Extending ESL Lessons for the Online Platform
Every so often, we get a quick-witted student who finishes the lessons at the speed of light. Ending the lesson early is not an option. The parents pay good money for a certain amount of time, and we are obligated to stay with the student until the time is up. To avoid awkward moments, I’ve devised ways to draw out the lessons and to add in extra activities.
Gauge Your Student
Lesson extension should be implemented throughout the lesson, rather than waiting until the last slide. Part of what we do is deliver value. If the parents see that you reach the last slide too quickly, they will feel they are getting less value for the money they pay. To avoid ending the lesson plan with too much time left over, try to assess the student within the first few slides.
If the student is engaged and is doing well with reading and speaking, you can probably assume that lesson extension will be needed. Extend on just a few slides so that you don’t have to rush to finish all of them. It takes practice to perfect the timing, and there is certainly a learning curve for new teachers who aren’t familiar with the company’s material.
Micro-conversations at the beginning of the lesson are a great way to assess the students. Just be careful to keep it to no more than sixty seconds. Conversations at the end of the lesson can be effective, but be cautious to make sure it is directed towards a certain goal. The Cambridge method includes freer practice, which is using the lesson content to allow the student to speak with more autonomy.
Word tic-tac-toe is a favorite among my students. It is so versatile and can be used for all students, no matter the proficiency level.
Spending more time on reinforcing proper syntax is always a good idea, even for advanced learners. Speakers of tonal languages have to get acquainted with the highly inflected Indo-European languages. These inflections include case system, quantity, and verb tense/conjugation. One common difficulty is turning a declarative sentence into its interrogative form. For high-performing students, I might spend a minute or two showing the students the position of the subject and verb in different sentences, even if this is not technically part of the lesson plan.
Some students will just fly through the reading and the syntax. In this case, I will put a brake on the lesson by asking them to spell vocabulary words. It seems almost too easy, especially for advanced students. However, what seems so simple to us can be a challenge for our EFL students. Because the spelling and pronunciation rules of English are haphazard, our students can benefit from the extra attention. Lower-level students may be able to recite the alphabet, but you might see they have difficulty in recalling the letters out of order when asked to spell words.
The students will learn the meaning of the words spell and write. I’ve had so many students, even intermediate level, who didn’t understand the word spell. So, here you are not only teaching a skill but also conveying the meaning of a word which will be quite useful to them as they progress.
The student described a vegetable he was thinking of. I had to guess the word based on his description. Looks like we both aced it! 🥕
Play a Game
Tic Tac Toe with a Twist
You exhausted your resources, and you’ve come to the end of the lesson with yet three minutes to spare. What do you do? Play tic tac toe with a twist! Draw out your tic tac toe board, and then write a letter in each square. Tell the student that a mark can be made when the student and teacher come up with a word starting with the letter in any given square. The teacher should go first so that the student understands how to play. This game can be tailored to any level. For lower levels, I let them use any word they can come up with. For higher levels, I tell them the word has to be at least five letters or come from one category (e.g. food or animals). Sometimes, if they are really superb students, I will tell them they have to come up with a word that ends with the letter in the box.
Guess My Word
I’ve tried Hangman in the past, but the rules were often difficult to explain to the student, or we both had a hard time keeping track of the letters used. So, I simplify the game by telling the student I am thinking of a vocabulary word from the unit. I will then draw a number of dashes equal to the number of letters in the word. I give my student a hint about the word, either describing it verbally or using TPR to demonstrate it. If time allows, my student can think of a word which I will have to guess.
This is one of the simplest extension activities that parents seem to love. I have a set of picture flashcards with the word written on the back. The pictures are usually of basic words, such as dog, cat, house, shoe, etc. I will show a card, and the student has to guess the word. Higher level students should be able to spell the words.
Room for Improvement
I rarely mark a lesson as “too easy” for a student. My view is that each lesson has elements that need reinforcement. In the unusual case that a student is absolutely perfect, practicing conversational skills is a must. You might find that great book-learners are not necessarily great talkers! In my feedback, I write what my extension techniques were and how they benefited the student. Making sure your enhancements have educational value is a key component to receiving good ratings from parents.