A question for all of you teaching online: have you ever recorded your classes? I’ve been doing so for some months now and I’d like to share my thoughts about using recordings of online classes. What’s in it for the teacher and the student?
What’s in it for the teacher?
I first mentioned recording my classes here . If you are a freelance online teacher you probably enjoy absolute freedom and no supervision. At the same time, you’re deprived of the opportunity to be observed by a DOS / fellow teacher and use their remarks to grow and develop professionally.
Recording my own lessons (and then having the guts to listen to them!) has given me the chance to reflect on some areas I feel I’ve been struggling with for quite some time:
- the clarity of instructions
- teacher talking time (and its quality)
- giving students some time to think before they answer
I think these 3 illustrate best the first and biggest issue people might have with teaching and learning online: overcoming the awkwardness. This feeling is easily detected by students both online and offline and my main aim is to create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in my classes. It is especially important for students who are new to learning online and have some reservations regarding such lessons. A rambling teacher who doesn’t let their students speak definitely won’t help.
What’s in it for the student?
It wasn’t until I started teaching a student getting ready to pass her IELTS that I started sharing class recordings with my learners. The aim there was for her to listen to herself and work on areas assessed during the speaking exam: fluency, grammar accuracy, lexis, and pronunciation. This is how I started designing extra homework tasks for my students based solely on audio from our lessons.
How does it work?
- I share the audio recording with my student (mp3)
- I direct them to a specific part (or parts) of the recording. It is usually around 5 minutes long and contains a part of the discussion we had in class / my student talking about something for an extended period of time.
- I ask my student to identify their own shortcomings in this piece, letting them know what to focus on ( I still tend to use the IELTS criteria as guidelines)
- depending on what they need to focus on, students submit written or audio (pronunciation!) answers
Classroom experience after hours
I think learning from your own mistakes is the only way to move forward. There might be plenty of correction offered in class but it usually happens in the moment and, even if it’s delayed, it still belongs to the “class time”. Enabling students to listen to themselves use English “after hours” not only extends this classroom experience but also lets them go back to the lesson content, replay the class in their head, and immerse themselves in English once more. This time, with a very specific purpose: find the problem and fix it.
Yay, let me listen to my mistakes yet again!
Let’s face it, listening to ourselves is usually uncomfortable and weird. If you, on top of that, need to listen to yourself and pick up on mistakes you had made, it might become a learning inhibitor. If I receive negative feedback from a student (“I felt relly sad having to sit through 5 minutes of that!”) I try to flip the activity on its head. The next recording they get directs them to the parts of the lesson where they really shone and their task is to once more identify and use the good language they demonstrated they know. It works great with students who have the tendency to doubt their abilities and complain about not making any progress (they can listen to two recordings taken a month or two apart and compare whether they really made no progress!).
No reason not to try it
Recording your classes and engaging with the recording gives you the opportunity to reflect on the quality of your teaching (ideally, you’d find a fellow teacher who’d agree to listen to your class recording and offer feedback).
Sharing the recordings with the students enables them to work on their language in a conscious, deliberate way and puts them right back in the middle of the learning experience. It’s also a great way to motivate and encourage students who still feel doubtful about their skills and lack confidence in their abilities.