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Classroom management in online lessons

In this step, we look at how classroom management in online lessons is different from classroom management in face-to-face lessons.
We’re talking about classroom management in online lessons, which I think is largely the same as face-to-face lessons. But there are some differences. Instructions is one of those things, Marie Therese. What’s different? Yeah, well, what’s different is that you can’t see what the students are doing once they start the activity as you can in a face-to-face classroom. You can’t go around and see they’re doing what you intended them to do. So you need to make sure that your instructions are doubly clear. So I would suggest say the instruction, write the instruction in the chat box, get the students to tell you what the instruction was. Maybe do an example. Do number one together.
Or if it’s a speaking activity, do a demo with one of the students, so that by the time the students start working on the activity, they know exactly what they’re doing. If you’re doing pair or group work, be really careful.
And maybe plan in advance, decide in advance which pairs: who’s going to work with who. And if you’re doing groups, how are you going to organise the groups? Which students are going to be in the group? So that you try and create independent islands of students so that there’s a student in the group who, maybe, can take charge, who will share their screen, who will talk everybody through the document, who can, perhaps, help if there’s anything that needs to be attended to during the activity, like maybe calling on the teacher. So I think it just needs a little bit more careful thought, perhaps, than in a face-to-face classroom. Yeah, I agree.
And the good news is– we’ll talk about breakout rooms in week three– but you can plan your pairs and groups in advance before the lesson, which is good. I think another thing we need to manage more carefully is feedback. So rather than just relying on, maybe, hands up or students calling out answers, we need to plan that more carefully. We have the chat box we can use. We might have a survey tool on our platform. So we need to utilise those. We can assess all learners at the same time, which is fantastic. But we can’t have calling out. Students talk over each other. So we need to plan for nomination as well.
So things like that we need to take more care. We need more care with them. And also, wait time– we need to give learners a little bit more time to answer because of the time lag on the platform and due to connectivity. Absolutely, and also the ability to process what you’re saying. So they have to listen. They have to understand. They have to work out the answer. And then they tell you the answer. And actually, it’s a great cause of teacher talking, that you don’t wait long enough for them to answer. So you answer your own questions, which is a bit weird, to be talking to yourself. And also, Lindsay, we should talk about the naughty learners, shouldn’t we?
We should, yes. Well, I think all learners– The challenging learners. Yeah. Well, I mean, with all learners, I think it’s a really good idea to set ground rules at the beginning of the course. So with younger learners, it’s setting behavioural rules and expectations. And with adults, perhaps, and teenagers, just letting them know what we expect of them or what they’re allowed to do. Are they allow to just offer an answer and that kind of thing? That can be really important. But what do we do if someone has broken the rules we’ve established? Well, I think you do the same sort of thing that you would do in a face-to-face classroom, take them to one side.
And of course, in an online setting, you would use the chat box for taking to one side. So there’s a private message facility. So you would just send them a message saying, can I help with something? Or, do you have a problem? Is there something I can help with? If it’s a young learner and things persist, then I think you would perhaps have a word with the parents, try and find out if they have issues at home. And maybe call on that student a little bit more. Maybe they’re bored.

We’ve talked about gaining a rapport and maintaining engagement in online lessons. Let’s now turn to classroom management.


Watch the video of Lindsay and Marie Therese talking about how classroom management is different online compared to face-to-face contexts. Complete the sentences.

1) Marie Therese says that clear instructions are important because ……..

2) Marie Therese says that teachers may need to plan pairs and groups more carefully so that …….

3) Lindsay talks about how we may need to plan how we gather feedback, for example we can use ……..

4) Lindsay and Marie Therese say that wait time needs to be longer in online lessons because ……

5) Lindsay says that at the start of a course, it’s a good idea to …….

6) Marie Therese suggests dealing with learners who break the agreed rules by …….

Please note down your answers on a piece of paper

Check your answers

Reflect and share

Learners may be unsure of how to act in an online classroom so discussing expectations of how you’d like learners to participate in lessons, as well as online etiquette, is extremely important at the start of a course. What activities could we do with students to discuss and establish expectations (yours and your learners’) at the start of a course? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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Teaching English Online

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