One of the biggest differences between in a classroom and teaching online is trying to translate all of the “magic” of in-person instruction into a screen.
As a former classroom teacher, transitioning to online teaching required thinking outside of the box and brainstorming ways to create an engaging “classroom” and educational tools for students who you can’t interact with face-to-face.
Here are some of the equipment and props I use to teach online and create an excellent learning environment virtually. Many of these things you may already have available!
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Many online ESL companies look for teachers to use a headset, but it is a great tool for any online teacher to ensure a clear sound. A noise-canceling headset will also reduce the likelihood of outside distractions (family, pets, etc.) being heard during class.
Alternative: If your company/school does not require a headset, see if you have any earbuds with a microphone around your home.
You’ll want to test out the sound either way to make sure it’s coming through clearly – try it out while Skyping someone or recording yourself on iMovie or elsewhere.
Once I started teaching online for multiple hours a day, I decided to get this umbrella light. It improved my lighting greatly and reduced my glasses glare!
Alternative: Try grabbing a lamp and putting it in front of your computer facing you. Then, place some toilet paper or a tissue over the lampshade (not touching or too close to the bulb) to create your own bright, diffused light source! It worked well for me until I was ready to invest in a better light set-up 🙂
Honorary Mention – Webcam
If your computer or device already has a webcam with clear video, then you’re good to go! Otherwise, you may want to try out an external webcam as they tend to be clearer and offer a wider camera angle.
Just about all of the webcams I saw on Amazon are either out of stock or rather pricey, but you can check out these models that other online teachers share that they use:
- Logitech C922
- Logitech c920
For teachers looking to create a virtual “classroom” feel to their background, you can use a map, poster, bulletin board.
There are usually different borders and posters available at your local dollar store. If you need a background in a pinch, this solar system background will make your “classroom” look educational and professional.
Alternative: See what you might already have around your house:
- Colored paper
- Letters/educational pictures
- Post-it notes
- A sheet or other fabric
- A green screen with a virtual background
There are lots of different options at all price points!
Whiteboard and Markers
I use a whiteboard and these markers every class for rewards, practicing full sentences, vocabulary, and anything else you can imagine. With a whiteboard and a marker, the sky’s the limit!
Alternative: If you have any sheet protectors, you can put a piece of white paper in it and put the sheet protector on a clipboard, rigid folder, etc. and make your own “whiteboard”, which I still use sometimes for extra activities!
When I first started teaching online, I used what I already had and drew a few flashcards by hand. Now, after getting flashcards similar to these at Target, I use them all the time! The letters can be used for spelling and teaching letter sounds, while the pictures on the other side can be used for both lesson content and a reward system!
Alternative: Tape or glue some pictures to cut-out cardboard squares like I did below!
Colorful Animal Props
These can be used to create a seasonal background, as a reward system, or to expand for young learners to practice colors, shapes, patterns, counting, etc.! I’ve found that bright, vivid colors look best on camera and help engage students.
Putting these on my fingers has been very entertaining for students watching on-camera, but they also serve an educational purpose as you can review body parts, compare and contrast, and ask open-ended questions with different verb tenses and sentence structures:
“What is the giraffe doing?”
“What did the zebra just do?”
“What do tigers eat?”
“If you could be any of these animals, which one would you want to be? Why?”
Alternative: If you have any action figures, toys, etc. already in your home, those can work also! You may have to “borrow” some toys from your kids 🙂
What tools do you use to teach online?
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The Introverted Online Teacher