Tips, Lessons Learned and Lots of Recommended Resources from Our Recent Coffee Break

Hello colleagues, We had a wonderfully engaging discussion during last week's coffee break. There were so many excellent ideas shared. In this message, you will find a summary of the discussion focused on the tips and lessons learned and the many instructional resources that were recommended -- particularly for supporting a virtual class. A SPECIAL THANKS to everyone who shared their ideas!

In later posts, I'll summarize the questions that coffee break participants shared with us, some additional suggestions for ways to effectively structure virtual classes as well as professional development resources. 

Please feel free to add your own ideas to this list!

Take care, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP



Tips and Lessons Learned from Teaching During the Pandemic

  • Joanne Fry: “Encourage relationships among students, so they see each other as resources.”
  • Patsy Egan: “Don't hesitate to engage family members of students to help get folks online, teach downloaded apps to phones, etc. Sometimes the kids are the greatest resource!”
  • Joanne Fry: Use WhatsApp [FREE] to stay in touch with students
  • Ranada Carter & Cynthia Shermeyer: “Flexibility is very important. Every student learns at a different pace.” Also from Cynthia: “Patience and be kind and forgiving to yourself.”
  • Jonathan Power: “Do not assume a high level of tech proficiency from adult students, and create more engaging mechanisms to keep students involved in the virtual work.”
  • Patsy Egan: “Gather students' emails EARLY; practice by using an [online] class site often where assignments/readings are held. Many teachers plan to use their Google [FREE] or Weebly [FREE] sites from now on!”
  • Liz Harris: “Be ready for the unexpected. Stay up on new ideas/technology. Train constantly.”
  • Patsy Egan: “There's new attention to digital access (both hardware and wifi) as a core equity issue.”
  • Patsy Egan: “I've been SO impressed by all the Google teaching sites instructors have put together, a lot of which will no doubt become ‘the new normal’ long after this pandemic has passed.” 
  • Xavier Munoz: “Many teachers embracing the challenge of learning many new technology tools. Reconnecting with some students who wouldn't have been able to continue in person.”
  • Sharmayne Perkins: “To have students use more technology in the classroom, so it's not so unfamiliar.”

Recommended Instructional Resources

Reading (& Listening)


  • Cindy Shermeyer: for FREE audio and video conversations featuring English learners from around the world --rather than immigrants; lessons are available from high beginning to advanced; also includes quizzes.
  • Rita Nutter: Edpuzzle – Choose from videos with embedded questions or embed questions into teacher-selected videos. FREE
  • Jonathan Power: FREE “This is a site that creates instant quizzes based on YouTube videos, to target grammar, vocabulary, conversation topics, etc.  Can be done as a partner activity for shared practice.”
  • Ranada Carter: “KhanAcademy is a pretty good resource with videos.” FREE [mostly advanced] video lessons on a wide range of topics


  • Najwa Badawi: – A site with FREE lessons on a wide range of civics topics at different levels
  • Patsy Egan: “Speaking of civics -- for great resources on equity, inclusion, talking with your students around stereotypes, first amendment rights, etc. – FREE
  • Susan Finn Miller: The Change Agent is a magazine created by and for adult learners that often deals with civics topics. The magazine is FREE for those located in New English and FEE-BASED for those outside of that region. However, there are some great materials that are FREE including the entire issue on the 2020 Census and the one on racial discrimination

Conversation and Connecting with Learners

  • Terri Gunn: “For conversation, ask what we are thankful for each time and one good thing that made them happy that day. We all need to accentuate the positive.”

Online Learners’ Dictionaries

Writing and/or Conversation

  • Terri Gunn: “Use I Spy pictures and have students write sentences about what they see.”

        Here’s a FREE online resource for photos—no subscription or registration required, “The New York Times

        What's Going On in this Picture?”

  • Xavier Munoz: “The NY Times also has ‘What's Going on in This Graph?’ Similar concept [to ‘What’s Going On in This Picture’] but has a range of infographics, charts, etc.” This resource is FREE and does not require a subscription or registration.

Students Create Videos

  • Joanne Fry: – FREE resource which enables teachers to create an online class and engages students in discussion as well as in recording videos in response to prompts

Online Polls

  • Susan Finn Miller: [FREE] allows teachers to create online polls. This is a great way to focus on reading and interpreting graphic information.

Learning Games

Creative Solutions

  • Rita Nutter: “I sent all of my beginners a whiteboard /eraser & marker in the mail.”
  • Sharmayne Perkins: Have students write on paper, take a picture and then email or text to instructor.

For Teacher-Created (or student-created) Presentations (that integrate slides, video or audio)

  • Terri Gunn:  Screencast-O-Matic is a site where teachers can create video or audio presentations. The recordings are FREE if they are under 15 minutes.
  • Elizabeth Weldy:, a [FREE] Google app that allows you to create videos that upload to your Google Drive for Google Classroom. To activate unlimited access follow these instructions:
    • Visit this page and click “Redeem coupon” (under the Next Billing Date)
    • Enter code CAST_COVID
    • Click “Activate License” (no credit card required). Ignore the Next Billing Date – that will be incorrect

Fully-Developed Curricular Resources



  • Elizabeth Claire's Easy English News, mentioned in an earlier comment, will now be offering a DIGITAL version!  Prices are the same as print copies, and delivery method (hard copy or digital) can be switched at any time, with advance notice.  Each issue also come with a teacher's guide, and reproducible quizzes.  For more information, or to view previous issues, go to:
  • If you are looking for a resource for non-fiction readings (with computer generated audio), try  Text complexity can be assigned by grade level or lexile range. Standards based quizzes can also be generated.  The site now integrates with Google Classroom, but content can be downloaded and shared as a PDF via e-mail as well.