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Top 6 Ideas For Giving Constructive Feedback In An Online ESL Classroom

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It is difficult for kids to try and speak a language that they are just learning before their peers. It feels like they are in the spotlight, and everything they say and the errors they make will be magnified. This may affect them in many ways. So, if you’re an online ESL teacher, you have your work cut out for you. First, you must ensure that your students are in an environment where they can learn easily and successfully. 

It is difficult for you to create a good learning environment if your students feel like you are going to judge or criticize them for every error they make. However, if you fail to critique them adequately, you won’t be helping them either as they won’t know how or what to do to improve. 

Instead of you sitting and judging them or applauding everything they do, right or wrong, you should create a continual learning environment that’s improvement-oriented. But, again, constructive feedback is essential to help you achieve this. 

When you teach ESL students, you must provide them with helpful feedback individually and collectively. Giving encouraging and actionable feedback may not be accessible when you teach English online. However, it is necessary and is part of your job. With feedback, you may also be able to structure future lessons depending on the students' needs. This will ensure that you retain your students for much longer too. 

These are some of the best ideas to help you give constructive feedback to your students in an online ESL classroom.

1. Use their current knowledge when giving feedback.

Your students are still learning and don’t speak fluently yet. It would be best if you never forgot this when you give feedback. This will save everyone some frustration. As the teacher, you know what level they are to craft the feedback in an understandable way for them. Use concise sentences and vocabulary appropriate for their level. Also, don’t overwhelm them with too much feedback at the same time. 

2. Give real-time feedback.

You boost your students’ confidence when you give them real-time feedback. This will also help you to find out and understand their needs. Importantly, you must note when giving real-time feedback to allow them to finish their speech before providing verbal feedback. If you are constantly cutting them off in-between speech to correct their errors, you may end up discouraging and demotivating the student. This is even more important for an online ESL classroom. There are limitations in technology too. So when you have two people speaking online at the same time, it may produce a distorted and incomprehensible sound. This may lead to frustration, awkward pauses, and a poor online learning experience for your students. 

3. Encourage the students with nonverbal feedback.

You have to wait till the students finish speaking before you give verbal feedback. However, this doesn't stop you from giving feedback at all. Nonverbal feedbacks are essential and encouraging for the students. Smile while they talk, nod your head, focus on your screen, etc. Let them see that you're listening actively. You understand them and are following along. This is encouraging for them. If you’re sitting still and waiting for them to finish up without any reactions from you, they may get insecure and unsure of what they are saying. 

4. Ask your students to self-assess.

Students typically tend to have a pretty straightforward relationship with their teacher. They are trying to communicate in English while their teacher is correcting them and giving them advice to help them get better. Although this is effective for learning English, it isn’t without limitations. The students may become too dependent on the feedback they get from their teacher. This is why you must teach them to assess themselves and do it regularly. 

You can ask them if they can pinpoint the mistakes they made in their speech and have them suggest to themselves what to do to improve. If they’re able to explore their improvement areas with you, it will be easier for you to identify the knowledge gap, realize their needs and what you must focus on during your lessons. 

5. Give feedback based on the lesson content. 

ESL lessons online are usually flexible, especially since you’re creating the teaching materials by yourself. First, however, you must ensure that each lesson has its direction and objective in it. This allows you to be sure of the content of your lessons. You must then make sure that your feedbacks are based on the content you’re teaching or have taught so that you don’t confuse the student. 

If you’re teaching them about holding conversations in a restaurant, be sure that your feedback revolves around that subject. It won't be necessary or even helpful to talk about their misuse of verb tenses. Instead, be focused on the lesson’s goal, which in this case will be learning about common phrases and vocabulary words they’re likely to hear or use in a restaurant and other related information. 

6. Encourage them with positive feedback.

It's common practice to pick out the students’ errors, correct them, and teach them not to repeat the same mistakes. It’s also an easy thing to do. However, it isn't the only way that you’re sending in your feedback. Try to give them positive feedback. Point out those things that they also did well and encourage them with that. They will find this very motivating. 

When you teach ESL online, you’ll find that students may refrain from speaking a lot because they don’t feel comfortable to talk through a webcam or a microphone. The best way to encourage them is to give positive feedback. This will make it easier for you to deal with some of the barriers to technology. 


These feedback tips will help you create a productive and positive environment in your online ESL classroom. They will help your students learn faster and also improve their level of communication with you.

Author Bio 

Jessica Chapman is a writing editor and college paper writer, for Nerdy Writers and BrillAssignment. She is from Chicago and is into sport and politics. She also enjoys traveling. 

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