Although I taught my first class at the end of June, it took me some time to reflect on what did and didn’t go well enough to share!
Outschool Post Series
- Part 1 – Outschool FAQ and My Experience Applying
- Part 2 – How To Request a Class Listing (That Will Be Accepted)
- This post – My First Live Class Teaching Pre-K Spanish (The Good and The Bad)
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Basic Class Info
Number of students – 2
I had the maximum as 3, but I chickened out the morning of and reduced it to 2 in case I got a last-minute participant.
I scheduled the class for 20 minutes and length of time worked out well for this class and for the students.
I preferred this length of time for my first class in order to be able to keep my energy up to engage 3-4 year-olds. Also, I didn’t have any drawing on the screen, drag and drop, etc., so the class was very speaking-intensive (which can get tiring for young students over a longer class).
Clear Objectives & Expectations
As the title was ‘The Cat and The Monkey’, parents knew right off the bat that their learner would learn ‘cat’ and ‘monkey’. I also stated in the class description that they would also learn ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, and 1, 2, 3, as well as additional words and phrases.
I also mentioned in the description that this class would NOT be full immersion as some parents definitely do or don’t want an immersion class for their learner.
Comfort with Zoom Features & Tech
I had tested out my Internet connection ahead of time and there were no issues with a delay or equipment not working.
I also made sure I had a headset, bright lighting, and other online teaching supplies that helped create an engaging educational environment for young learners.
In terms of Zoom features, I spent a while leading up to the class practicing the different Zoom features I’d need to use, such as screen sharing (with audio) and knowing how to mute and unmute.
NOTE: While I did know how to mute and unmute students, I will go over in the bad why I didn’t end up using it at all (but I probably should’ve)
Various Engagement Strategies
For students this young, especially on Zoom when it doesn’t have built-in features like dragging and dropping (and annotating is not always an option for students) it was especially important for me to implement a variety of tools and strategies that were developmentally-appropriate.
For example, I considered having the students draw a simple monkey and cat with me at some point in the class, but realized that students at this age would have trouble drawing multiple shapes and scraped the idea.
I’ve been using the book Yardsticks: Children In The Classroom (Ages 4-14) (Amazon affiliate link) as a great resource on different teaching strategies for different age groups!
I chose to make a simple Google Slides presentation with some pictures and a digital background (Note: Outschool has mentioned potentially taking away the digital background option on Zoom, but they haven’t yet).
For teaching a foreign language to this age group, I employed strategies such as:
- Modulating my voice (singing, whispering, yelling, etc.)
- Using different types of props and TPR (total physical response)
- Some Google Slides but not using them the whole time for young students
- Using virtual backgrounds
Any online ESL teachers reading are already very familiar with these strategies, but without a lot of the tools that VIPKid, GoGoKid, etc. have like built-in reward systems, dragging and dropping, etc., keeping my instruction consistently engaging was ESPECIALLY necessary.
Going along with the third point, for me to best keep up energy and get the students practicing “running”, acting out animals, etc., standing up allowed for so much more mobility.
Prior to this class, I had never taught standing up in over 3,500 online classes but did stand up (obviously) and move around a lot when teaching middle school Spanish, so it all depends on your preferred teaching style!
You certainly don’t have to teach standing up, but for me, it was effective in channeling more energy and getting the students moving and acting out TPR.
Large Difference in Participation Levels
I had 2 students in the class – one 4-year-old that would repeat everything and one 3-year-old that moved around a lot and didn’t speak much when prompted.
I thought they would both want to speak at the same time, so I was surprised by this and didn’t try to get the 3-year-old boy to speak as much.
Personally, I didn’t know the best way to get each learner to do repeat one-by-one without potentially interrupting each other. On Zoom, you are able to mute all students and then unmute, but they don’t always unmute right away. When you click ‘unmute’ for any specific student, you have to wait for them to unmute themselves.
Some teachers have found that their young learners don’t know how to unmute on their own, so I was apprehensive to selectively mute not knowing if the students would be able to unmute themselves.
I still tried to give each student a lot of positive reinforcement, but I didn’t set up a clear structure on how to have each student “take turns” and speak one at a time.
Part of the issue with setting up speaking expectations was due to…
Uncertainty in How Much English to Use
Coming from a VIPKid background, we are used to getting new students who jump into full immersion classes without ever using their native language in class (Chinese).
However, being a new teacher to Outschool, using Zoom (which is not user-friendly for teaching compared to the platforms online ESL companies use), etc., I knew I would use some English, but I didn’t want to use too much as there are numerous benefits to avoiding translations.
One issue I encountered was that when I put my hand to my ear, it was not explicitly clear to either student that they should repeat.
The 4-year-old student told her mom quietly “I’m confused” when I would say “Hola gato” and put my hand to my ear – I quickly explained after that what I wanted her to do!
Some Outschool teachers have full immersion classes and make it work. However, since then I’ve been giving a brief explanation now to new students that putting my hand to my ear means I want them to repeat.
Not Enough Comprehension Checks
Since my lesson content was all put into a song, the goal was to start small and work the students up to being able to sing the song.
I broke up the lesson into having the students hear the lesson song first, then teaching the main letter sounds, teaching the individual words, then then phrases/parts of the songs, then singing the whole song altogether.
Since I didn’t know:
- what level(s) the students would be
- whether they’d be able to read or not
- whether to check for understanding with an English or Spanish question
I ended up forgetting some of my checks for understanding and doing a lot more just repeating than I wanted to. Since then, I’ve either taught the student a question in Spanish, asked them “What is this?”, or wrote the lyrics on the slide and had them practice singing to me.
Confusing Class Structure
Although I have created and taught in-person lessons as a Spanish classroom teacher, I was unsure of how to structure this Pre-K virtual class initially.
Also, I had a rough outline of the class. However, I didn’t know how long each part would take, so it was hard to make an accurate outline
As such, my first class jumped around a lot between showing Google slides, playing the prerecorded song, and regular video. These transitions interrupted the flow of the lesson at times and weren’t well-planned ahead of time.
Hard to Keep Track of More Than One Student
I hate to say that I honestly don’t remember how much the younger 3-year-old student spoke or non-verbally participated. For that first class, balancing:
- Using the Zoom features
- Putting up and down props
- Trying to pay attention to both students
- Keeping track of time
Meant that despite having taught over 4,000 online classes of a similar length, I did not give what I consider an excellent class for both students.
Neither parent gave me a review for that class, but in my honest opinion, it did not feel like a 5-star class to me.
Since then, I’ve currently only been doing 1:1 Spanish classes for now on Outschool until I can decide how best to balance multiple students.
Once I start teaching group classes again, I’ll share those new experiences. For now, I’ve been working on a flex class that I hope to get some enrollments in!
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The Introverted Online Teacher