ESL Online Teaching Strategies

Today is Teacher Tuesday! Each Tuesday I share my experiences about high school English, Online ESL with Qkids, or kindergarten class through what my wife, Leah, might share with me. Today the focal point of the discussion is about  my top 3 ESL online teaching strategies that I feel are non-negotiable strategies for a successful class with English language learners.

Before we get into the strategies, I want to first discuss a special week for us teachers–Teacher Appreciation Week. It is always a humbling experience to receive kinds words, and even in some cases, gifts.  I can’t express how grateful I am to just simply converse with students on a daily basis and experience the individuality of each student. Their presence is a present enough for me.

Today, while at work, my wife, Leah, sent me a text with some SUPER SWEET pictures. I have posted them below.

Teacher Appreciation Week

My wife with her kindergarten students, releasing the butterflies after finishing the life cycle unit over butterflies.

Teacher Appreciation Week

In case you can’t make out what it says, across the top it reads “I luve Miss Leu She is Butifil”

Teacher Appreciation Week

A nice note from one of my high school students.

Folks, when I receive notes like this and see sweet pics that my wife receives, it makes my worst day much brighter. I display any notes I receive on my bulletin board as friendly reminders from time to time. This is my “why” for my career path.  Get knocked down 9 times, I am willing to get back up 10 for the kids who love us, need us, and appreciate what we do. So, on this week and every week, we appreciate our students as well.

As already stated, I want to briefly discuss, in my opinion, the three most important  ESL Strategies for teaching online.

Online ESL Teaching Strategy #1: Enthusiasm

Online ESL Teaching Enthusiasm

It is human nature to be more cooperative with those willing to offer energy, patience, smiles, and consistent encouragement. I will be the first to admit that this was a big deterrent for me when I applied for Qkids. Overly jovial personalities were very off-putting for me. That sounds surprising, I know.  Read more about my experiences by CLICKING HERE.

Your personality does not have to be over the top to be an online teacher. My suggestion with enthusiasm is to find what works for your personality.  Don’t be someone you are not.  When I first started out, I was attempting to be someone I wasn’t, based on some of the promo videos for various companies. Once I settled in after a few months, I began using more of my own personality and not so much what I saw on Youtube. You do you and the enthusiasm becomes much more sincere and is not as emotionally draining.

One way to show students enthusiasm non-verbally is through a reward system of some sort. Many online teaching platforms have a built-in reward system, while other teachers also make a second reward system of their own. This shows students gratitude and enthusiasm my rewarding them before the first enthusiastic word might ever be spoken Let that create your guide to spread enthusiasm in your own unique way.

Online ESL Teaching Strategy #2: Visual Representation

Online ESL Teaching Visual Learner

This is SO important. Many students you encounter have such limited English that they are unable to do the lesson proficiently at which point visual representation is needed. This can be accomplished in two ways and preferably a combination of both.

  1. Props–These can be minimal if the teaching platform is robust with really good visuals already. However, some props are encouraged to enhance the lesson and student’s knowledge. Many students are visual learners and an object to clarify a word can be the difference in a student learning a new word and not. Prop usage must be very intentional and have purpose for enhancing the overall learning experience. Sure, props can be used to make the lesson more entertaining, but the main use should be to help the student.
  2. Total Physical Response (TRP) are hand gestures and actions that make a word or sentence more understandable to a student. These gestures prompt students while also clarifying meanings that the student may have trouble following otherwise.

Couple these two visual representation techniques together and you have the perfect combination for student learning and teacher success. Plus, the families you encounter during lessons will be super grateful.

Online ESL Teaching Strategy #3: Student Speak/Teacher Tells

Online ESL Teaching Say/Tell

Last but not least, this is probably the most important of my top 3 online ESL teaching strategies that I have not always implemented, and because of that, I received some constructive feedback when I was first starting. My approach when I started was more of a “monkey see, monkey do” approach. I would say the word or sentence and the student would repeat after me. However, the rigor of this was very low because it is fairly easy for students to simply repeat what they hear.

One day when I logged in, one of my pieces of feedback was that the instruction was too teacher-centered. I messaged my mentor for clarification. I then made the decision that for each activity I would let the student say the word or sentence first and then I would tell/correct any mistakes or reward the student for a job well done. This flipped approach made the lessons much more student-centered and offered that level of engagement and rigor that parents wish to see with their children.

I have often heard that the student talk/teacher talk ratio should be 50:50, but with this approach I feel like it is more 60:40 or 70:30, depending on the level of student and the interactivity of the teaching platform.

Less is More

Let me also note that just because I am talking less does not mean that I am any less diligent in helping the student. It means I am a facilitator and can intervene at anytime to help, while also allowing the student to learn more  by doing.


Many of you may still be on the fence as to whether this is a viable way for you to make money online from home. Some read this post thinking that my top 3 online ESL teaching strategies were these earth shattering approaches and might be too difficult to follow or develop, but these are strategies that anyone can implement right away. I am here to tell you that this part-time job is not work at all.  If interested in supplementing your income feel free to apply with one of the premiere online ESL teaching companies (Qkids) by CLICKING HERE.