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How to Engage Young Learners Online

On Wednesday 15th April, Buckswood Overseas Summer School Director Neil, gave a training webinar for English UK about how to engage young learners online. Below are his notes from the session.

1. Know your motivation - why do you want to keep young learners engaged online?

  • Is it what you normally do? Do you have young learners year round?

  • To provide a service?

  • To keep your school in the forefront of people’s minds?

  • To showcase what you can do?

Whatever your motivation, don’t allow the online session to be all about your school, i.e. to salesy, however do bear in mind that you can take valuable “materials” from your sessions, e.g. photos, videos and testimonials but remember to consider GDPR.

2. Be clear as to what the session is and give the kids time to prepare. Don’t assume they understand and know what they should be doing.

  • Use Instagram for the kids

  • Use Facebook for the parents

  • Use Linkedin for your partners

  • Use the sessions to explain and describe future sessions

  • Blog to keep people informed regarding what you’ve done and what is coming

3. Feature unique aspects of your school

Assembly, catchphrases, dancing. Drop in hints as to what exists in reality.

4. Give them ownership – it’s a risk but this is the secret

It’s a risk as they may not do as they’re told but let the students generate the content of the sessions. They don’t want to be the one who turns up with nothing to show and they take pride in being able to show off their creations and answer questions.

5. Over prepare and always have a plan B

An online activity may seem simple to begin with but what if only 2 kids show up when you’ve prepared for 10? What if the kids didn’t do their homework rendering your session over?

Don’t assume that your one hour plan will last one hour so always have a plan B up your sleeve and transition smoothly into it should your original plan finish earlier than anticipated.

6. Earn their respect

Like any type of interaction with young learners, earn their respect and they will respect you, listening and making and interaction simple. Be professional, turn up on time, be polite, encouraging.

7. Use their names

One advantage of Zoom is that you can see the students’ names, as in real life, use their names. It makes them feel special to know that you “know” their name.

8. Show them that you’re human

Kids often see adults in an educational setting as authority type figures. Show them that you are not a robot as their mainstream teachers may be, make them laugh, tell them about your isolation experiences, show them your dog, etc.

9. Pretend to be cooler than you actually are

Despite your age, kids will see you as being an old person. Throw a dab into the conversation and they will laugh and let their guard down. Show them you can floss and they will laugh some more. Know what songs they’re into and use this knowledge in your sessions.

10. Get involved

If you have set the students a task to complete, complete it too. It’ll set a good example as well as distracting you from your usual work. It’ll also show the students that you too are excited and enthusiastic about the task. You can also make it funny to make them laugh. It’ll also show them that you are human.

11. Allow students to be interested in each other

Take advantage of the online international community. Have students introduce themselves and say where they’re from. Share stories about the quarantine as this is something that everyone currently has in common.

12. Don’t show any sign of negativity

The slightest hint of negativity and you can lose a room. Same in real life whether it be with students, colleagues, friends, etc. Be thoughtful towards the students.

13. Smile. Show positive body language

Remember students can see you for 100% of the time so no slouching, no yawning, etc.

14. Enjoy it, show natural enthusiasm

With enthusiasm you could make kids enjoy jumping up and down in mud.

15. Use exaggerated, gestures such as rounds of applause, elaborate introductions to introduce activities as you would live on stage in a school sports hall

16. Manage students, give everyone an equal chance.

As per a normal class/activity.

17. Be a conductor

The most successful sessions are the ones with more student input and less you.

18. Take advantage of the Zoom controls to mute people if they are being too loud or to give a particular student the spotlight

Also by muting everyone apart from the speaker, you will get more internet power making the sound and/or video clearer.

19. Never end a session without anything to think about

Let the online experience last more than the hour by setting homework, etc.

20. Engage your students and their families outside of the online sessions

You might have one hour a day online but students may have multiple hours to fill. Set projects that engage not only them but also their siblings and parents. This will also impress the parents by allowing them to see how you can engage their kids.

21. Allow the kids to have an input into the forthcoming online programmes

This will also make your life easier as rather than scratching your head to come up with ideas, the kids give them to you and everyone’s a winner. Your job is done and they’re getting what they want.

22. Reward

Give e-certificates for attendance, winning games, etc.

23. Don’t over kill it

It might be tempting to offer all of the hours under the sun due to the convenience of the technology and the online space however, do consider that you are asking kids to sit still, in front of a computer for an extended period of time.

24. Don’t be scared of trial and error

You never learn if you don’t fail but fail gracefully, seamlessly and transition into plan B. Nobody will know about your errors apart from you.

We hope that you find these tips useful. If you have any questions or comments about engaging young learners online. Please feel free to get in touch!


BOSS is a British Council accredited language school for students aged 8 to 17 from across the globe. To find out more, please visit or contact us here. #BuckswoodOverseasSummerSchool #BOSS #InternationalEducation #Intled #SummerSchool #SummerCamp #England #UK #Travel #Education #EdChat #IrnChat #Classroom #Teaching #GlobalEd #EngChat #New #FollowMe #Travel #UK

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