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teacher sitting at a desk with thumbs up giving feedback in the online classroom for english language learners

Managing your online ESL classroom can be a pretty busy job.

You have to create and deliver your lessons, manage student behavior, keep your students engaged and cross your fingers that your computer doesn’t shut down or go through a last-minute update! 

After you gain some confidence, you might be wondering about feedback that will actually help your students. 

How do I give feedback? How important is ESL feedback? What are some easy and creative ways to do this in the online classroom?

In this article, we are going to tackle these questions and give you some practical tips and samples for delivering feedback in an easy way that is meaningful for your ESL students.

What is ESL feedback in the online classroom?

If you are working for one of the online ESL companies that let you teach English online, then you are probably required to give post-class feedback of some sort to your students.

You will also want to give rewards, use free and fun props, and check-in with your students to better understand how they are doing.

Maybe you create a feedback box or a system of sending a note to your students’ parents after class. Working online generally makes it easy to offer feedback but it’s often summative in nature.

Summative feedback involves a class report or summary of how the child did in their class with you. How can you share other forms of feedback that will help the child know how they are doing in real-time and how they can improve?

ESL feedback in the online classroom doesn’t need to just look like a post-class summary report. 

Feedback should help the students in real-time to know how they are doing. It should motivate them to keep trying and improving. 

Feedback doesn’t have to be written or typed. ESL feedback should be contextual, with the ultimate goal of inspiring your students to improve. 

Let’s spend a moment looking at why this is important. 

What are the benefits of feedback for English language learners in the online classroom, and why is it important?

We can all agree that feedback is important for all aspects of life and growth. 

When you are learning a new language, for example, feedback is essential to know how you are doing and how you can improve.

ESL feedback can help your students in many ways, including:

  1. Boosting self confidence.
  2. Helping students make necessary corrections.
  3. Keeping students focused on results.
  4. Makes students feel great about taking risks.
  5. Encourages self reflection.

When delivered appropriately, with the goal of individual improvement, ESL feedback can have incredible results. 

Common questions about ESL feedback

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get about giving ESL feedback in the online classroom:

1. How much feedback should I give?

The answer to this really depends. Consider factors such as the frequency of your classes, the length of class, and how much feedback you have for your student.

Don’t focus on the quantity of your feedback, but rather the quality of it and if it’s going to be of value for your students.

2. When should I give feedback?

Feedback can be given at different times, like after class or during class. It is recommended that you give your feedback in a timely manner, either during class or directly afterward so that your student can apply it while it is fresh on their mind.

A mixture of in-class and out-of-class feedback is a great and harmonious recipe. 

Remember to give feedback at the moment and offer summarizing feedback after your classes or within a particular time frame after teaching that particular student.

3. What should I be correcting?

This is a great question to be asking because you don’t want to over-correct or give too much feedback where it could become overwhelming.

Consider the following 3 types of errors when correcting and offering constructive feedback:

  1. Grammar errors and pronunciation mistakes that hinder communication in a big way.
  2. Mistakes in English that a particular student should not be making based on their level of expertise.
  3. Any errors related to previous lessons that the student has already studied and should have mastered. 

Be mindful that when students are learning English for the first time, mistakes will be made and this is normal. 

Focus on the big mistakes and follow the aforementioned 3 errors when you are about to give feedback.

Practical ways to give feedback in the online ESL classroom

The best way to give feedback is in a way that gives your student an opportunity to put it into practice right away.

Practical feedback is essential! Sometimes it’s helpful to put yourself in the shoes of your students and to think about how you would want to receive feedback. 

Try one of the following ideas for making your feedback more practical:

1. Give feedback in real-time

Try not to delay giving feedback. When you notice something worth highlighting or working on, let them know.

Avoid interrupting your student’s speaking as this can cause a negative effect and stifle their confidence.  

In an online classroom, you are also dealing with technologies and audio issues so make sure that you let your student finish speaking before you provide feedback.

Another idea is to keep running notes through the class so you don’t forget what you wanted to help them with. 

2. Use nonverbal cues

Non-verbal feedback, on the other hand, doesn’t require you to interrupt the student or wait for them to finish speaking.

Non-verbal feedback can be simple and could include:

  1. Giving your student a thumbs up.
  2. Smiling and nodding while they are speaking.
  3. Nodding your head in approval and agreement.
  4. Using TPR (total physical response) to praise.

When teaching ESL online, it is often more effective to speak less and encourage your student to speak up more. 

Using non-verbal cues is a great way to keep your students speaking more often and for longer!

3. Make your feedback individual and personal

There are many online teachers who prefer to use templates and scripted paragraphs for their online classroom feedback. 

While this can save the teacher a lot of time, the feedback often doesn’t translate well to helping the students improve. Premade feedback often looks like a class summary rather than a roadmap to help support them.

When you give your feedback, whether in real-time or post-class, make it personal and let the student know you paid attention to them and have some really applicable and practical ways to improve. 

4. Allow students to self assess

It’s a common idea that as the teacher, you are solely responsible for giving feedback. 

In most typical classes, the teacher teaches and the student responds or contributes.

How about taking on an approach that puts the student in the driver’s seat, allowing them to self-reflect and self-assess their own progress. 

When ESL students can recognize their own errors and self-correct, it empowers them greatly to push through any difficulties in learning English.

5. Focus on the positive

It should go without saying that positive feedback is more effective than negative feedback. 

We all want to hear that we are doing well, more so than we want to hear that we are doing something wrong. 

ESL students learning English for the first time will make mistakes, and as much as they will want to hear how they can improve, it’s important to be mindful of the way your feedback is being delivered. 

Here is some sample feedback for ESL students that focuses on the positive:

“I love how you were able to convey that captivating story! One way to organize your thoughts is to use transition words such as ‘first, then, next, and finally.’ Let’s try again using those words to separate your thoughts.”

“You are doing a great job speaking in complete sentences! I notice that sometimes you forget to pause and you get out of breath, don’t forget to pause at the end of sentences and slow things down a little bit. Great job!”

ESL feedback in your online classroom is a powerful tool

The ability to give quality and effective feedback to your students is one of your superpowers as an ESL teacher. 

You are able to motivate and inspire your students to either love or dislike learning English. 

Let’s use these superpowers to offer our students quality feedback that helps them correct their errors and learn to speak with confidence.

Whether you are working with an online ESL company, listing classes on a marketplace, or teaching independently, feedback should be an integral part of your teaching.

If you would like to apply to one of our online teaching jobs where you can make money from home, check out our online teaching jobs and see if one of them is a good fit!

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