The Positives Of Remote Teaching For Second Language Classrooms

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Yes, there are benefits to remote teaching.

It has been a hard couple of months, not only due to the harsh shift that has happened in education, but because everything around us has changed. Simple things such as getting food to complex things such as filing your taxes have been made a chore. Teachers were no exception to this, and we’ve been asked with the great task of just “make it work” with little to no experience in the matter.

Whether you’re a seasoned teacher, or are just starting out, let’s be honest: nothing had prepared you for remote teaching. During your first week of teaching remotely something obvious will stand out: nothing really prepared you for this, so how can you tackle this new reality? What positive things I can look forward to in remote teaching in my second language classrooms?

A Diverse Classroom

You’ll encounter a diversity of students with different backgrounds that will make classes more interesting. Some students live in the city, others live in secluded areas, some have an interesting home, some live with their families, some will have roommates. These differences and experiences make great sharing moments, especially in a Second Language Learning environment. You can take advantage of these by modeling activities in which their unique perspective play into the results.

From questions to conversations, to sharing and comparing, these opportunities will make each class session more interactive. However, don’t assume every one of your students will want to share their environment with the class. Some of them may be living situations that will stop them from doing so. It’s ok for them to share an idea of an environment. Have them share what they would like to share independently of their reality. Make them feel as part of the classroom as any other student there.

Familiar Topics Will Bring Students Together

Students’ activities will share something in common: most are home. It sounds monotonous, but in the same vein that their backgrounds differ, remote classes bring them to common grounds, too. Things like daily routines, study spaces, family, and future plans will share similarities that can be used in your lessons. This predictable and familiar topic will bring authentic conversations to your English or second language learners. Contrary to person-to-person classes, students are more willing to share these experiences, since they’re connected to their peers, even if they’re all over the place or country. Answers such as “I did nothing this weekend” or “I’m tired”, you can now talk about daily routines and elaborate more on these topics to know each other better, creating a friendlier learning community.

Multiple Environments, But Individual Performance Is The Word

For Second Language teachers, communication is our goal, and remote classes really force students to participate orally. Even if their familiar goals keep them together, even if their diverse environments given them different perspectives, the only way students know they’ll get good grades is by individual performance. We all have those “invisible” students who never miss class, do all their assignments and even participate in small bursts, but when it comes to the big picture, these students don’t participate as much. During online class, these students can’t rely on hiding behind these mechanisms anymore, as now everyone is front and center. These students will have no choice to participate, but given that they have something to share, and things in common with their peers, these students will happily share their thoughts and participate as much.

It may not seem as much, but every little thing that can make communication happen in our classrooms helps our students in the long run.

Based on the Webinar: Let Your L2 Students Reach Out to You, by Susan Hallstead

Image via Pearson.


  1. Hi Mr. Paulino,
    Thanks for sharing such thoughts, even though I’ve always tried to look for the positive side of every situation, by reading your article, now I have identified specific positive points to focus When teaching my classes. There’s no doubt that online teaching is a hassle, but we can certainly get best of it, just by applying some positive principles as the ones described in your article.

    1. Thank you for your input. By nature we’re inclined to weight in the negative aspects of every situation, which is humanly understandable, but I’m sure we’ll get wonderful results at the end of this journey.

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