Teacher Tech: Making Your Own Video Subtitles

There’s some debate about whether it’s worthwhile to add subtitles to video clips that are shown in class. While that’s a good topic for another day, there likely will be times when, for whatever reason, you’ll want students to have subtitles to read as they watch a video. But what if you’re unable to find subtitles? Well, it’s actually possible to add your own. This article will show you one way to do this, and it doesn’t require any money, subscriptions, or tears on your behalf. Well, maybe a few tears, but at least it won’t cost you money.

First, the bad news. Adding subtitles isn’t as easy as it used to be … or, at least last time I checked. Years ago Windows had a free app known as Windows Movie Maker that allowed users to effortlessly add subtitles to their videos; however, this program was discontinued and every other method of adding subtitles now requires a bit more work: enough work such that fully subtitling a feature-length movie is probably out of the question. The good news is that, while a bit time consuming, it’s not terribly hard, and once you get the hang of it, you can subtitle a short video in under an hour.

Before We Start:

Before we learn how to add subtitles, it might worth talking about why you might need to use them in the first place. I’ve found adding subtitles can be useful when:

A. The English is too fast for students to understand, or uses unfamiliar pronunciation,

B. You want students to focus on the video’s overall meaning, rather than interpreting the English,

C. The English is too difficult, in which case a “simple English” (or even Korean!) translation can be
provided through the subtitles.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s learn how to do it.

Step 1: Download Shotcut

Yes, I know: I hate installing random programs, too. But Shotcut is, in my experience, one of the better free movie-editing apps out there. I’ve experimented with quite a few and, while Shotcut isn’t always intuitive and takes a bit of practice to figure out, it tends to have the best usability-to-hassle ratio among other free programs out there.

Here’s the link where you can download the program: https://www.shotcut.org/download/

Step 2: Select Your Video File

Easy enough: Simply open Shotcut, then drag and drop the file to which you want to add subtitles:

Your video will now appear in Shotcut.

Step 3: Add your Video to the Timeline

You’ll notice a big blank spot at the bottom of the Shotcut interface. Drag and drop the video window down to that area …

… and this will happen:

Step 4: Split the Video

Now’s the hard part. You’ll need to split the video at any point you want to add subtitles. To do this, first click anywhere above or below the blue timeline. DON’T click on the timeline itself. Once you do this, a white vertical line will appear where you clicked.

The white line is the cursor. You can drag it wherever you want on the video. NOTE: pressing the spacebar will cause the video to begin playing at the cursor, and pressing the spacebar again will cause everything to pause.

If you press S or the ][ symbol on Shotcut’s interface, this will happen:

You’ve now split the video at this location. As with a word document, you can press Ctrl+Z to undo it if you’ve made a mistake.

Find a place where you want to add a subtitle, and split the video at the beginning and end of the part where you want the subtitle to show, like this:

If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice two black bars sectioning off a portion of the video. This will be the frame where your subtitles will go.

Step 5: Add the Subtitles

Now, click on the frame where you want to put the subtitle. You can click directly on the blue timeline this time. The frame will be highlighted in red.

Now, go to the menu at the top of Shotcut, and select “Filters.”

Next, hit the + button below the window in the upper left.

A menu will pop up. Type “text” in the search bar. Then you can choose from either “simple” or “rich.” So as to not get too confusing, we’ll go with simple text for now, but if you have time, you can experiment with rich text later.

Now type your subtitle!

NOTE: If your subtitle isn’t appearing in the video window, it’s probably because your cursor is at a different point on the timeline. Move the cursor to the current frame, and your subtitle should show up.

You can adjust the position of the subtitle by dragging the little gray ball in the center of the video window.

In the event you totally mess up, the subtitles can be removed by clicking the – button next to the + button you clicked earlier.

Here’s the good news: You’ve now added your subtitle. The bad news? Now you have to do that EVERY TIME you want to add more subtitles. Unfortunately, without advanced knowledge of subtitle-creation software, this is probably your best option.

Step 6: Save the File

If you just save from the menu, it will save everything as a Shotcut project, but not as an actual video. In order to change everything to a video, you must convert it. Fortunately, this is pretty easy.

Simply click on “File” on the far upper-left, then select “Export Video” from the drop-down menu. Finally click “Export File,” shown here:

It will take a little while to convert the file. You can see the progress in the window on the right. When there’s a green checkmark, your video has been exported and saved.

Good job!

You’ve succeeded in adding subtitles to your video!

Sources:

The Art Institute of Colorado. (2011). How Coyote and Eagle Stole the Sun and Moon. YouTube. USA. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGXRSfdObag&ab_channel=EricaPrettyEagle.

Tips for Selecting Appropriate Videos for the Classroom

Picture this: you’re back in school, ready for another boring day of learning. You’ve got out your textbook and corresponding notebook, and have just set your pencils at the top of the desk when suddenly the teacher rolls in an antique relic of a TV player and a VCR. The mood in the class suddenly lifts – it’s a movie day!

Videos can be a great way to pique student interest, add other authentic voices to the classroom, create engagement, and a lot more. They can also be a great “treat” for students, but it’s not always appropriate to rely on videos rather than have a more active, student-centered classroom. In this post, we’ll go over ways that you can incorporate media into the classroom.

Consider Video Usage

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When considering a video, think about why you want to use it. Will it add something to your class, or is it just an interesting time filler? Of course, the latter is fine in some circumstances, but if you truly want students to learn, it might be best to watch the video yourself and come up with a lesson or activity from it. 

When planning to use a video in your class, consider this: if parents, a principal, or other educator were in the room with you, would you still play it? If the answer is “no,” then strongly reconsider using it.

Preview the Video

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This may seem like common sense, but when considering showing a video or videoclip to students, you should always watch it in advance. Nothing is worse than frantically trying to stop or block a video that takes a sudden inappropriate turn, and the fallout from showing inappropriate material – even accidentally – can be severe. You’ll also want to make sure that the video is appropriate for your students’ ages, English levels, and interests. If you don’t have a ton of time, consider playing the video at 2x speed when previewing. You’ll still be able to understand it, and you’ll get through it twice as fast. 

Use Subtitles

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I have a confession: I always watch movies and television shows with subtitles, even when the media is originally in my native language. I get distracted by what’s going on in the background, my phone, and of course, listening becomes an impossibility the minute I decide to eat some chips.

In the classroom, students likely have similar distractions, or have other reasons they need subtitles. Subtitles can vastly improve comprehension. Depending on what your goal is with the video, consider using subtitles – or if you can show the video more than once, try using subtitles for at least one of the views. 

Think About Video Length

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If you’re teaching a forty minute class, it’s probably not in the best interest to use a full twenty minute episode of something. When playing a video, its presence in the classroom needs to be justified with your teaching practice. Do you really need to play the full time, or can the actual content you want to use be made shorter? We can circle back to the parents or principal rule: if you would cut the video down if they were there, do it for your students.

Pick Appropriate Clips or Pieces From the Video

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I once met an instructor who, instead of teaching a class, would simply play entire Ted Talk videos as a substitute for actually teaching.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using Ted Talks to supplement your class, but videos definitely should be used alongside teaching, rather than replace it!

As discussed earlier, it isn’t always the best choice to simply play a full video in class. Instead, you can glean pieces of clips that are relevant to your classroom. This will make sure that the video content is concise, and give you more time for teaching and going over content in class. If you do want to use material from a video in class, or you think that what they’re saying is good, you can watch the video, learn it yourself, and then cite what they are saying in a shorter way. This will make your class go more smoothly, and ensure you can maintain a better balance.

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These are just a few things to keep in mind when selecting a video to use in your classroom. As ever, use your own judgement – it’s likely that you know your students and what is appropriate to use for them in the classroom.

Soft Skills in the Secondary ESL Classroom

Listening, reading, speaking, writing, grammar . . . these are all skills that every secondary-education English teacher tries to improve in their students. However, being a teacher is more than just teaching the skills involved in a subject; it’s also about equipping students with the life skills they need to be successful members of society. Unfortunately, there are seldom any classes that teach these skills, but the good news is that we, as teachers, can incorporate them into our everyday lessons. In today’s blog post, we’ll look at some auxiliary skills—or soft skills— that high-school and middle-school teachers can subtly incorporate into the flow of their usual classes.

A quick note before we begin: this article is intended to simply bring awareness to the need for these skills. Readers might find themselves wondering just, how, exactly, to effectively teach them to their students. While this article will give a few tips, each one is a topic in its own, about which an entire book could easily be written! Fortunately, GIFLE often holds training related to these topics and more, so we encourage readers to keeping checking this blog for further teaching tips and advice – or better yet, enroll in some of our trainings!

Note-Taking Skills

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In my previous job, I was tasked with helping students deliver a speech for a school competition. To this end, I gave them a variety of words that I thought would be helpful in accomplishing their goal. “If I were you,” I’d say, looking over the rims of my glasses to drive the subtle hint across, “I’d use these words in your speech to maybe get a few extra points on your final score.” Then I watched as the students, instead of writing the words down, continued to stare straight ahead, slack jawed. During the students’ final presentations, probably one student among the whole sophomore class used any of the words I taught them (and that student got a pretty high score, incidentally).

Later, when test time drew near, I was tasked with overseeing student self-study sessions. It was during this time I noticed something curious: not one student studied from a notebook. Studying was done either by pouring over highlighted textbooks or grinding through multiple-choice problems in their practice books. It hit me then: my students didn’t know how to take notes. Or, if they did, they weren’t convinced of the skill’s usefulness.

Taking notes is such an important habit for students to have. As a former language student, myself — having logged in over 3,000 classroom hours studying Modern Standard Arabic — I can tell you that there are so many grammar points, words, and tips that might be helpful to one student, but not to another, and test-practice books alone cannot account for these. Students need to be encouraged to actively listen and be ready to take (and later review) notes in order to tailor their study to their particular needs.

What’s more, this is a skill that is not only useful for English, but for any skill. For example, anyone who’s studied taekwondo, for instance, can likely recall a time they were taught a technique, only to attend class the following week to find themselves asking, “wait, how did that move go?” Similarly, anyone with a busy schedule knows they need to write their meetings and appointments in some kind of planner, or they’re bound to forget an important event. Whether it’s English, taekwondo, or business, note taking is a skill teachers need to encourage in their students.

How does one teach that skill? Well, that can be a complex topic best covered in another post, but a good place to start can be to make sure your students come to every class with a notebook and pencil. When you teach a point that you think is particularly important or useful, tell them to write it down!

Personal Accountability for Assignments

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I used to teach a lesson about riddles. Students would spend one class period thinking, in a team, of abstruse clues regarding an object of their choice. They would write these clues down, then present them in the following period in a sort of class competition. Sometimes students would lose the papers on which their riddles were written. My solution? Tell them “tough luck.”

I’ve noticed this with other activities as well. Any time I’ve had a class that required students to bring in a paper (or other item) a following class session, several (or sometimes many) forgot. This shows a real lack of organization and responsibility in high school students . . . which is to be expected in teenagers, of course! However, that’s why we need to teach them responsibility now, so that today’s high school students don’t end up becoming tomorrow’s businesspeople who forget to bring important documents to meetings, or paramedics who forgets to bring important pieces of life saving equipment to emergencies.

To this end, I encourage teachers to resist the temptation to manage students’ materials. Often, teachers prefer to collect ongoing assignments (book reports, projects, etc.) and return them for students to work on in subsequent classes, since this insures students will be able to use class time productively (or, in the case of written assignments, that they don’t have their friends do the work for them). However, this doesn’t build habits of responsibility. Instead, it makes students think that, even if they forget something important, there will always be someone to cover for them.

Of course, it’s easy to talk about this, but when a student shows up in class with nothing to do, it’s much harder to enforce it in reality. Therefore, it’s good to have a backup plan for forgetful students. For example, if a student forgets a report they’re working on, have them try to their best to continue it in class, then later re-write it on the original paper. At the same time, don’t be afraid of awkward moments. If a team forgets presentation material? Well, then they have to try it from memory, and if it doesn’t go well, let it be a lesson for how the real world works.

Confidence and Risk Taking

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The famous American baseball player Babe Ruth once said that we miss 100 percent of the shots we don’t take. Well, Korean students often use the opposite idea: We never give a wrong answer if we never participate. This is an unfortunate philosophy by which to live life. While there’s something to be said for the “better safe than sorry” outlook on life (ask anyone who’s been injured in a fireworks accident), it also means they miss out on a lot of potential life opportunities, and in class this will mean that students, out of fear of appearing foolish to their classmates, seldom volunteer.

But how does a teacher help inspire confidence in students? Unfortunately there’s no easy answer for this; (GIFLE’s Level One teacher training last month centered around this very issue, in fact!) but a good place to start is to try to create a classroom environment that allows mistakes. I often tell students that shy people seldom make history, and that sometimes being successful means doing things wrong once in a while. If a student’s answer is wrong, I might take a moment to explain why the answer might have seemed right to them when giving corrections. For example, if a student makes a pronunciation mistake, I’ll tell them “yes, a ‘p’ usually makes that sound, but when paired with an ‘h,’ the sound changes to that of an ‘f,’” instead of simply telling them “no, that’s wrong.”

Of course, this isn’t to say you have tell every student every time that every effort is a good effort. Sometimes they need to be told to get their heads out of the clouds and focus! That’s our next topic.

Attention to Detail

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Many ESL teachers will tell you not to focus too much on minor grammatical mistakes, as fear of making mistakes discourages students from speaking or writing their own English (see above). There is a lot of truth to this: if a student has to pause every time to consider if they need a definite or indefinite article before a noun, it can really slow down the speaking process.  However, there are also times when students should be made to consider some of the finer details of their English. This is because students often have a habit of being hasty and overlooking certain small, but important points. For example, in their writing, they might forget to capitalize their names, or place a period at the end of a sentence. What’s more, they seldom take time to proofread any pieces of English writing they submit to the teacher. These instances and more provide opportunities to teach students to put effort into the quality of their work.

This is an important life lesson for students. Again, bad habits in school can lead to bad habits as an adult. A student who doesn’t take time to check to see if the first word in every sentence is capitalized might later become a doctor who forgets to check if his patient is allergic to any medications, or an accountant who doesn’t take time to check her math.

So when it comes to certain, basic, English concepts, don’t be afraid to make sure your students are paying attention to the little things once in a while.

Wait! What About …

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Critical thinking? Citizenship skills? The ability to draw a realistic-looking cat? Yes, all of these and more are valuable soft skills for students to have, and there are many more you might be able to think of, as well. The above items are just four examples to consider when teaching your students. Remember, our job isn’t just to create English speakers, but future leaders, as well.

Authentic Media in the ESL Classroom

It is difficult to venture into a classroom in the 21st century without encountering some sort of multimedia. From pictures to videos and every Instagram post in-between, media has a way of grabbing students’ attention and conveying themes and information in a way they can relate to.

Media has a special place in the English as a second language/English as a foreign language (ESL/EFL) classroom. Often, visual representation of content is the catalyst for student understanding of language concepts and vocabulary. However, it can be tricky when media runs into cultural representation. Just as it is an easy way to engage our students and help them visualize concepts and content, it is just as easy to misrepresent cultures and people groups with inaccurate media.

This is why it is important to seek out authentic media when possible. Authentic media is multimedia that comes from authentic voices. Simply put, it is pictures, videos, music and more that comes directly from the culture which it is representing.

Think of it this way. Which seems like a more accurate representation of a culture; a travel video made by a Korean who is traveling for 3 days in this country, or a daily life video made by a native resident of the country? Of course, the native resident would have a more accurate understanding of the cultural practices and traditions of their home country. When we are showing videos, pictures, or other forms of media to students, it is the duty of the teacher to be sure that they are representing that culture as accurately as possible. In this way, we help our students to have a more informed worldview and a deeper understanding of cultures around the world, rather than looking at the world through the lens of their native country or through a west-centric point of view.

But how can we access authentic materials? Below I will outline a few tips for choosing materials, along with some great places to start looking.

Look at the author

A simple way to check for authenticity is to look at the author. Are they a native to this culture? Or are they merely an observer? Even reputable sources like National Geographic can hold bias in the images they present, so it is always prudent to check for media created by those living within the culture or people group that you’d like to showcase to your students. When looking at content where the creator is an outsider observing a particular culture or community, seek media that allow their subjects to speak. Meaning seek content such as videos that include interviews or tell the stories of specific people from that culture or community, rather than videos that tend to generalize like travel vlogs.

Look at the location

In many places, rural areas may look drastically different from metropolitan areas. It is important to consider this when presenting images of a particular country that your students may not have much information about outside of your class.

Look at the bias

Even those native to a culture or community can be biased in the presentation of their surroundings. It’s important to always remind students to seek multiple points of view and try to access more than one portrayal of a culture before making assumptions.

Places to Start Looking

Great Big Story- YouTube short video channel

Though they are no longer making new videos, the Great Big Story YouTube channel still has hundreds of videos to search through to find great stories from nearly every corner of the world. Though the channel itself is made by an American company (CNN), the videos center on real people and real stories, without any bias or commentary from the videographer or journalist. The videos range from one minute to fifteen minutes and often include English subtitles. Some may even have subtitles available in other languages.

The stories are compelling, and can showcase parts of a culture that are not often found within a textbook. The simplest way to find the perfect video is to use the “search” function on the YouTube channel page and type in the country, culture, or community you would like to represent in your classroom.

Use the search function to find the videos that cover the topic you are interested in

Here is a video about the Turkish whistling language

Great Big Story Homepage link

https://www.youtube.com/c/GreatBigStory/featured

NasDaily YouTube Channel- Nuseir Yassin

Similar to Great Big Story, NasDaily, a channel run by Israeli Nuseir Yassin, is full of videos about many places around the world, not only the native country of the content creator. However, the videos he makes are authentic in a special way. What the author of these videos, Nuseir, does is allow the people from the culture he is visiting to tell their own story. In essence, the videos he makes, which range from 1 to 5 minutes, are about people. By keeping the stories human-based, the videos themselves become more authentic.

Here is a video about the Water King of Kenya

Also similar to Great Big Story, you can use the search function on the homepage to find videos that fit what you are looking for

A link to the homepage for NasDaily

https://www.youtube.com/c/NasDaily/featured

Vlog- Personal-life Videos often found on hosting sites such as YouTube

Outside of these larger channels, smaller videos made by those within the culture or community you’d like to share with your students can be a powerful way to model authenticity to students.

Some of the easiest ways to search for these types of vides is to put “[country/community name] vlog” or “[country/community name] daily life” in the YouTube search bar. Vlog stands for “video log” and is usually a first-person account of the video author’s own experiences. However, avoid travel vlogs like the ones in the following image.

These videos are made by tourists to that country or community and will not produce the same authentic view as a video made by someone from within that culture. Instead look for videos of people speaking about their own lives. A good way to do this is to check the “About” section on their YouTube homepage like can be seen in the following image and see if the channel creator is a resident of the country covered in their vlogs.

This channel hosts videos made by Salta, a local Kazakh who makes videos about life in Kazakhstan, like this one

Here are a few more vlog examples

Russia with Yeah Russia, a channel from a Russian girl named Natasha

Nigeria with Eboh Media, a channel from Eboh Gee Chigozie, who takes an authentic look at Nigerian daily life.

Or Egypt with Mahmoud Yehia, a film maker from Egypt who looks at a day in the life in an Egyptian village

Though this film mostly represents rural areas of Egypt, clips can be combined with the following video on a day in the life in Cairo, Egypt by Azat Akhunov

And many more…

All of the above resources are a great place to start, but there is plenty more authentic media outside of YouTube. Just search for authors making content about their own culture or community and you can access a plethora of authentic multimedia to enrich your lessons and provide context for the cultures and communities your students may come across in their textbooks.

Zoom Teaching Tips: How to Present Information Better

Online teaching has become a necessary part of school life during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. If we were to break it down, there are three models of online teaching that are viable in most cases: the synchronous model, the asynchronous model, and blended.

In the first method – the synchronous model – teachers and students use Zoom or Google Meet to teach students face-to-face and in real time via a computer. The second way of online teaching, the asynchronous model, has the teacher provide educational materials in a Google Classroom and lets students view the materials on their own time. The students then studies the material, completes the assignments and uploads them on Google Classroom or another LMS. The final model is blend between synchronous and asynchronous model where Google Classroom is used along with online classes with Zoom or Google Meet.

In today’s blog post, we’re going to discuss some tips that you can use in all three of these models for classroom success.

Zoom Tips for Classroom Success

Here at GIFLE, we have been mostly using Zoom to do synchronous online training programs and classes, namely our school visit program and the English Conversation Program. As a coordinator observing, managing, administrating and teaching these programs, the following are a few observations I had about doing classes through Zoom. However, as mentioned, these tips can also prove useful for those doing asynchronous or blended methods as well.

Bigger Text, Readable Fonts, Clear Pictures

The above PowerPoint slide was used in a class that I taught about US Culture. When making the slide, I thought all the text and pictures would be visible to the students.

That was not the case, and trying to use fonts that were too small interrupted my entire lesson.

When teaching in in-person class, this slide might be visible because you have a big projector screen or big screen TV. The small fonts and numbers might look fine to you when you’re making it, but on a Zoom shared screen, these are no longer visible. When making teaching material, teachers need to be aware of their presentations from a student’s perspective. Visual presentations need to be visible, clear and readable. Without these things, students will no longer be focusing on the lesson. Instead, they will be attempting to comprehend the visual content. Time spent on figuring out the pictures or text on a PowerPoint slide is time spent away from learning necessary content.

It Takes Longer to Do Things Online

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When we teach in in-person classes, there is freedom of movement. You give instructions on an activity, you can teach some and then you can quickly move onto another task. Done.

However, with Zoom online classes, each action requires time expended. If you want to put students in breakout rooms, you need to press the breakout room button, make the breakout rooms, and provide instructions on getting into the breakout room and what to do once students are in there. Once they are done, you have to close all breakout rooms and wait until everyone leaves. Then you can continue on with your class. All these steps are done just to use the breakout room function.

Another example would be doing an interactive activity using non-Zoom software like Google Slides or Jamboard. With these, there is an added step of explaining the software and what to do with the software. All time spent on explaining and using different software and function is usually longer than expected. Some students can understand the technology quicker than others. To figure things out will take some time. So when planning for activities or tasks in lessons, account for more time spent moving from one thing to another.

Need to be Animated on the Screen

The above picture is a screen shot of a Zoom class where I shared my PowerPoint presentation. This is a common occurrence in most Zoom classes; the PPT takes up most of the screen, and you yourself are a mere tiny box. If a teacher does not move and/or has a monotonous voice while teaching, it can be difficult for the students to stay focused and interested. There has to be some movement in order to them focus on what is taught on the screen. A tip is that even if you are explaining or lecturing on Zoom, you have to be animated.

How? When explaining or giving instructions, use gestures instead of just using your voice. If you are counting down, then use to hand to count the seconds. If you are providing instructions, use hand motions to show what you want students to do. If you want them to read a passage, use your hands to show that they need to read something. If you want them to write something, use your hands to show that they need to write something down. These visual cues are important so that the students have something else to rely on aside from only your voice.

It might sound silly, but your facial expression cannot be the same. The only visual cues that the students have, aside from the shared screen, is your face. If your face stays the same without any change, the students can possibly lose interest in your class. If the students did a good job, provide positive feedback by offering words of encouragement and smiling and clapping. If you need the students to be serious, then your face needs to show that you are serious. When teachers are in the classroom, the students are able to see all of you. They can see your facial expression and body language. Since via Zoom, they cannot take visual cues from body language, teachers need to make more of an effort to use facial expressions to show what they mean to students.

Lag with Annotations and Shared Audio/Videos

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Using the annotation function on Zoom and sharing videos are great ways to teach classes and mimic the way that classes are taught in person. The main caveat here is the timing of using the annotation function and sharing of videos. During my observations of GIFLE Zoom classes, I have noticed that the teachers would teach to what they see on the computer monitor. The problem comes from the students side. Just because a teacher wrote something on the screen at a certain moment doesn’t mean that the students saw that. There is a lag between when a teacher writes or draws and when the students see it. Teachers need to be cognizant of this fact when they are explaining something that requires lots of notes or drawings. Pausing and then continuing with the teaching is necessary when writing or drawing something in an online class. Students will be less confused with the lesson if the timing of the teaching and annotation is in sync. Teachers should write first, pause, and continue. This timing needs to be internalized when you are teaching using the annotation function.

The same concept applies to sharing audio or videos. When a teacher presses play on a video, that doesn’t mean the students see it immediately. There is a lag between the teacher’s computer and student’s computer. So when teaching by annotating on a word document or digital whiteboard and sharing audio or video files, teachers need to know that they need to wait a while before continuing onto the next part of the lesson.

Conclusion

When teaching on Zoom, things aren’t always as straightforward as they might be in an in-person class. There are all sorts of small things the teacher needs to keep in mind to have a successful class. However, if you follow the few tips that were presented here, we think that you can improve your online teaching and be well on your way to Zoom success.

Utilizing Online Tools for Classroom Projects

Recent times have created unprecedented shifts in our classrooms. Suddenly, teachers around the world were thrusted into online classrooms, platforms, and required to scramble for resources appropriate for distanced learning. In the era of ever-evolving technology and content, it has been a challenge to keep learning in the classroom meaningful and relevant for our students. Teachers are confronted with the task to create activities and projects that allow students to demonstrate mastery of content and make creative connections, all the while with the added complication of online learning. The following ideas and examples were developed with the idea that teachers can use our new reality to promote engaged, active, meaningful, and socially interactive learning. 

Using Social Media or Website Templates

A versatile tool for teachers is editable PPT templates. They can be created on Google Slides or PowerPoint. Once a template is created, students can insert pictures, text, and content to meet project requirements. Social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, provide familiar layouts for students to display research or reading projects. Creating reviews or blogs are relevant and meaningful tasks for students that require creativity. Creating content can be made easier with set templates and online resources, such as photos, illustrations, or video clips. These resources lessen the work load of completing projects and allow students more time and flexibility to focus on demonstrating their understanding and creativity. In a technology-less classroom, these templates can be printed and reproduced for traditional-styled projects.

Extensive reading projects completed on PPT templates of a Facebook profile (Images from Netflix’s “Anne with An ‘E'”)
Extensive reading project completed on PPT templates of an Instagram post (Images from pinterest.com)

What type of templates should I create?

When considering the type of social media or website platform to use as a classroom project or activity, think about which websites or type of social media is the most popular with (or most familiar to) your students. This creates motivation when students recognize something that is relevant or connected their own lives. The more associations we can build between the content students learn in the classroom to the content they encounter in the real world, the more meaningful learning becomes. If access to technology and internet is no longer a barrier in our “new” classrooms, use these tools for an educational advantage—have students create actual social media posts to be shared, blogs or websites to be viewed, and projects where they can socially interact with their classmates or a wider community.  

Project based on a Trip Advisor review template
Post-reading activity completed on a template of a Twitter post (Images from movie adaptation of “The Giver”)
Post-reading activity completed on a template of a messenger application

Source: Presentation templates by SlidesCarnival

Creating a template from scratch can seem like a daunting task. There are some free and paid (Teachers Pay Teachers) resources out there that are great in the time crunch. There are benefits in creating your own templates: scaffolding student work, making the task level-appropriate, or adding different components to one project. The most important thing to remember is to provide your students with an example. Show them what type of work you expect and watch them exceed your expectations!

Random Student Selection: Importance and Methods

When you teach class, how do you select students for giving answers? Do you ask a question and then move on when the smartest student in the class shouts the answer? Do you ask for volunteers, then just say the answer yourself when no one replies? Well, in this blog post, we’ll give you a few pointers for how—and why—to select students to answer your questions. 

The importance of student selection 

One problem with the methods above is that they don’t target the students who need the most help. This can be a big issue. When you simply ask a question in class and continue when several students shout the answer, or when the “smart” students in class volunteer, there are likely some students who don’t understand. It’s important, then, that you have methods for choosing not only the most proficient or the most confident, but also the ones you don’t always hear from. 

Selection methods 

Photo by Geoffrey Bressan on Pexels.com

Now that you realize the importance of selecting students, how do you do it? First of all, note that randomness is important. If you always choose the students that struggle with your questions, those students might feel embarrassed, while the other students will feel ignored or cheated out of the opportunity to participate. By randomly selecting students, you can insure everyone has a chance to participate, and no one feels discriminated against.  

Now don’t worry. You don’t need any fancy pieces of software, or a spinning dartboard to choose students … although, if you want, you can find plenty of random number generation websites online, and sometimes a fun prop can add a bit of flavor to a class. In my experience, an easy way is to have a student choose a number between one and 10, or to use the day’s date, to arrive at a “number of the day.” Then count that number of students, and the final one will be the one who answers your question. While this isn’t truly random, it’s a quick way of selecting “volunteers” free from bias. Of course, if you use this method, attentive students will be able to predict the next student to be selected, but that’s fine, since it allows them to prepare accordingly. 

Also, it should be pointed out that random selection of students isn’t always good. It’s important to, at times, allow vocal and confident students to volunteer, and that does mean they will end up participating a bit more than other students. This is fine. It means they’re enjoying the class and this should be encouraged … but you shouldn’t forget about the other students who might need some extra help.  

One method of student selection that isn’t particularly helpful is having students choose the next student to answer. While this might sometimes add some fun to class (students will feel like the KING–or queen–OF THE CLASSROOM!!!)  it also results in only a small group of friends participating in class … or, worse yet, gives students the ability to bully other students by selecting ones they know will feel ashamed. Use this strategy sparingly.  

Special strategies for low-level students 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Sometimes there are students who, when selected to give an answer in class, take a long time. This can make some teachers feel awkward or feel like it’s slowing the class down. There are several ways around this problem, though. 

The first solution is to not be embarased when this happens. Encourage the student to take his or time and let it be known that you’re comfortable with it. If you’re comfortable, they’ll be comfortable, and it lets students know that they don’t have to be pressured to come up with an answer instantly.  

Another way to deal with slower-processing students is to give them time to prepare in advance. Sometimes, I’ll choose two students at a time, with the first one giving the answer, and the other student being “on deck”—that is, preparing to answer the next question. This gives that student time to think and prepare. Then, once it’s that student’s turn, another student is put on deck. This way, every student will have a chance to prepare their answers a little ahead of time.  

In the event you’ve done all of the above strategies, and your student still has a hard time answering, you can make the question easier by giving them an easier version of the task. For example, if their task is to read a paragraph aloud from a book, you can simplify it by having them read one or two sentences or, if that happens to be too much, a single word. Having students choose one of two answers can also help. For example, if the question is “What animal is this?” and the student hesitates, you can prompt him or her by asking, “Is it a bird or a cat?” 

And if none of the above startegies work? Well, welcome to the world of teaching, where sometimes you can do everything right, and some things still won’t work. But again, the most important part is that you appear comfortable with the situation … even if you’re sweating like an ice cream bar on a hot summer day. 

Or, you can just close your laptop, put on a Hawaiian shirt, tell everyone you’re quitting, then book the next available flight to Bali. 

In all seriousness, though, teachers should resist the temptation to simply give up on certain students. Participating in class is important preparation for students’ lives beyond school. Life’s responsibilites don’t make exceptions, so you shouldn’t either. On the other hand, it’s also important for them to know that, while they might not be the best in class, there’s still a place for them, and they can still contribute in their own way.  

Conclusion 

The idea of making sure all students participate, even those of lower proficiency, can sometimes be easy to ignore. But what good is it to anyone if a student manages to “slip under the radar” for the majority of his or her education, then graduates without knowing the basic information needed for success? So don’t forget to take time now and then to slow things down and call on specific students to make sure everybody has the opportunity to learn.