Making teaching English online easier with ESL Brains

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Teaching English online now

I started teaching online three years ago and I came to really enjoy this format. Despite its downsides, there are many benefits for teachers of doing lessons online. The obvious one is just the sheer amount of time you save when you don’t need to commute endlessly across the city. Plus, you open up to thousands of other students and job opportunities. But teaching English online today is not a choice for many and it’s simply the only way they can do it. Justa and I are on the same boat as many of you teachers out there and we figure we can do something to make it easier.
Our worksheets are not really online-friendly. PDFs are great to maintain the same format no matter what text editing software you use. You can click download, enter number of copies, press print and off you go to your lessons. But PDFs are not the best for online classes. It’s too static and you lose the dynamic aspect of an online editable format. There is just so much more possibilities of formatting your materials when you’re not constrained to A4-sized sheets of paper.
We’ve been thinking for some time how to adapt the worksheets we share with you to the current times. And with many ideas in our heads, we couldn’t decide what is the right way to do it. Then, the coronavirus pandemic took over the world in the span of a few weeks, our holidays were ruined and we had to do something to make it easier for other teachers and we had to do it now!

Introducing E-Lesson Plans

Today we’re unveiling a new worksheet format suitable for teaching English online. We call it ‘E-Lesson Plan’ (might sound cheesy a bit but there’s no time for brainstorming the name now). These are our standard lesson plans, flipped lessons plans and extra worksheets (soon) converted into Google Slides presentations. Of course, it’s not just copy+paste into Google Slides. We had to tweak the lessons a little bit here and there, and adapt the tasks to make them usable in Google Slides format.
What E-Lesson Plans mean is that you get:

  1. editable ESL Brains lesson plan
  2. one file with both student’s version and answer sheet
  3. animated presentation that you can present straight away during your online classes
  4. a digital format suitable for teaching English online which you can work on with your students in real-time

How to use E-Lesson Plans

Get your own version!

Make a copy or download our e-lesson plan so that you can adapt, send it to your students and edit it with them in real-time during your online lessons. If you have a Google account you can click File > Make a copy > Entire presentation. If you’re not a Google fan, click File > Download > Microsoft Powerpoint and you will get the e-lesson plan in ppt format.

  • Start using a videoconferencing tool!
    Get a videoconferencing tool so that you can share your screen and let your students take control to do tasks in real-time during the lesson. It doesn’t matter whether you choose Zoom, Skype, Hangout, Webex or something else, all of these have such a functionality. Our favorite is Zoom but it’s all up to you!
  • Use the present mode
    With the present mode you’ll see the animations and transitions that we’ve built so the lesson flows smoothly. When you want to edit a presentation, for example, to do some task online – just exit the present mode and let them work on the presentation.
  • Split the slides if you do a Flipped Lesson
    Divide the E-Lesson Plan (Google Slides) into ‘pre-class’ and ‘in-class’ parts. Share with your students the ‘pre-class’ section and focus on in-class use of new vocabulary and grammar during your online classes.
  • Work in pairs and groups
    Use breakout rooms (in Zoom) to split your class into smaller groups and let them work individually on some speaking tasks.
  • Never done teaching online? Get some tips from other teachers
    If you’re anxious about teaching online or don’t know how to do that, get some tips and best practices from other teachers out there. We recommend starting from Sandy Millin’s blog and her tips on using Zoom.

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Leave a Reply

  1. Mary Denver

    Hello all, currently I’m a face-to-face private IELTS/English language testing coach with a background in Applied Linguistics, and for the last five years I’ve also been (voluntarily) teaching a U3A (University of the Third Age) Brisbane ESOL class of older (55-70 ) students at Intermediate and above level (B1-B2 ). I’m happy to say we have had a few students with Polish backgrounds!

    U3A Brisbane in Queensland, Australia is a thriving organisation dedicated to lifelong learning, with a membership of 7399 mostly retired students.

    I had started our new curriculum in Term 1, 2020 using ESL Brains materials, including flipped classroom lesson plans, until we closed because of COVID 19.

    I never thought that I’d be able to work with my group online, although many have professional backgrounds, some were tentative about using technology. However we set up a parallel WhatsApp U3A class group in 2017, for which we have one main rule – English only – and today I’m pleased to say we had our first ZOOM meeting to prepare for ZOOM – delivered classes in Term 2, starting 20 April.

    At the same time I’ve started IELTS coaching by ZOOM, which is going well.

    All this to say that ESL Brains materials are invaluable for the learning situation in which we find ourselves. I’ll let you know how we get on by ZOOM in Term 2! Regards, Mary Denver, Brisbane

  2. Stan

    Great to hear that Mary! I think more often than not people are anxious to use technology and change the way they interact with each other but your example shows that age is not an obstacle here and everyone can do online teaching. I’d love to hear more from you and learn about your experience. Maybe we could even run a post on ESL Brains which would include some tips from all the teachers who come here, would you be up for it?

  3. Colleen's Consulting CC

    Hello All, I have recently completed by TEFL course in Feb 2020, with a 30 hours Business add-on. I was so excited to start teaching and had secured my first German speaking student in March 2020. Unfortunately, my lesson plan (first official one :)) had to be cancelled due to the current pandemic. I have no teaching experience and would very much appreciate any feedback regarding online teaching. Being a newbie, it is proving to be quite a challenge. Please help!

  4. Ken

    There is just so much more possibilities of formatting your materials when you’re not constrained to A4-sized sheets of paper.

    1. Stan

      Exactly! It opens up so many options. We think about focusing more on materials for teaching online because it’s more fun to use nowadays.

  5. Regina

    Hey there, try this course Very well organized and thought out. I highly recommend it. It’s free. Good luck!

  6. Regina

    Sorry about double posting. I actually want to reply to Colleen’s Consulting CC and as I didn’t see it come up, I posted again. Now I can’t figure out how to delete one of them 🙁

    1. Justa

      We’ve just fixed that! Thanks for comment Regina 🙂

  7. Alla Kitaeva

    Hi team, rookie question here (not a rookie exactly but for sure one in E lesson plans). When I try to share screen and present in the Skype, it all goes marvelous until we get to the video slide. This is where we start having issues – learners do not hear the audio of the vid embedded. I believe being able to watch the video and the questions on the same slide is amazing and is exactly what makes Eplans stand out. It´s a pity not being able to use this feature. Do you guys have any idea? Or is it the Skype thing?

    1. Stan

      Alla, I haven’t been using Skype for years now. Maybe someone out here can help you.
      This might help you: but I haven’t checked if it works.

  8. Colleen's Consulting CC

    Thank you Regina, much appreciated xxx

  9. Colleen's Consulting CC

    Thanks Regina, my message didn’t pop up, hope you get this one. Many thanks, greatly appreciate your reply x

    1. Stan

      That’s our fault. Due to spam, we need to approve every comment by non-registered users because otherwise the comment section would be swamped with weird stuff 🙂

  10. Lidia

    How can I find the Lesson Plan “Communication is not that easy”

    1. Stan

      hi Lidia! It’s here: but whenever you can’t find anything, use the menu in the top or the search (click the magnifying glass icon in the right corner of the top menu)

  11. Christine

    I plan to use some of these lessons this fall! I teach complete beginners to about the B1/B2 level, so it would be amazing if in the future there were some more B1 or even A2 lessons here.

    It’s really great they are editable because I’m in the US. There are so many great materials in British English out there, but spending half the class explaining why something is spelled differently or needing to say, “we don’t say that here, so just ignore that” is very frustrating. Now I can just make it ‘Merican and present!

    1. Stan

      Thanks for the comment. I hope you’re going to enjoy this format in the upcoming months. We try to be as universal as possible, i.e. showing both American and British English in terms of vocabulary but you’re right that we mostly keep the BrEng spelling – simply out of habit.
      BTW we have several B1 lessons available and maybe in the future we’ll also introduce A1-A2 level lessons.

  12. John

    Really impressive!!
    Meaty stuff. Lovely clean, easily navigable interface. I LIKE!!!!

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