In the modern world, the ability to teach online is an essential skill that every teacher and instructor should possess. Due to the ongoing pandemic, classes have shifted to virtual platforms such as Zoom, and the significance of online teaching has increased drastically. The one question that every teacher might be asking themselves is: What do I need to do to teach effectively on online platforms like Zoom? If you are looking for ways to teach a subject online, you have come to the right place. This guide will provide a comprehensive overview of how to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) on Zoom.

Teaching English to beginners is already a challenging task and requires plenty of effort. Couple that with teaching it online and it may seem like an uphill battle. However, it is actually fairly simple and with the few tips and ideas we will share with you in this guide, you’ll become one of the best online ESL teachers in no time!


Understanding the basics of Zoom

Let’s have a brief look at what Zoom is. Zoom is a web conferencing tool that allows you to hold virtual meetings. It is a renowned platform that is used to replicate the class environment in a virtual setup. It has multiple features that allow it to do so such as video conferencing, audio conferencing, screen sharing, live chats, video recording of meetings, and much more. ESL teachers who plan on using this platform should become familiar with it before designing their courses.

using zoom for esl teachers

Planning to teach ESL online

The teaching methods of ESL instructors vary according to the proficiency levels of the students. It is a cumbersome duty to teach English to complete beginners who have no prior knowledge of the language. Hence, any course designed for them needs to incorporate various elements that will help them to understand better such as visuals, games, and different group activities. As their proficiency level increases, the activities and teaching methods change accordingly. With teaching ESL on Zoom, teachers need to design the course and implement new strategies in such a way that makes the learning effective even in an online setting.

Selecting the student levels to teach and design the course accordingly

From the wide range of student proficiency levels ranging from beginners to advanced level students, ESL teachers need to decide which ones to teach. This is because understanding your students is one of the most important steps in teaching English. If an ESL teacher opts to teach beginner-level students, the course must be designed accordingly. The course material should cover the very basics, give examples in contexts the students are familiar with, and the content should be simple and easy to understand.

Plan the course outline and check its feasibility on Zoom

The instructor needs to keep in mind that lectures, activities, and office hours will all be held virtually and so the course outline needs to be planned accordingly. Course objectives need to be defined and the instructor needs to come up with lessons and activities which will fulfill these objectives in an online setting. For example, if the ESL teacher is teaching basic vocabulary to students and comes up with a game for it, the feasibility of this game should be checked on Zoom prior to taking the class. This means the instructor needs to test the game with fellow peers or students to see two things: Is this vocabulary game aiding students in improving their vocabulary? And Is this activity going to be carried out smoothly in the virtual Zoom setup? If both boxes are checked, the instructor can incorporate it into their online lesson.

how to convert lesson plans for zoom


So far we have discussed a general outline of how to go about teaching ESL on Zoom. We will move forward by presenting ESL teachers with the best tips to conduct their classes on Zoom. These simple tips and tricks will help them increase the quality of their virtual sessions.

  • Become familiar with Zoom and all its intricacies by operating a test session in order to increase your grasp of the platform.
  • Schedule the class at least a day prior to the actual day on which the class is to be held and send the link to all students.
  • Join the Zoom session at least 30 minutes prior to the time and set up all resources (power-point slides, videos, exercises) on your laptop.
  • In the very first session, set aside some time to teach your students how to use Zoom. Make sure to get them familiar with all aspects such as turning on video/audio, using the live chats to send messages, how to raise hands, etc. Use this time to teach them online etiquette and the dos and don’s of sitting in an online class.
how to use zoom for online teaching
  • Always share your screen before the class and present a detailed outline of the things to be discussed in the class. Take time to read live chats for any remarks or questions students might have and allow them to raise hands and ask questions during the class.
  • Use the breakout rooms feature to allow group discussions among students for an activity. Also, use the whiteboard feature to explain important points.
  • In a video conference, try to maintain eye contact to develop a more personal connection with the students.
  • Always record all lectures and upload them so that the students can revisit the lectures if they need a revision of topics or clearing up any confusion.


We will now move on and discuss the ideas on how teachers should carry out their online Zoom ESL lessons. One can say that although the virtual environment has certain drawbacks, it has benefits as well that teachers can use to their advantage.


As opposed to a normal class, in a virtual class, everyone is on their laptops/computers and hence better equipped for visual content. When teaching ESL to beginners, it is crucial to use plenty of pictures and videos to help them understand better. This is made easier as the instructor simply has to share their screen and can show plenty of pictures and videos that will create a better understanding of the topic at hand.


Just because the setup is virtual, it does not mean the learning cannot be fun. In fact, there are many games that ESL teachers can incorporate into their courses. The aim is to make the course fun and engaging, all the meanwhile making sure the learning is not compromised. The instructor can share their screen and create different quizzes for the class. These quizzes can be like a word that appears on the screen and the class has to come up with its synonyms. Similarly, at the beginning of each class, the instructor can ask anyone randomly to share a new word they have learnt this week and explain its meaning and usage to the class. The purpose of creating games and puzzles like these is that people tend to be shy in a virtual setting. When they take part in such activities, they become more active and take a full part in the discussion.

how to make zoom lessons more fun


There are numerous fun and engaging activities that ESL instructors can incorporate into their courses that will provide the students with a more comprehensive understanding of English. While one definitely does think that online activities might not work out, you’d be surprised at how effective they are. Let’s have a look at some of the activities that ESL instructors can have on Zoom:

  • For one session, take a vacation to your favorite place in the world. Zoom allows you to use different virtual backgrounds, and it appears as if you are sitting in that actual place. ESL instructors can ask their students to select a background place of their choice and then in that class, every student can explain in English why they chose that background.
  • A very intriguing feature of Zoom is the breakout rooms. The ESL instructor can design a group test with a set of instructions and divide the class into groups that will be taken to their breakout rooms. A breakout room allows a single Zoom session of let’s say 35 participants to be divided into different smaller Zoom calls. The groups can then solve the puzzle/test in a given time, and report back to the original call. The group to finish it in the least time wins.
  • The instructor can create different games like fill in the blanks or guessing the animal (picture will be displayed on the screen), or the instructor can act out words on a video call. The students have the option to raise their hands and answer the questions. A point system can be set up for this as well.

If you have read the above guide in detail, we assure you that by incorporating the tips and ideas we gave you, you can easily start teaching ESL online on Zoom. With the right resources and properly planned activities, you can become one of the best online ESL teachers out there!