ESL Conversation Hour during the Pandemic


My ESL Zoom is amazing. I used to do two a week Pre-Pandemic and it would be on the Des Plaines Campus. With the onset of the Pandemic, things quickly shifted and now we are doing it on Zoom. I used to get between five and seven and sometimes more. Now over ten is the norm and I am ‘Zooming’ five days a week instead of two for ESL. I also Zoom for French Conversation Hour once a week.

Apparently, I put on my teacher hat when I started doing this. Originally, it was a situation where we would just talk. I would take notes on my iPad and show my mirrored laptop screen to the group. I took what they said or asked about and explained things verbally and in print. After our hour long session, I would e-mail the notes. I figured, what could be better than that? They had the option to write things down or just pay attention during the session and then they had a copy done by a native speaker who hopefully didn’t have too many typos.

When I switched to Zoom, I had more people to work with. With more people to work with, that meant that the participants had less ‘English time’ because of the numbers. The first Zoom software we had did not include ‘Breakout’ Rooms. The new one does.

I start out each day by greeting each person and talking a bit. Some are verbose and some can barely speak.That is okay, some just need to be there to listen and little by little work up the confidence to take part.

Once beyond that, I usually take an image I get from Instagram and BBCLearningEnglish.com. It has a question or gives synonyms for important English words. We discuss that and often more than one person will read for us out loud.

Then we come up with a question for the day and I put them into breakout rooms with a ‘leader’ who will make a report to the whole group afterwards.

I take notes, share my screen, and then, when the session is over, I e-mail the information.

So far, it is a hit.

About Richard Koerner

Sixty something, father, papi, educator, organizer, Francophile, traveler, amateur photographer, gardener, cyclist, kayaker, calligrapher, cinephile, reader, and overall renaissance type human being.
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