Microphone? Check. Webcam? TEFL Certified? Check? Student? Check. But what about your online teaching background? In the world of online teaching, the classroom background plays a fundamental role in creating an appealing atmosphere.
It’s not as simple as turning on your webcam and initiating the lesson with only your electronic equipment. It can be, but it won’t be effective. You need to personalize your classroom for yourself and your student to make it an interesting place. This can be done by introducing props and jazzing up your background in a way which creates an engaging classroom.
The Importance of an Appealing Classroom Background
The importance of an appealing teaching background should not be understated. Think about it. Despite the fact that you are on a virtual platform, you are still simulating a virtual classroom experience for the students. So, why shouldn’t you pay attention to your surroundings?
Captivate Your Students
Your student doesn’t want to feel like they’re watching paint dry. And that’s exactly what it will feel like if they’re overwhelmed by your head amidst a sea of nothingness. Many of your students will be visual learners and they may be immediately deterred by your bland, boring background.
But that’s why there’s no need to fret, this nothingness is like a blank canvas that you can personalize and decorate to make the classroom atmosphere as appealing as possible. Pictures and colors carry connotations, so it’s important that you choose something that is interesting and engaging, but not too distracting.
Impress Your Interviewer
Your online teaching background is something that both you and your student can see. However, for applicants, it’s also one of the first impressions that the interviewer will get. While displaying your teaching abilities should be at the forefront of your priority, you should also think about your teaching background before you’ve got the job.
By displaying a well decorated teaching background for your interviewer, they will know that you are already determined to work as an online teacher. It suggests that you are taking the role seriously, rather than something you could discard within a few weeks. They will recognise that you understand how to replicate things and what happens inside the classroom.
How To Make Your Classroom Stand Out
The best thing about your classroom background is that you can personalize it. You don’t have to limit yourself to generic classroom posters, you can make it about your or your students interests.
It’s also important to consider that the same online teaching background won’t appeal to everyone. What your 7 year old student loves may not impress your 15 year old student, or your 40 year old student. You need to establish what your demographic is and cater to it.
While children might love the bright colors and images that evoke thoughts related to fantasy and so on, adults might want something more sophisticated. Your adult student who is learning Business English will not want to see pictures of unicorns or rainbows all over the classroom. When it comes to teaching adults, remember what Leonardo da Vinci said, simplicity is the best form of sophistication.
It is also very important to consider the lighting in your background. Dim lighting can make things appear dull. You want your webcam and lighting to combine to create an optimal setting for your student to learn. Instead, you might make it look like the sequel to the Blair Witch project if it’s too dark and of low quality.
Now you’ve listened to some additional tips, it’s time to get into the specifics. The following items are accessible to all teachers, and can be found on websites such as Amazon, Pinterest, and much more! Here are some of the ways that you can spice up your virtual classroom.
Who doesn’t love flags? Of course, some flags look cooler than others. Some of them look pretty boring (I’m looking at you, Libya). But the connotation of flags themselves evoke feelings of traveling and exploring the different cultures that the world has to offer. They are intriguing, age friendly, and you can practice things such as colors, shapes, or geography with your students.
Flags also demonstrate a little about your personal history. Where you’ve been, where you’re from, it can help conversations related to yourself or the student. Also, the connotations of traveling may actually remind the student why English is so valuable. English can act as a passport in itself as it allows people the potential to travel, work and live in foreign countries.
Similarly, maps also evoke feelings of intrigue by conveying ideas of traveling. The map is one of the go to decorations when it comes to teaching backgrounds, and with good reason. It is incredibly convenient in that it is easy to find, easy to post up, and easy to interpret.
It is also essentially an interactive decoration. Maps are useful in facilitating discourse between yourself and your student. They go hand in hand in asking and answering questions about geography or each other’s country and culture.
3. Your Company Logo
Often, when you sign up to teach for an online company, they will require that you display their logo in your background. While this sounds boring and like a necessary evil, it doesn’t have to be.
It might be a necessity, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative with it. Rather than opting for the classic, corporate logo, you can spice it up by adding to the design on an editing application. Or, you can match the rest of the background to the color theme of your company’s logo so it fits in perfectly.
This might help you feel like a company man if you’re teaching lessons representing their brand, and this might even help in your interview before you’ve secured the job. By decorating your background and representing the company before you’ve been hired, you’re demonstrating plenty of eagerness and willingness to go the extra mile.
4. Green Screen
If your webcam and application allows for it, then a green screen would be a fantastic option to captivate your students. As long as your teaching background isn’t ridiculously flashy or distracting, then it can be an appropriate way to introduce the theme of the lesson to your student.
With a green screen, you could customize your background without having to modify your actual surroundings. Just turn on your laptop, sign in and apply the theme that you want for that lesson! If your student is learning about tectonic plates, why not have a background of volcanic landscape? If they’re learning about sea creatures, why not have a background of the deep ocean?
5. Seasonal & Festival Objects
If you like to update your environment from time to time, then why not invest in some posters and props related to seasons? Visual posters would be an effective way for your students to learn about the different seasons and the weathers they bring. You could also elicit information from your students by asking what the weather is like or what season it is and pointing towards the correct poster.
Additionally, when it is a special time of the year such as Chinese New Year or Christmas, you can introduce new objects and props into the classroom for your lessons. Props you could use could come in the form of almost anything, like festive hats, ornaments, or even Christmas lights!
This will make your classroom environment much more interactive without having to use tools on the screen. It will also help your students embrace the feelings of celebration and understand why the season is significant, all while consolidating their memory with relevant target language.
6. Basic Classroom Posters
If you want to go the traditional route, you could incorporate posters related to basic things in your classroom. These could vary from the alphabet, to numbers, food, shapes, and so on. While it may sound simple, it can be interactive and you could opt for some interesting colors to make your classroom look appealing. If you have lower level students then this could be an effective way to help them learn new concepts.
Should you want to teach your student about the dates, posters of dates or calendars are effective tools to help you consolidate your learning. The concept of date and time can be tricky for foreign students to learn. Especially as they might be used to different formats such as date/month/year as opposed to month/date/year, for example. With this teaching background, it can make the process of learning about concepts of dates, time and year much easier.
While this sounds boring, just having a plain, white… board, in your background, it can be an effective tool to have in your classroom even if you aren’t actively using it. You could write down your name on it and even doodle yourself on it to introduce yourself to your students. Or, you could draw something new each time. It is like another blank canvas in which you have the freedom to decide what you do with it!
9. Reward System Background
To make things more interesting, you could incorporate a reward system into your background. This could mean anything you want. There is an abundance of printable options online for you to entice your students into performing well.
You could opt for the basic star system and have a chart with your student’s name. Then, for each question they answer or activity they complete, you could add stars to it! There are other variations online which might be much more exciting for your student.
One example is ‘feed the monster’ where you could add food into the monster’s mouth instead of awarding stars. Or, you could add a new topping onto the pizza to complete it! The options are endless as long as you are creative with it.
Make Your Classroom Fun!
Remember, the online classroom isn’t only about memorizing particular concepts. It is also about exchange between the student and their teacher from a foreign country. The student will also learn to be more sociable by using their newly acquired language, not just answer basic questions.
By making the classroom more fun and interactive, it will foster communication. When things interest your students, they will begin to think more independently instead of passively absorbing whichever target language you’re enforcing. The online teaching background can be a significant tool if you play your cards right!