italki Teaching Tips: How should I structure a lesson over Skype?

Our italki Teaching Tips are real teaching tips from real italki teachers who have first hand experience teaching different students from all over the world.   We share these tips to help you become a better teacher.

How should I structure a lesson over Skype?


I always recommend starting with your learning objectives. Start your lesson with a fun review of something you have already worked on. It could be as easy as giving them an imaginary scenario and then having a practice dialogue about it. Next, tell them what you will be working on for this lesson. Give clear, explicit instructions first. Then, have them complete some type of activity with you. Finally, give them something independent to do to test their knowledge. Its an old teacher mantra– “I do, we do, you do.” Ending with the independent practice is a great way to assess your own success– did your students master your material this time? If not, find a new way to approach the topic next time!

This is based on what the student wants. If they want IELTS speaking practice, google IELTS speaking practice and do that ūüėČ It is really important in the beginning to have the student tell you exactly what they want and go from there. If they want grammar for 1 hour, you have to plan a bit more than if they want basic conversation for an hour.

Here’s an example of a basic structure:

  • before you start, have a topic planned with some resources- ¬†pictures, YouTube, text
  • greetings, catch up, what’s new in your life?….
  • show the student a picture pertaining to the topic you have planned for the session and ask them as many questions as you can.
  • share another resource about the topic to keep the discussion going
  • keep talking, keep asking questions. Most students want speaking practice. Make them talk.

— the biggest complaint I’ve heard from students about online lessons, is when they have a session with a teacher and there is awkward silence. I’ve had students tell me about times that they felt like THEY (the student) were the one coming up with topics to discuss.

Let the student know before the lesson what you’ll be working on. Send them any links ahead of time. You cannot guarantee that the learner will be able to open/download/watch anything while in the lesson with you because of bandwidth.

Ask learners to annotate where they had difficulty understanding videos (the exact minutes/seconds) so that you can gloss those sections for them.
Have lots of questions prepared about the topic you’re covering. If you think you’ll get through 5 questions, have 9 prepared. Some students won’t have much to say on certain questions.

At the end of the lesson, summarize what you did together and what you’ll work on next time. Ask the learner if s/he has any questions about what you covered and if there are any special requests.

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