Moving Your ESL Class Online -- Follow up Discussion

Hello colleagues, This is a follow up discussion for the webinar held yesterday on Effectively Moving Your ESL Class Online with Dr. Glenda Rose. First of all I want to thank Glenda for her great presentation. We all took away so many practical tips and strategies for teaching ESL remotely. 

If you would like to receive a copy of the PowerPoint from the presentation, please contact Melissa Zervos The recording of the webinar will be available, too, and we'll let you all know when it is.

What I'll do in this thread is post the questions that were asked during the webinar that we didn't have time to address. I'll create a different post for each question, and I will answer the questions that I can. I think Glenda will pop in, as she has time, to respond, too, but we welcome all members to respond to questions and to pose additional questions for all of us.

Most of us have had to turn our face-to-face classrooms into a remote learning context, and we've needed to do this with almost no time to prepare. As Glenda emphasized yesterday, we should all be gentle with ourselves as we strive to learn more about how to teach remotely in ways that can benefit  the adult learners in our programs. We all deserve grace at this difficult time.

I'm looking forward to your participation in this discussion!

Take care, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP


Q: Where can teachers access copyright free images for no cost?

A: You can search for copyright free images on Google through selecting Advanced Search under settings. Under "usage rights," choose "free to use or share."

Other sources for copyright free images include: 



Wikimedia Commons

Q:  Which is better to use in class -- photos or clip art?

A: It really depends on your purpose; however, photos tend to be clearer and are definitely recommended over stylized drawings or clip art especially for lower level learners. 

Q: How do you get students to talk about the images?

A:  Upon displaying a picture, we can ask students, "What do you see?" Lower level learners might volunteer single words while higher level students might produce sentences. The teacher can write the words the learners say, and the words that get generated from the picture can be used in a wide variety of ways including sorting, cloze activities, writing sentences and then paragraphs, etc. Check out this thread on LINCS in which teachers shard ideas for how they are using pictures in their classroom. Everyone is invited to add ideas and suggestions here, too!

Q: Do you use WhatsApp with your PC?

A: Using WhatsApp with your PC is recommended since it makes it much easier to share materials with learners.

Q: Can you recommmend any resources for teachers to enahance their own technology skills?

A: GCFGlobal is a wonderful site with step-by-step tutorials on a range of topics. This site is useful for anyone--including the learners in our classes-- who would like to improve their basic technology skills.

Adding my own thanks to Susan and to Dr Rose for the webinar this week.  Having previously been a participant on numerous zoom and google meet calls, I'd found it more than daunting to get started with the process of learning to use the platforms for synchronous teaching when the lock down began almost two months ago.  I've been using google meet for my high intermediate and beginning level ESOL classes.  I'm still struggling with larger issues  - should we be asking basic level learners to participate online beyond this stop gap measure?  What are the advantages and drawbacks?  How were basic level students already utilizing whatsapp and other technologies in their daily lives and what is the point of not being in the room where it happens face to face?  How can we be sure that this is not the only way of offering classes when people are allowed back into public spaces together?

All that said, Dr Rose offered very useful and specific suggestions. One thing I had done, before even learning to use google meet (and subsequently zoom), was to assemble resources that I thought my students would be able to use independently and compiled these two pages.  Not sure how useful they are or not, but I do like having all the resources I'd want to share during a real time online class in one place.  When I'm teaching, I have about 5 or 6 tabs open so I can shift to share my screen as smoothly as possible. 

These are the materials I'm gathering (it's an ongoing process) for what they're worth, for basic and intermediate levels

Janet Isserlis



Yes, thank you so much. This is very informative and helpful. Its easy to get overwhelmed trying to find the right tools, so this kind of list is greatly appreciated.

Q. How do you handle student writing assignments? Sending, providing feedback, etc.

A. It depends on the type of class and the level of the students.  When I'm teaching on WhatsApp, I correct writing privately.  Higher-level students tend to email assignments if they have a computer.  I use track changes to correct them.  Some are using Google Docs, so they just share the document with me.    Those who do not have computers typically write out their assignment and send me a photo of it.  They usually send it by WhatsApp, but sometimes they send it by text.  I then use a photo editor to provide feedback and send it back to them.  

Q. Are there any websites that you recommend to make each class more enjoyable? 

A. There are so many great websites out there!  When I'm creating a lesson, I want any resources we use to be purposeful.  My choice to include a website will depend on my lesson objective and if it will fit seamlessly into the flow of the lesson.

That said, I have a list I started a long time ago.  I haven't had much of a chance to update it, but it might be a good start: 
Also, the Tech & Learning magazine (free) is a great place to see what other teachers are using:

Q. Can you please share the name of the ESL and GED books you talked about? 

A. I don't remember!  I know for ESL, most of my teachers are using Stand Out, which has great class presentation software that they have been using in the Zoom meetings.  I have also used Interchange, Ventures, and the Azar Grammar Series (which has PowerPoints all ready to go).  My English GED classes use the Kaplan prep book, but it is not available on Kindle until July.  The Spanish GED class uses McGraw Hill prep book, and it is available on Kindle in both English and Spanish. 

Q. What songs do you use for karaoke?  Any suggestions?

A. I teach a workshop on brain-based strategies using music.  Before I give you my list, let me emphasize that music should be used purposefully.  It should align with your learning objectives either in terms of target language structure or theme.   

Click here to access my list in Dropbox. 

There are a lot of great ideas out there for using music!  Go exploring and I know you'll find something that fits your teaching style.

One book series I like is part of the "True Stories" series.  Sandra Heyer wrote: True Stories Behind the Songs and More True Stories Behind the Songs​.  Also, click here to access the list of songs on the ITESL Journal online

Q: How can admins check on accountability to see that online courses are being taught without checking in to each session? And how can we get accountability of how long students are studying online if assigned independent work. 

A: Just as I don't check in on my teachers every night when they are in the classroom, I don't check on my teachers every night they are teaching online.  I did at first, but that was mainly to see if they needed help since teaching on Zoom was new to everyone.  I pop in every now and then, just as I do in the physical classroom, to see how things are going.  I have not found any teachers padding their attendance or any other reason not to trust them to keep their attendance accurate. 

For tracking student time during independent study, the programs we use have time-on-task reports.  We currently use USA Learns and Learning Upgrade, but I hope to restart with Burlington English shortly.  All of these programs give detailed reports.  If students are doing classwork posted on a learning management system, we cannot count those hours in Texas; I don't try to estimate the time they are spending on those assignments.  

Q: What do you recommend to learn more about teaching online? Workshops? Courses?

A: I think it depends on what your goal is and your preferred learning style.  Observing an experienced online ESL teacher would be my first choice.  Attending webinars and workshops like the ones offered by LINCS and COABE would also be on my list. If you are reader, Tech & Learning put out an issue devoted to remote learning.  You can access it by clicking here.  There are also MOOCs on the subject on Coursera, LinkedIn Learning ("Lynda"), and Udemy.    (MOOC = massive open online course)

Hello Glenda and all, I agree that observing another teacher can be helpful. Observing an online class is so much easier logistically than observing face-to-face!

While I'm not as experienced with online teaching as Glenda, I would welcome anyone to observe my class. I'm currently teaching a transition class, which means the students have tested out of the standardized tests for ESL, so we now test them with TABE. My Zoom class is held Monday through Thursday mornings from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM EDT. If anyone would like to visit my Zoom class, you are welcome to do that-- just email me at, and we can work out the details for your visit.

Take care, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP 

Q: Do you break out different groups now based on schedule changes of your students?

A: I made all classes available to all students so that students could attend the class or classes that worked with their schedules.  I also changed the times of some classes and added classes at new times, like mid-afternoon. 

Q: Many of my students stopped participating Remote Learning due to technology concerns. What recommendation can you suggest to bring them back?

A: First, we all have lost students, so just know that we are all working on that problem.  First, we called all the students who have not been attending.  Called.  Not texted or emailed.  They needed to hear a human voice.  We also offered to have a one-on-one session with them in the Zoom room to help them become more familiar with the platform.  If the student was not able to connect to Zoom because of access issues, we directed the student to the WhatsApp class.  I also provided teachers with address lists, cards, and stamps and they sent personal notes to missing students.  We haven't gotten everybody back, of course, but we did get a bunch of them to restart. 

Hello Glenda and all, I totally agree that reaching out by phone is essential. I would say that staying in touch with those who are not attending is also critical. Of course, there are valid reasons why learners have dropped off, but I and my program colleague have endeavored to stay in touch with everyone through text, email and phone. Those personal connections to let learners know you are thinking about them are so valuable.

Sending personal notes by mail is also a great idea! 

Take care, Susan

Dear Susan, Glenda & All, I wholeheartedly agree that keeping in touch with our students is crucial to whether or not they "return" to class remotely or otherwise. I faithfully email, text, send notes and most especially call all of my students periodically just so they can hear the sound of my voice and get the encouragement they so often need. Sometimes, the calls turn out to be reminders of attending Zoom or completing their assignments, but largely to compliment them on their dedication to their education and resilience to moving forward through these major changes in their lives. Their verbal response can almost be interpreted "visually" as I listen to their tone of appreciation and thanks.

I can give multiple examples of the importance of maintaining contact with our students. However, I will provide the most poignant reason that following up often means the difference between a student feeling lost, alone and sad or getting that caring boost to reconnect with her classes. When she eventually responded to my many messages, I realized the extent of her struggles. This student lost 2 family members over the past 3 weeks and another is now in critical condition. Her gratitude at my insistence to contact her was obvious as she expressed through tears of sadness, then the joy of receiving the empathy she so desperately needed. Our conversation concluded with her promising to return to participation with her peers in our remote classes. However, if she gets lost again, I will not give up on her, nor any of my students. This very experience taught me that we seldom realize the full scope of what our students face day to day. Although I thought I had great skills at discerning my students’ struggles, I have now deepened my observations to be sure I stay in touch with them often.

Vickey, Thank you for sharing this heartfelt anecdote. So many of us -- including, of course, the adults we work with-- are struggling with sadness, loss and worry. Finding many ways to stay connected can be a lifeline while facing so many challenges.

Take care, everyone.



Q: Do all the students need to download PollEverywhere or just the teacher?
A: You don't actually have to download PollEverywhere.  The teacher creates the poll on the website and shares the link. On some polls, you can also have students respond by text.

Q: How about Canvas? 

A: Canvas is fine.  There are a lot of good learning management systems out there.  Schoology is my favorite for beginning ESL.  CourseSites is my favorite for students who will transition to college.  I have a colleague who prefers Edmodo and one who prefers Wakelet; and I have some teachers who just do everything through Google Classroom.  The "best" LMS is whichever works well for you and your students.  That may take some experimenting to find out.

Q: How use QR reader Camera if reading QR code on phone [sic]?

A: I think you are asking how students can use their phone to read a QR code if they are using their phones for class.  They can't, but the wouldn't need to. I could share a link during class directly.  I use QR codes on print materials that I send to students so that they don't have to worry about typing the web address correctly.  Great question!

Q: How do [you] save the attendance in a Zoom meeting?

A: There are a couple of options.  If you have students register and you have a pro account ($15/month), you can pull a report.  If you don't, have the students sign in and out in chat and save the chat at the end of the session.  The chat saves as a plain text file and has the timestamps.  Teachers also manually record student attendance on a roll sheet and sign off that the students were there.  

Q: Do any other online platforms besides Zoom have breakout room features? 

A: Yes, but I am really not an expert on all the different options out there.  I know Adobe Connect, GoTo Meeting, Blackboard Collaborate, LiveWebinar, and BlueJeans do. I don't know if they are only available at a certain level of subscription, though.

Q: If there are different levels in one class, what do you do?  E.g., 1 + 2

A: You are going to use the same multilevel teaching strategies online as you do in the classroom, including differentiated content, process, and products.  You may have to use breakout rooms for small group work.

Q: She tossed off static or dynamic QR codes but did not explain what they were. 

A: I apologize for that.  Most QR codes are static.  They cannot be edited, and they point to the content directly. If the link breaks, you will have to create a new QR code. A dynamic QR code can be updated or revised to direct to a different site.

Q. Do students have to sign in to Elllo?  Other resources where they must have registered?

A: No, they don't have to sign in on Elllo.  Some other sites require students to either create an account or be invited by a teacher code to the teacher's account.

Q.  Does [Karafun] have content or just controls for your content?

A: Karafun has free and subscription-based content.

A: What was that? Mercury Reader?  A Chrome extension?

B: Yes, Mercury Reader is a Chrome extension that "declutters" many websites so that you can more easily view the content.