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20 Best Online ESL Class Ideas for Teachers (2024)

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Are you looking for some fun online ESL class ideas for your students? You’ve come to the right place!

In today’s interconnected world, the demand for learning English has skyrocketed. However, traditional classroom methods may not suit everyone, leading to the rise of online ESL classes.

These virtual platforms provide unique opportunities for teachers and students to interact and learn English in engaging ways.

That’s what the Tutor Resource is all about! We’ve been teaching online for years and understand how tough it can be to find new ways to cover various topics, especially with students you’ve been working with for a while.

In this article, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of 20 innovative online ESL class ideas that English teachers can use to teach English language skills differently.

Whether you want online ESL games for Zoom or fun speaking activities for online classes, or something in between, there’s something for everyone. So let’s jump in!

Online ESL Class Ideas for Any Level Student

1. Virtual World Tour

Take your students on a virtual tour around the world. Choose a country or city each week and explore its culture, history, and landmarks. Use videos, images, and interactive quizzes to make it engaging.

Students can present what they’ve learned in small group discussions. Or if it’s a one-on-one class, your student can simply present to you as the teacher and you can ask clarifying questions to test their knowledge.

This is a great way to introduce your students to different cultures and learn more about the world. Plus, it can be an enjoyable experience for everyone!

2. News Discussions

Select news articles or current events that are relevant to your students’ interests and language proficiency. Present the articles, encourage students to read and summarize them, and then facilitate discussions on the topics.

This will improve their reading, speaking, and critical thinking skills. In addition, you can assign related projects or activities to increase student engagement and understanding.

Encourage them to do further research as well, which will help develop their problem-solving skills and expand their knowledge base. As a bonus, they are likely to gain confidence in their language abilities.

3. Storytelling Circle

Start a storytelling circle where each student adds a sentence or a paragraph to continue a story. They can use creative writing techniques to develop characters, describe settings, and build suspense.

This activity is so fun we actually do it with our son when we eat out at restaurants or on family road trips.

It encourages collaboration and boosts imagination, and is especially helpful with students who don’t have a wide English vocabulary. The teacher can offer more or less assistance depending on the student’s needs.

It’s a great way to practice grammar, syntax, and style while having fun. Students will learn the importance of being creative and using their imagination, as well as how to express themselves more clearly.

This activity is also perfect for practicing different types of writing like persuasive, descriptive, narrative, etc. It can also be used in both small groups or one-on-one sessions.

4. Debates

Present thought-provoking topics and divide the class into teams for a structured debate. Assign roles such as moderator, timekeeper, and debater(s).

Encourage students to research and prepare arguments in advance. This activity will enhance their speaking, listening, and critical thinking skills. It will also help students to become more confident in expressing their opinions and ideas.

And, having a well-prepared argument can also be useful for any future assessments or debates that the student may need to participate in.

By brainstorming together and working out possible scenarios, the teacher can guide the class through innovative topics and create a stimulating learning environment.

This encourages active participation from the students and helps them to develop a deeper understanding of the material covered.

5. Virtual Field Trips

Organize virtual field trips to museums, historical sites, or national parks. Provide pre-trip materials, such as informational videos, maps, and discussion questions.

During the trip, guide students through interactive activities like scavenger hunts or virtual experiments related to the visited location. Give students a chance to ask questions and engage in discussions about the topic.

Then, review key learning points and assess student understanding with quizzes or assessments. Finally, provide an opportunity for feedback and reflection on the experience.

Be sure to document any important outcomes or findings from the trip in order to track progress or plan for future excursions.

Woman smiling overlooking Machu Picchu in Peru.

6. Language Exchange

Pair up your students with native speakers of the language they are learning. Set up virtual language exchange sessions where they can practice conversation skills. Share guidelines and topics to discuss.

This activity promotes cultural exchange and improves speaking and listening skills. Encourage students to ask questions and get feedback from their language exchange partner.

Have them reflect on their conversations afterward, keeping track of what they learned for future reference.

It’s also a great opportunity to practice using technology for communication in a safe environment. With the right support and guidance, your students will make great progress in conversational fluency!

7. TED Talk Analysis

Select TED Talks on various topics and assign one to each student or group. Have them watch the talk, take notes, and analyze the speaker’s language use, presentation skills, and overall impact.

Students can then present their analysis in a short video or live discussion. This exercise will help students develop their critical thinking skills and hone their presentation abilities.

Plus, with the huge range of topics available in TED Talks, this activity can be a great way to introduce new ideas to the classroom or spark a creative conversation about current events.

For extra credit, have groups compare multiple TED Talks on the same topic and discuss how each presenter’s approach differs.

It’ll help students hone their analytical and comparison skills, and provide an interesting look at how different people tackle the same subject matter.

8. Virtual Book Club

Choose a book suitable for your students’ proficiency level and assign chapters to read before each class. Discuss the book’s themes, characters, and plot.

Encourage students to share their opinions and insights. This activity improves reading comprehension, vocabulary, and critical thinking skills. It also challenges students to think logically and apply their knowledge in meaningful ways.

Encourage them to discuss the text, share their ideas, and ask. This kind of engagement is invaluable for learning!

To make the discussion more interesting, you can include different perspectives or even have a debate about an issue related to the text.

9. Grammar Games

Create interactive grammar games using online tools or platforms. These online ESL lesson ideas are a great way to teach students in an interactive and enjoyable manner.

Grammar games are Online tools like Kahoot! and Wordwall can be used to create quizzes, matching activities, and more. This keeps students engaged while also helping them practice grammar.

Allow students to compete individually or in teams, making grammar practice enjoyable and engaging. Try to mix up the ESL online activities as much as possible so that students don’t get bored or complacent.

For example, one day you could have a quiz based on verb tenses using Kahoot!, then the next session you could use Wordwall to create an interactive game about adjectives or adverbs. Variety will help students stay interested and focused on the task at hand.

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10. Cultural Show and Tell

Help your students make the most of this exercise by giving them the chance to learn about a different culture, create something unique, and share it with their peers.

Ask them to come up with creative ways to present their culture, such as making a video, creating an art piece that reflects their traditions, or even writing and performing a song!

Provide guidance on how to use online resources to research information and access multimedia materials.

Remind students that this is not a competition and that all presentations should be given equal respect. Encourage everyone to ask questions at the end of each presentation and join in conversations with other classmates who have shared.

This is also a great opportunity for students to get feedback from each other and can help in personal growth.

11. Idioms Around the World

Another set of unique online ESL class ideas is to explore idiomatic expressions from different cultures and countries. Introduce a new idiom in each session, explain its meaning, and encourage students to create stories or dialogues using the idioms.

This activity enhances vocabulary, cultural understanding, and creative thinking. Additionally, you can have students provide written and/or spoken feedback on each other’s stories or dialogues.

This can be done in small groups or large classes, and even one-on-one with single students. By incorporating different ESL online class activities, your online ESL class will be engaging, interesting, and effective for all learners.

12. Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Design a virtual scavenger hunt where students search for specific items or information online. Create a list of clues or questions related to grammar, vocabulary, or cultural elements. The first student or team to find all the answers wins.

This activity promotes critical thinking and research skills. It can also be used to extend learning on a particular topic. Students can work individually or in teams, and it’s suitable for all age groups and language levels.

If you have a very entry level ESL student, you could even keep it simple and have them find something for each color you call out. A red pen or a blue sock. It’s an exciting way to review material from the class and even stimulate extra research. Have fun!

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13. Role-Play Interviews

Assign roles and have students conduct mock interviews. This is a great tool when teaching business English!

Provide a list of job positions or scenarios, and ask students to prepare questions and answers accordingly. They can record their interviews and share them with the class for feedback.

This activity improves speaking, listening, and interview skills. And, it gives students the opportunity to practice their research skills.

Students can also work together to create a job fair simulation. Have them research local businesses and industries which reflect their interests and goals and then role-play as employers or job seekers in an actual job fair setting.

They should be prepared with questions for each other as they would during a real interview. Afterward, they should provide constructive feedback to each other on their performance.

This will develop communication skills and help students get used to the pressure of a job interview. It also provides students with an understanding of how interviews work and what employers are looking for in a potential employee.

14. Picture Dictation

Share a detailed image with the class and describe it orally while students listen and try to recreate the image by drawing or describing it themselves. Afterward, compare the original image with the students’ creations.

This activity develops listening comprehension, vocabulary, and descriptive skills. It can also be a great way to introduce a new topic. Give students the opportunity to practice their own creative and descriptive abilities as well.

Plus, have students use the image as the basis for creating a piece of art or writing an imaginative story. This activity helps build creativity and language skills in addition to all the other benefits mentioned above.

15. Virtual Project-Based Learning

Assign a project that requires students to research, collaborate, and present their findings.

For example, they can create a travel brochure for a specific country, design a recipe book featuring dishes from around the world, or produce a short video about a famous historical event.

This activity fosters teamwork, research skills, and creativity. Encourage students to think outside the box and explore ideas related to their content. Finally, be sure to provide meaningful feedback throughout the entire activity.

This will help guide them through the process and give them more insight into their work. Good luck!

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16. Digital Storytelling

Have students create digital stories using platforms like Storybird or Canva. Assign a specific theme or allow them to choose their own.

They can incorporate images, text, and audio recordings. Students can then share their stories with the class, fostering creativity, writing skills, and technological literacy.

Set expectations for the assignment, such as providing a rubric with specific elements that should be included in each digital story. Offer feedback on student projects to help them refine their stories and ensure successful completion of the assignment.

Provide students with resources to help them in the storytelling process, such as online tutorials for creating and editing video clips, designing images, writing scripts, etc. Offer strategies to help them think more deeply about the storytelling process.

17. Grammar in Pop Culture

Introduce grammar concepts through popular songs, movie clips, or TV show scenes. Analyze lyrics or dialogues together, focusing on grammar structures, verb tenses, or sentence patterns.

Students can then create their own examples using their newfound grammar knowledge.

By making grammar learning an engaging, fun activity, students will be more motivated and better able to remember the concepts.

You can also have students play games to practice their grammar skills. Try classic board games with a grammar twist- replace traditional questions with ones that test students’ understanding of specific grammar points.

Allow students to create new rules or modify existing ones to make it easier to complete their tasks. Encourage them to come up with creative solutions and think of ways that they can use the tools available to them in order to achieve their goals.

If they are having difficulty, allow them to ask questions or work through a problem together. This will help them understand how the system works and provide insight into how they can best use it.

18. Virtual Pen Pals

Connect your class with students from another country or region who are learning the same language. Facilitate virtual pen pal exchanges via email or video calls.

Encourage students to discuss cultural differences, share experiences, and practice written or spoken communication skills. This can be a great way to bring language learning to life!

And, by talking about these topics, students can learn more about each other and explore new ways of thinking.

Through this exercise, they can also gain a greater appreciation for the diversity that exists in our world today. Ultimately, it’s an important part of global citizenship.

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19. Low-Prep ESL Games

Incorporate low-preparation games into your online ESL lessons to make them engaging and interactive. Some popular examples include “Find Something,” “Hidden Objects,” “Objects Pictionary,” and “Missing Object.”

👉 You can even play board games online with students!

Even memory games work well, especially as ESL online games for beginners!

These games help improve vocabulary, speaking, and listening skills. Plus, they provide an opportunity for students to practice their English in a fun and exciting way!

20. Jigsaw Puzzle

Engage students by using jigsaw puzzles online. Choose a picture or topic related to the lesson and provide a digital jigsaw puzzle for students to solve collaboratively.

These fun activities for online English classes promote teamwork, problem-solving, and vocabulary development.

When students complete the puzzle, they can create a story about the picture or discuss what they have learned. This is an excellent way to review material and boost engagement during class.

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FAQs: Online ESL Class Ideas

Do you still have questions about online ESL class ideas? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

How can I make my English classes fun online?

Online English classes can be made fun and interactive with online activities for ESL students such as online games, discussions, brainstorming sessions, worksheet activities, quizzes, and more.

Consider using visual aids or videos for online teaching or allowing students to engage in collaborative projects related to the subject matter.

How do you encourage ESL students to ask questions?

Asking questions can often be difficult for English as a Second Language (ESL) learners, especially in an unfamiliar environment. The key to encouraging students to ask questions is to create a comfortable and supportive learning space.

Giving ESL students the opportunity to practice their speaking skills in a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere will help them become more confident in their abilities and more willing to ask questions.

How do I engage ESL students online?

The first step to engaging ESL students online is to create an environment that encourages collaboration. This can be done by creating a virtual learning space, such as a private chatroom or discussion forum, which can act as a central hub for communication and sharing of resources.

To further engage these students, it’s important to ensure activities are tailored to their particular needs. And, you may want to provide real-time feedback on assignments or practice activities so that students have immediate feedback on their progress.

How can I be an amazing ESL teacher?

Becoming an amazing ESL teacher requires dedication, but it is a rewarding experience. First, you need to understand the English language and its nuances thoroughly. And, you should be able to communicate effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds and levels of fluency.

A great ESL teacher must have patience; teaching students how to learn a new language can be difficult and rewarding at the same time. Having an organized lesson plan or syllabus will help guide the learning process.

What makes a good online ESL teacher?

A good online ESL teacher should have strong communication skills, be tech savvy, and have a passion for language teaching. Communication is key since online instruction requires the teacher to be able to convey instructions in an easy-to-understand way.

They should also be comfortable and knowledgeable with technology since they will be using video conferencing platforms to teach online more effectively. Finally, they should have a genuine enthusiasm for learning languages as it will help make teaching classes more fun and interesting for both teacher and student.

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Conclusion: Online ESL Class Ideas

The key to creating effective online ESL lesson plans is to keep your students engaged and having fun. Your students will enjoy the variety of activities, games, and projects that you have prepared for them.

If they are having a great time, they will be more likely to stay focused and retain the language they have learned. Remember to set realistic goals when teaching online and allow yourself enough time to manage each class properly.

There are many online ESL class ideas that can help make your classes enjoyable and effective. Even if you teach English abroad, in South Korea or beyond, these ESL class ideas can still be helpful!

Whether you are trying out some new activities or incorporating virtual reality games into your lessons, these ideas should give you plenty of options for making your online ESL classes interesting and engaging.

All of these possibilities should motivate your students to stay focused on learning English, so don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to teaching ESL online!

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