Extending in ESL Classes online: How to Be Successful

No matter which online ESL company you teach with whether it’s VIPKid, Cambly Kids, LingoAce, NovaKid, or NaoNow, the goal is always the same; provide an immersive English learning experience and add in lots of extension.

The truth is parents of our students want us extending in ESL classes as much as possible. So I have 10 simple tips for meaningful extension in your online ESL classes.

Extending in ESL Classes

1. Review and Introduce New Content

One of the simplest ways to add extension in your online ESL classes is through review and introduction of new content. Now when you first introduce a word or concept that’s assigned in a lesson, you use your props.

However, to make this an extension activity, you want to review or introduce words that aren’t explicitly mentioned in the lesson but are part of the unit or theme as a whole.

I love using relevant props that align with the content to teach the topic. You can find TONS of different flashcard sets in my EXPLORING ESL line of resources or by clicking one of the images below.

I love to grab my flashcards from previous lessons within a unit and quiz my student on the vocabulary words. Then I like to ask my more advanced students to use the word in a sentence or define the word.

This is taking them past the basic understanding of the content and adding more depth to the lessons. 

2. Make Sentences with Sight Words

For younger students or those in lower levels, I like extending in ESL classes by having them make sentences with their sight words. This is an activity that is included in some lessons, but not all of them.

So giving kids a chance to make sentences helps them stretch their understanding and helps you know if they genuinely understand the word.

You can take this a step further and ask them to use their vocabulary words from the unit in sentences. Again, you are simply reinforcing the content they are already learning.

3. Conversations

I love to incorporate conversations into my classes as much as possible. The way I do this with students in the lower levels is through repetition.

I always ask the same questions in the same order. Here are the questions that I ask at the beginning. “How are you? Did you have a good day?”

As my students become more advanced, I typically begin asking them more in-depth questions about school. I will ask things like…

  • How much homework did you have tonight?
  • Do you have any tests coming up? 
  • How many students are in your class?
  • What did you do at school today?
  • Did you go outside today?
  • Did you get to play (a favorite sport/activity)?

It gives me a glimpse into their day-to-day activities and it lets them know that I care.

4. Ask Questions

To make the conversations more personal, I like to ask them about their likes and dislikes. This is always EXTREMELY enlightening. Here are few things that I enjoy asking…

  • Do you have any brothers or sisters? How old are they?
  • Do you have any pets? What are their names?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • Have you ever traveled to another country? When?
  • What is your favorite holiday? Why?
  • Who is your best friend? Does he/she take VIPKid classes, too?
  • What is your favorite sport/activity?

I love learning more about my students and these questions give me the opportunity to know about them. I also enjoy finding commonalities between things I like or my kids like and things my students enjoy.

5. Play Would You Rather

While I use this as a reward system in many of my upper level classes, it is an excellent way to incorporate question stems into your lessons.

Each time your student chooses a number they have to answer a question.

If your students can elaborate or explain why they chose a particular answer, they are using their higher order thinking skills…and ultimately that is our main goal as teachers. We want our students thinking deeply about why they think a certain way!

6. Show Your Life

My students really like knowing about my home. Depending on where our students live, they may have a very different “view” outside their windows. So my students love to see our big yard. We have apple trees, a garden, and lots of open space.

We also have chickens, a rabbit, and a group of deer that spend A LOT of time visiting our apple trees. So I love sharing videos of the animals and current events from my life.

The kids love to ask questions about the animals and area that I live. It just gives them more context for what life is like in America (and specifically where I live).

7. Share Holiday Décor and Stories

My students LOVE to see my home decorated for Christmas. So I typically give them a tour and we talk about the different things they see (ie Christmas trees, stockings, presents, etc.)

It is also the perfect opportunity for me to ask them if they celebrate Christmas. I figured they would all say no, but I have had several tell me that they get presents for Christmas, but they don’t have decorations in their homes.

So when I take them on the tour to see my Christmas trees, their eyes light up! I even share some of my favorite ornaments with them. This is always a great opportunity for them to see how I celebrate in my culture.

8. Discuss Time Differences

Many of my younger students have no idea that I’m teaching them in the early morning “my” time and they are learning in the evening “their” time.

So one of my favorite ways to add extension in my ESL classes is letting them see out my window or taking my laptop outside.

We talk about how I just woke up and it is morning, but my student is getting ready to go to sleep. It is so much fun to see their expressions when it is light at my house and dark at their houses.

9. Introduce Your Family and Pets

My students love to see pictures of my family, and they are so interested to know that I have two children of my own.

On a few occasions, I’ve been able to actually introduce my sons to my students on camera and it was so neat to see my two worlds connect.

Another great way of extending in ESL classes is introducing your students to your pets. You can discuss the type of animal your pet is as well as your pet’s name, age, and “tricks.”

This is also a great opportunity for your student to introduce you to their pet(s).

10. Additional Lesson Content

The last extension idea for your online ESL classes is going into more detail about the lesson content. I do this a lot with my older students since we cover so many interesting subjects.

For example, when one of my students was learning about whales and how they communicate, I found a video on YouTube that had different whale sounds & songs.

My student loved hearing the different whale sounds and it made the new concept of whale communication so much more real for him.

Another example was when my student was learning about peacocks. She had read about how the peacock is a beautiful bird with an awful “singing” voice.

So I pulled up a video of peacocks “singing” and we talked about how the peacock was indeed a beautiful bird with a very bad voice.

Extending in ESL classes is a skill that takes time to master. Understanding your students and the expectations of your students’ parents is essential to choosing the right way to implement extension in your ESL classes.