Teaching Online

As a result of Coronavirus, many more of us have been making the switch to teaching ESL and business English online. For me, this has been a learning curve and and has led me to reevaluate my approach to the materials I use.

In the short term I will be retooling some of the existing content for more online-friendly use, and in the future I will be creating content designed to be used purely in an online environment.

Please let me know in the comments if you have any feedback on material design.

Conversation Questions

I originally designed these two web apps to run off smartphones in a physical classroom. But they also run perfectly well in a browser window. I find the random questions generator particularly helpful as a warm-up or filler exercise.

Vocabulary Scatter Sheets

I have found this seemingly basic vocabulary review / testing exercise to work quite well online.

Students take it in turns to describe one of the words on the screen and the other students must guess the right word. Highlight or delete the completed words until all the words are gone. Obviously the challenge gets harder as the activity continues. If a student doesn’t know any of the words they can look it up or pass.

If you are using the docx files you can simply highlight or delete the correct word and adjust the wordsheet to add or remove suitable vocabulary items. If you would rather use the PDF you can use a browser extentsion which allows you to draw on the screen. I use a chrome extension called Write on Web.

I’ll be adding more sheets soon.

Spelling Test

Spelling tests are a fun activity in an online evironment. Especially if you have a shared chat-area. Prepare a list of five to ten tricky words (possibly thematically related). Students can type the words into the chat area and debate the correct spelling while you give feedback and helpful hints.

Grammar and Vocabulary Photosets

These photo slideshows can be used to illustrate and test specific vocabulary or grammar points.

Using Online Resources


Geoguessr is a fun online game using Google Maps in which you are transported to a random place on the globe (you can narrow down the target area). You then have to navigate your surroundings and finally make a guess as to where you think you are. The closer you are the more points you get. This is great with a shared screen so the other students can guide your exploration.

Random Street View is a simpler version which also seems to produce more interesting locations.


Semantris is actually two clever and addictive word association games using Google’s AI. Students must suggest words connected to a target word in order to connect blocks or remove the target word from an ever growing stack.


Hangman is a fun way to review the alphabet or resurface the odd bit of vocabulary. This handy hangman webpage allows you to input your own vocabulary to create a fun, five minute filler.

Wheel Randomizer

This is a handy tool for picking random students, topics, categories, etc.


Quizlet is a user-friendly, flashcard-based, quiz maker which you can use for reviewing vocabulary. Simply enter the target word and Quizlet generates pictures and translations which you can use for a variety of activities.