Here are 5 tips on how to make interesting, engaging online language lessons for pre-schoolers.
I never thought I would ever have to do this, but you know what? Life is like a class with pre-schoolers – you never know what will hit you next 😛
When I record my online video classes I try to imagine a group of kids actually sitting in front of me. It helps me to relax and be more natural and forget that I am being recorded. I remind myself that my students like it when I am being silly – when I pull funny faces – so I do it on purpose, to make them smile and laugh.
1. What to Wear
I try to dress colourfully, but without busy patterns, large logos or stripes as they do not look good on screen. Plain colours work best, but avoid too much white because it’s easy for the camera to make it too bright.
I try to look presentable with nice hair and make-up, but don’t worry about it too much – it is not a beauty product advert, it is a lesson for very loving and accepting 4-year olds. One important thing is to use enough foundation so your skin doesn’t look shiny, especially on your forehead and nose.
2. Using Props
As in a normal class, props can help you to focus children’s attention, but choose carefully and think about how you expect your students to interact with you. There are plenty of flashcard games that encourage children to respond (on their side of the screen) e.g. “Family” (download for free here), “Bye-Bye Crocodile!” and “What’s missing?”. However, some props require students to point at something, show you their choices and answer questions as well as work in teams. Activities like this will be completely useless so avoid them. Puppets or soft toys that you can role play with can be really effective. Make the puppets react to your questions. Get creative!
3. Using Songs
It’s easiest and most effective when you sing by yourself without a backing track. That way there are no long pauses while you try to find the song on your phone/computer, or if there are connection problems etc. that cause other delays). It might not be your fault but it doesn’t look very professional. When you have no (or very quiet music) children will hear your pronunciation better and you can accentuate certain (more difficult) words, If windows start to break when you sing maybe find a song with the least intrusive background music 🙂 Try searching for the karaoke version of a song on YouTube.
4. Actions Speak Louder than Words
You will capture children’s attention better if you can do actions to a song. Remember the fidgety rule: the more you involve your whole body the more you learn.
If you don’t have a ready-made choreography do not be afraid to invent silly moves and actions. Remember it is all about fun, you are not performing at a dancing competition; you are having fun with your students.
5. Timing is Essential
Keep lessons short – a normal lesson for pre-schoolers will usually take about 30 minutes. This includes individual greetings, repetitions, etc., which will not happen in a video class. It is also harder to keep kids’ attention from the other side of the screen, so 15-20 minutes of recorded material is enough. Remember they can play it over and over!
So, drop your shoulders and relax, take a deep breath and ENJOY yourself! We learn something new every day. Go for it!
Bonus – for the technically-minded ONLY! 🙂
Cameras have a real problem when there are very light and very dark areas in the same scene. If you sit or stand in front of a window (or very bright area) and there is not much light on you from the room, your camera could get confused (especially if you’re moving around) and you might become a silhouette, which we want to avoid. If you are moving around a lot in front of the window the camera might keep changing the lighting from very dark to very light as it tries to balance the lighting. That can be distracting for a viewer.
To avoid this potential lighting issue, position yourself in the middle of the room facing the window. Place the camera by the window facing into the room.
If you are in a room without windows, switch on plenty of lights in the room so you are well lit.
Where to Put the Camera
Make sure the camera is set at your eye level if you are sitting or kneeling. If you are standing set the camera at waist level. Don’t have the camera pointing down at you or looking up your nose. We feel most connected to someone when our eyes are on the same level. If you have to put the camera on the table or on top of a stack of books, do that.
Position yourself so you fill the screen as much as possible. Don’t sit so far away that you are a tiny dot on the screen and be careful that you don’t chop your head or arms off because you are sitting too close. I realise that it could be a challenge if you sit, stand and move around in the same lesson but try to keep yourself on the screen as much as possible.
These little bendy tripods are great inexpensive solution for holding your phone. Click here »