Zoom Phase 2: From Survive to Thrive (Webinar). QuaranTIME of My Life.

I gave this webinar as part of Trendy English’s ‘Teaching Online 2.0: Level Up!’ web conference on Sunday 10th May.

I always enjoy any work I’m invited to do for Trendy English, headed by Elena Peresada and her team in Moscow. Apart from being years ahead of the curve on webinars and online teacher training, they are passionate about gamifying ELT by putting great ideas like online RPGs into practice (Saving the Princess lesson plan here). It’s been a busy Spring for online teaching, as I’m sure you’re aware – see the end of this post for other Trendy English webinars I’ve given recently.

So once again, thank you and Спасибо for having me and for being such an excellent leader in these new times of online teaching!

Screenshot (25)

Slides (or click here to view on Google Drive):

Recording – starting after 6:30 following Evgeny’s conference introduction:

Part A. Camera.

1. Individual reading task

Do you enjoy reading? Good. Would you still enjoy reading if between five and 25 faces were glaring at you from 30cm away? That’s the reading environment we are creating on Zoom IF we don’t level up with the use of the cameras.

My suggestion? In individual reading tasks, have learners turn their cameras off while doing the individual tasks i.e. before pair check in breakout rooms [BORs from now on]. When they have finished the task, they turn the cameras back on to let you know. By the way – as some teachers asked during the webinar – keep your camera off too during the reading task ( the screenshot below was one second before I did this, honestly!)

Keep an eye on the Participants box (on the left in the screen shot below) for camera statuses (on/off) – only you can see this; it’s invisible to students. This is the Zoom alternative to monitoring tasks over students’ shoulders in the physical classroom. This can be used for any written task, of course.

Screenshot (37)

2. MTV Cribs

This was a pop culture classic of the early 2000s – I would watch it as a youth at friends’ houses whose parents invested in Sky (satellite) TV! I mean, Snoop D.O.G:G., y’aaaall? “Untouchable, player” hahaha!

So back to Spring/Summer 2020, what’s the idea here? Using laptops or phones ideally for mobility, learners take their classmates, as a whole group or BOR, on a tour around their ‘crib’: the room where their working space is; favourite room; whole house; even what they can see from the nearest window if they are more comfortable with that.

Tons of vocabulary combine with presentation skills here for a really useful exercise, and it gets them out of their seats which is a vital part of teaching that we have to work doubly hard to manufacture when working online (see ‘I Like to Move It, Move It’ for more lesson ideas on this).

3. RPG Character Creation

Thanks to Elena and her team for opening up this door for me – now Roleplay Games (RPGs) are a stable part of my teaching techniques online. Incredibly engaging, creative improvisation from all players, and designed with a specific language aim – what’s not to like?!

As we’re at home, we have plenty of clothes and ‘props’ like hats, jewellery and bikes close by, so make them to good use to bring your RPGs to life.

Screenshot (29)

Personally, I like to include different accents too so my learners are exposed to global accents and not just my southern England English (nobody wants to be accused by the powers that be – TEFL Equity – of being ‘native-speakerist, after all! It sounds too much like racist!’)

Please join the ‘RPG in ELT’ Facebook group to keep updated, including our weekly live training sessions with teachers from around the world, playing the RPGs together and taking turns to master the Games Master role.

Part B. Breakout Rooms.

1. Carousel including Maurice 4-3-2-1

  1. Warn your learners that time is coming to an end by using the ‘Broadcast to all’ function on the BOR control panel.
  2. Using the ‘Move to’ or ‘Exchange’ functions on the BOR control panel (see Slide 12), move the students around to form new groups.
  3. Back to step 1. for another circle of the carousel!

Screenshot (27)

The Maurice 4-3-2-1 is a great teaching tool. Each number refers to the minutes with each partner, and the question/topic remains the same each time. This allows students to effectively self-edit from each round to the next, trimming unnecessary content and increasingly fluency each time.

Leave plenty of time for this though:

4 minutes each partner (assuming pairs) + 3 minutes each + 2 minutes each + 1 minute each = 19 minutes (better online – the BOR control panel allows you to move partners immediately vs in the classroom where I allow an extra 10 minutes for chair moving!)

I can assure you from experience that it’s well worth it!

2. One-to-ones / ‘Can I talk to you outside for a minute?’ moments

This requires less explanation. Consider all the moments when you need some privacy (not intimacy – Zoom is great but it can’t give us that yet) with one other person. Breakout Rooms are quiet, secure places to have these conversations:

  • a bullied child;
  • a little rascal (no I will not label any child ‘naughty’, ‘bad’ or ‘hyperactive’ – I was that child! Use your words carefully because the child becomes what you call him/her and please do some research on basic developmental psychology to re-direct this energy into a productive direction. If in doubt, ask me – I was that teenager so I know!);
  • a CELTA trainee – I did Stage Two Tutorials using BORs just last week;
  • a colleague during a team meeting.

3. BOR Settings: From Technicalities to Activities (From Survive to Thrive as the title promised)

A couple of simple ideas to make the most of the BOR control panel settings for activities:

  • BORs control panel feature #1: ‘BORs close automatically after — seconds’ (see Slide 14).
  • Idea #1? Info gap races or vocabulary tennis. Set the clock ticking and learners see how much information they can exchange in this time. Lower levels? Simple vocabulary items with the same timer set e.g. animal nouns. How many words can they get?
  • BORs control panel feature #2: countdown. After you close all BORs, there is a teacher-set time that learners have in order to make it back to the Main Room before being thrown back in automatically. If they click on Return to Main Room, however, they arrive back to the Main Room immediately.
  • Idea #2? Race back to the Main Room to write answers on the whiteboard or in the chat box and beat the other teams in speed! My teenage learners love doing this – it’s much more interesting than the traditional answer check.


At least here in Italy, we’re going to be teaching and teacher training on Zoom for the foreseeable future, with schools planning to open in September as it stands on 10th May (watch this space!). I’ll stand on the shoulders of a couple of true greats to express my philosophy on this period for teaching:

1. Epictetus, Stoic philosopher. ‘The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are eternals not under my control, and which I have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own.’ Control the controllables: how well you adapt to teaching on Zoom. Leave the uncontrollables like Covid-19 alone.

2. Charles Darwin. This is our current teaching environment to adapt to. Don’t just survive. THRIVE!

Screenshot (28)




Thanks for reading!

Write ups on other Trendy English webinars I’ve given this spring: Please Think Responsibly: Teen Gasoline and I Like to Move It, Move It

Other articles and lesson ideas for Zoom Teaching, see the Zoom Teaching section

Other articles and lesson ideas on promoting critical thinking skills, especially vital during this wild time of fake news and conspiracy theories, see the Media Literacy section

One thought on “Zoom Phase 2: From Survive to Thrive (Webinar). QuaranTIME of My Life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s