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by Ligia-Daniela Botiza, “Inochentie Micu” High School, Cluj-Napoca & “Octavian Goga” 
High School, Huedin

Keywords: rapport, active learning strategies, project-based learning, cooperative learning, mastery learning, inquiry-based learning, flipped learning, skill development
This article presents some tips which proved to be effective in my online teaching practice. Connection, enthusiasm and a good rapport with the students are the key starting points for successful online lessons. Beside these, we should match activities and tools to our students` age, level, learning abilities, learning difficulties. We should use songs, videos, short stories and worksheets for making our online lessons memorable and effective. We should also make the online lesson seem similar to the face-to-face lesson. It is very important to use active learning strategies: project-based learning, cooperative learning, mastery learning, inquiry-based learning, flipped learning. All the mentioned tips can make a real difference between an effective lesson and a simple lesson.

Connecting with others is a sense of being open and available to another person. Connection implies having a personal conversation with someone and feeling listened to and understood. It also implies taking the time to listen to someone else and feeling real empathy for them. Connection also means offering and receiving sincere gratitude.
In order to create a real connection in an online environment, we need to have our cameras on. Teachers and students should see each other. This makes the online lesson seem similar to the face-to-face lesson and facilitates interaction. If our students don`t see us, they might easily get distracted and lose focus. If we don`t see our students because they don`t have their cameras on, we can`t be sure who participates in our lessons. That is why I recommend that both teachers and students should have their cameras on. Visual contact is of vital importance.
Enthusiasm is important because it creates environments where students are engaged and motivated, while also connecting their positive feelings to their learning goals. Our enthusiasm transfers to our students. We should let our passion for the subject guide us. We should also let our enjoyment of teaching come true. We must also make connections to class material through stories and humour. It is important to consider the impact of our verbal and non-verbal cues.
There are numerous examples of children and young people being motivated by teachers whose love of the subject they teach is so thrilling that it inspires pupils to pursue the subject themselves when they move to university and the world of work.
In my teaching experience enthusiasm proved to be very effective. I noticed that if I ask my students to get involved in an activity, they are eager to participate if I speak with confidence and a big smile on my face. The students consider these features to be signs of enthusiasm and they get enthusiastic about getting involved in what I ask them to do.
We must build rapport with our students. For this we need to learn to call our students by name. We must learn something about our students` interests, hobbies and aspirations. We should create and use personally relevant examples. We can join the online meeting early and stay late to chat with our students. We also have to interact more and lecture less. We should reward student comments and questions with verbal praise. It is very important to make eye contact with each student without staring or glaring.
The right tools
We need to choose the most suitable tools for our students. When choosing our tools, we need to consider our students`: age, learning abilities, learning styles, learning difficulties. We can use music and videos for primary school children, videos and short stories for secondary school children and videos and worksheets for high school students.
The use of music in the foreign language classroom offers a unique approach to enhance students` awareness of another culture. Music can also be used to practise the communication skills. Music provides a mirror of the history, literature and culture of a country, that can be seen in the song texts and in the musical style.
My primary school children love learning English with the help of music. They enjoyed learning prepositions with the help of the song “Santa, Santa, where are you?”. They also enjoyed learning thematic expressions like “What do you want for Christmas?” with the help of the song “Santa`s on his way”.
Young learners also love videos. They loved watching “The Gingerbread Man” and “Pip”. These movies provided the introduction for some speaking activities.
Using video content amplifies learning. Students learn best when they take in information through multiple modalities: reading, drawing, listening to the teacher`s oral explanations and viewing visual media. Using visuals is the key for those acquiring a new language. When they are reading, students benefit from contextualizing the person, place or thing they are learning about. Video clips can assist them in visualising an event or a person, while setting the context historically, politically, socially and emotionally. Child-friendly how-to or instructional videos are readily available on the internet. These can serve to reinforce what students have learned or are learning. When using a video, we should be selective. We should also provide a mission for the students (Alber, 2019)
My secondary school children love watching videos. They were very enthusiastic when we watched “The Jungle Book” movie. I used this film for practising listening and speaking.
With my high school students I used documentaries and movies. My students loved the following documentaries: “Vlog celebrities” and “How Christmas trees are made”. I used them for practising listening and speaking. We also watched the movie “A Christmas Carol”, after my students read the book with the same name. I used this movie for practising speaking. The students loved this activity.
We can also use short stories to teach language skills. Literature has a rich potential to provide an authentic model of language use. Short stories are the most suitable choice to help students enhance the four skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing because of the motivational benefit embedded in the stories.
Worksheets are very useful in the online lessons. Worksheets motivate students to work without the assistance of a teacher. They can assist teachers in gauging students` performance. Worksheets are also a good way to recap what was taught in the lesson. Worksheets also encourage students to remember what they learned in the classroom.
We should make the online lesson seem similar to the face-to-face lesson because this gives credibility to the lesson. At the same time, teacher and students are less anxious as we create a safer background. In this way, the students are more willing to participate.
How can we make the online lesson seem similar to the face-to-face lesson?
Insisting that all the students should have their cameras on so that we can all have good visual contact. If we can all see each other, the online lesson seems similar to the face-to-face lesson. We should also use interaction and involve students as much as we can. Students` contribution must be acknowledged. They need to get feedback for their contribution.
Language primarily exists to facilitate communication. Interaction has an important role to play in developing a learner`s ability in that particular language. We need to promote learner interaction in order to help the learners succeed. Interaction through pair and group work maximises the opportunities to practise as more learners speak for more of the time. In the online lesson we can use breakout rooms for pair and group work. Interaction is also important for collaboration, socialisation and for increasing students` motivation.
Involving students and acknowledging their contribution
We can involve the students in our lessons by making our lessons meaningful, fostering a sense of competence, providing autonomy support, embracing collaborative learning and establishing positive teacher-students relationships. We can also involve students more by connecting what we are teaching to real life, using students` interests and fascinations, giving students choices, teaching students self-monitoring skills.
We should give students authentic acknowledgement. It is very important for the students to get verbal praise for their contribution. We should also give students recognition for their contribution. We can do this through: certificates, letters, ceremonies etc.
Using active learning strategies
In order to make our online lessons memorable we need to use active learning strategies. Some of them are: project-based learning, cooperative learning, mastery learning, inquiry-based learning and flipped learning
Project-based learning
Project-based learning is suitable for all levels and all subjects. Students work on a project over an extended period of time from a week up to a semester. This engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They demonstrate their knowledge and skills by creating a public product or presentation for a real audience. As a result, students develop deep content knowledge as well as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication skills (Solomon, 2013)
Cooperative learning
Cooperative learning is an educational approach which aims to organize classroom activities into academic and social learning experiences. Students must work in groups to complete tasks collectively. Cooperative learning includes: positive interdependence, promotive interaction, individual and group accountability, group processing and social skills. These include: leadership, decision making, trust-building, friendship-development, communication, conflict-management skills.
Mastery learning
Mastery learning implies the fact that students must achieve a level of mastery in prerequisite knowledge before moving forward to learn subsequent information. If students do not achieve mastery on the test, they are given additional support in learning and reviewing the information. Then they are tested again. This cycle continues until the learners accomplish mastery and they may move on to the next stage.
The focus of instruction should be the time required for different students to learn the same material and achieve the same level of mastery. In mastery learning, there is a shift in responsibilities, so that student`s failure is more due to the instruction and not necessarily to the lack of ability on his or her part. In a mastery learning environment, the challenge becomes providing enough time and employing instructional strategies so that all students can achieve the same level of learning.
Inquiry-based learning
Inquiry-based learning is a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios. It includes problem-based learning and is generally used in small scale investigations and projects and research. It is closely related to the development and practice of thinking and problem-solving skills.
In inquiry-based learning people engage in specific learning processes: creating questions of their own,
obtaining supporting evidence to answer the questions, explaining the collected evidence, connecting the explanation to the knowledge obtained from the investigative process, creating an argument and justification for the explanation.
How do we use inquiry-based learning?
Students ask themselves three questions about any new subject being introduced: What do I already know about the subject? What do I want to know about the subject? What have I learnt about the subject?
Inquiry-based learning usually begins with an open-ended “big question” that has many possible answers. Some examples are: How can we make music? How do animals communicate?
Finding out what students already know
They can do this first in small groups, then as a whole class activity. In this first step, students become active participants in the process of learning, drawing from their personal life experience to sharing previously learned knowledge. As students begin to express what they know, they use their productive language skills.
Finding out what students want to know
We can provide a variety of fictional and non-fictional content. When students feel motivated to find answers to their questions, they read and listen with a strong sense of purpose. As they do so, it`s important to provide a variety of reading and listening strategies to make their receptive skills more effective. We should also introduce additional vocabulary words and grammar structures in each lesson to boost learning.
Finding out what students have learned
Students often work in small groups at this stage to share what they have learned through the lesson. As students discuss and write down their knowledge and experience, they use their productive skills of speaking and writing while applying the new vocabulary and grammar they have learned. When the discussion moves to a whole-class activity, students have the confidence to speak out about their learning experiences. This is often followed by a project, in which students work together and use what they have learned to achieve a goal.
Flipped learning
Flipped learning aims to increase student engagement and learning by having the students complete readings at their homes and work on live problem-solving during class time. In a flipped learning classroom / online meeting, students watch online lectures, collaborate in online discussions or carry out research at home while engaging in concepts in the lesson with the guidance of a teacher.
The flipped classroom shifts instruction to a learner-centred model in which time in the classroom is used to explore topics in greater depth and create meaningful learning opportunities while students are initially introduced to new topics outside the lesson. In-class lessons accompanying flipped classroom may include activity learning or more traditional homework, problems, among other practices, to engage students in the content. Some class activities for flipped learning are: debate, speech presentation, current event discussions, peer reviewing, project-based learning, skill development and concept practice.
Because these types of active learning activities allow for highly differentiated instruction, more time can be spent in class on higher-order thinking skills such as problem-finding, problem solving, collaboration. A teacher`s interaction with students in a flipped class can be more personalized and less didactic. The students are actively involved in knowledge acquisition and construction as they participate in and evaluate their learning.
The present study explored some means of turning an online lesson into a successful lesson. Connecting with our students is vitally important for our interaction and rapport with them. In the online lesson, connection means not only joining an online meeting, but also having our cameras on. Our enthusiasm for teaching is also important because it transfers to our students leading to higher levels of motivation for learning. Using the right tools is important for enhancing the students` progress. We must match our tools with our students` age, learning abilities, learning styles and learning difficulties. Another important ingredient for turning our online lessons into a success is using active learning strategies. Some of them are: project-based learning, cooperative learning, mastery learning, inquiry-based learning and flipped learning. The above-mentioned strategies proved to be very useful in my online teaching practice. Of course, there are some other useful strategies which will be explored in future studies.

Alber, R., Using Video Content to Amplify Learning, 2019
Solomon, G., Project-Based Learning: a Primer – The Resource for Education Technology, 2013

Ligia-Daniela Botiza has been teaching English in public schools for 14 years. She is currently working with primary, secondary and high school students and she is passionate about teaching English through songs and games, bringing reading to life, developing the students` creativity and role playing in the English lessons. She has participated in courses, seminars and conferences in Cluj-Napoca, Bucharest, Iaşi and Timişoara. She has been involved in POSDRU projects: “Skills for Jobs”, POSDRU/160/2.1/s/141384 and “Ȋmpreună vom reuşi”, POSDRU91/2.2/S/64054.