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December 2021 - Year 23 - Issue 6

ISSN 1755-9715

Live Teaching Online


Live Online Teaching

Lindsay Clandfield is an award-winning writer, teacher, teacher trainer and international speaker in the field of English language teaching. He has written more than ten coursebooks and is the main author of the new young adult course Studio (Helbling Languages). Lindsay is also the creative force behind various web projects including the popular blog Six Things, the long-running podcast The TEFL Commute, the e-publishing collective The Round and the sci-fi/adventure materials website Extreme Language Teaching. Alongside John Hughes, he is the co-author of ETpedia Materials Writing.

Jill Hadfield has worked as a teacher and teacher trainer in Britain, France, China, Tibet, Madagascar and New Zealand, run short courses and seminars for teachers in many other parts of the world and worked as a consultant for the UK’s British Council and Department of International Development, writing materials for and reviewing aid projects in Africa. She was until recently Associate Professor in Language Teacher Education at Unitec, New Zealand and has now returned to working freelance. She has written over thirty books, translated into a total of 17 languages. 


Why this book

This book was written during a period in which many teachers had to turn to live online teaching, perhaps for the first time. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 forced schools around the world to close: millions of teachers and learners were unable to meet in the real classroom. Teachers were expected to continue their classes online, using whatever means they could. To do this, they had to address numerous problems. Firstly, there was getting acquainted with the mechanics of new platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. After that initial stage, they had to work out how to adapt their teaching to the constraints of the platform, addressing such questions as:

  • Am I going to have to change the way I teach? 
  • Is my teaching going to be more top-down or can I create a communicative online classroom? 
  • How can I involve the students? How will I know they are paying attention?
  • How can I encourage the quieter students to participate?
  • How can I monitor work effectively?
  • Can I do familiar activities that I used to do in the physical classroom, for example, information gap tasks and role plays?
  • Do the medium and the students’ circumstances open up any new possibilities? 

These are the questions addressed in this book.


What the book contains

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, a distinction has been drawn between online learning, which were already in existence  and emergency remote teaching which was new.

Online learning programmes require planning, and are often set up in tandem with face-to-face offerings. They are implemented slowly, perhaps with a trial period at the beginning. A period of time is allotted at the beginning of a course for learners to get accustomed to the environment.

Emergency remote teaching, on the other hand, is what happens when a school closes and the teachers are expected to continue their classes online with little or no time to prepare, using whatever tools they have to hand. This is what happened in 2020. As the pandemic slowly subsides, however, aspects of emergency remote teaching may still remain or become more and more part of the ‘normal’ online learning landscape. Teaching live online lessons with web conferencing tools is one such aspect.

Many books that address online learning, such as our previous book Interaction Online tend to lean more towards asynchronous teaching, for example, using email, forums or messaging services. In this book, in contrast, we wanted to explore the synchronous side of online teaching, in particular, looking at live online lessons that occur in a platform such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet. It is our view that teachers will be increasingly required to be able to teach using tools such as these, if not for their whole course then for parts of it, or to be able to switch to giving a class online in a future emergency remote teaching situation.

It’s undeniable that the live online class presents restrictions and disadvantages for communicative language teaching. It is, in many ways, less than ideal. But teaching in less-than-ideal circumstances can give rise to new and creative ideas that have value beyond the situation which they were devised to address. Teaching large groups of 40 or more students, teaching mixed-ability classes or teaching in lecture halls with fixed chairs are three other ‘difficult’ environments that have historically presented disadvantages for the language classroom. And yet, language teachers have found ways of working in those environments. Sometimes they have found activities specifically for these environments that are communicative and very creative! We found that while writing this book we were also undergoing a similar journey. Our main question in writing this book was how to overcome the constraints of a platform designed in the first place for business meetings to provide communicative, engaging and meaningful activities. In particular we wanted  to provide:

  • Suggestions for starters and finishers that  helped students to get to know each other
  • Suggestions for adapting familiar classroom activities such as Running Dictation to the new environment
  • Suggestions for new communicative activities that overcame the constraints of the new environment
  • Suggestions for how to exploit features of the new learning environment that are not available in the face-to-face classroom: exploiting the fact that students are all in different  locations for example, instead of in the same classroom.


How  the book does this

The activities in this book are classified into five broad areas according to the different kinds of tools at a teacher’s disposal when teaching online using a web conferencing platform.

  1. Video and audio
  2. Participation tools (such as the chatbox and interaction buttons)
  3. Shared screen (whiteboard, shared documents, shared web browsing)
  4. Breakout rooms
  5. Combining platforms (using a live platform such as Zoom in tandem with an asynchronous platform such as Edmodo, WhatsApp or Facebook, to enable a greater range of activities.)

Within each section  there are two parts. The first consists of  practical teaching tips for how to best use the tool, for example, how to manage Breakout Rooms or how to use the poll and participation features. In the second part we look at how a teacher can create communicative and meaningful activities such as role plays,  information gap activities, questionnaires, quizzes or discussions.

In addition, we include activities that acknowledge that sitting for a long time in front of a screen is not always optimal for learning. We have called this final section ‘Zooming out’; it involves getting students away from the screen by sending them into their local environment to find something and come back and share it. 

Tagged  Publications 
  • Live Teaching Online
    Lindsay Clandfield, Pavilion;Jill Hadfield, Pavilion

  • Tune into English
    Fergal Kavanagh, Italy