benefits of technology integration, but there are certain drawbacks to address. Teachers and students commonly misuse technology meaning it can rapidly become a hindrance and a classroom distraction. An important step in avoiding this issue is ensuring teacher receive adequate training and provide proper student oversight.
Without a doubt, technology is an important aspect of a strong curriculum, but only if it is appropriately used. One thing you can consider including in your curriculum is a responsible use agreement for classroom technology. This way, your teachers will have a well-prepared document to review with their students as the program begins.
Next, in our ESL Curriculum Development Series, we will discuss how to fine-tune your materials to provide the best possible lessons for your ESL school!
Did you know the Your Agora platform helps you create, share, and assign your materials with ease? Our service can quickly reduce the amount of time you spend organizing and developing your schools material. We also offer advice on different types of ESL technology resources.
Is there a catch? No, because Your Agora’s interactive teaching platform is entirely free for students and teachers! Join Your Agora today!