Teaching ESL Online: Tips, Tricks, and my 200th Lesson Milestone

A recent addition to my self-employment toolkit has been teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) from home.

From home?

Yes, from home. I love it!

In my second month of employment with 51 Talk, I have reached my 200th lesson milestone! 200 lessons and counting! What follows is what I have learned in my time teaching online.


As I scoured the interwebz for techniques that other online teachers use, I didn’t find much. That being said, I’d like to share some things I’ve learned along the way, as well as teaching resources, and other information for those wanting to learn about online teaching as a potential job path. I would love to hear from other online teachers as well. Share your thoughts in the comments! 🙂

Interested in becoming a teacher for 51 Talk? Click the referral link below! Or shoot me an email!

Click Here To Get Started Teaching!

The Beginning

51 talk is a company based out of the Phillipines that teaches English as a second language to students all over the world. My students are mostly from China, and ages range from three to five years old, all the way through high school, and even adult students. The majority of my students are of the Elementary student age range.

I was asked to interview for 51 Talk several months ago. My teaching background consists of about 5 years of teaching art and ecology in the private/nonprofit sector with ages k-12, and 1 year of public school elementary teaching.

The interview and training process was simple and efficient. I interviewed via Skype with one individual and taught a short demo class. Shortly after that, I had a group interview via Skype. After being hired, I watched a few hours of self-guided training videos, and had a live training session with a teacher group on Skype. After training was complete, I was ready to begin teaching!


I love teaching for 51 Talk for many reasons. The first, is that you can build your own schedule. This is crucial for me. I am employed as a Guest Teacher for several different school districts, as well as hold a part time night job, as well as maintain my freelance creative endeavors. I start graduate school in 4 weeks-flexible scheduling is key for me.

The pay is great. 51 Talk starts you anywhere from $15-$20 per hour, based on experience. You also receive bonuses for opening a certain amount of classes, or opening classes during more popular times.

Additional training is always available. Promotions are always within reach,  with training expectations and goals laid clearly before you. You can always be working towards that next pay increase by following the self-training modules provided by the company at your leisure.

Tech support is responsive. When I am teaching a class, I work in many programs at once on my desktop. At any time, I could be running Skype, Bix QQ, AC Classroom, Audio recording, and an internet browser with several tabs all at once. Are you a tech whiz already? Great! This won’t be difficult for you. Haven’t mastered multi-tasking by the millions quite yet? That’s ok, live tech support is always connected with you on Skype if you have any questions or concerns.

Tips, Tricks, and Overall Advice

200 lessons in 2 months has kept me extremely busy! Let me share with you what I have learned- because trust me, it will help. 🙂

First thing’s first: get inspired! While I mentioned previously that I did not find much in the way of resources or inspiration for the online teaching realm, however, I did find one gal, Lindsey Tharaldson, that really helped get my creative juices flowing. Her teaching style is right up my alley: involved, energetic, and colorful. Check out one of her videos on YouTube! She has some great advice.


Second thing’s first: Make. Alarm. Arrangements. Develop a morning routine. Depending on your Time Zone, you may or may not have a funky teaching schedule in comparison to your daily life routines. I am currently in the Mountain Time Zone, which means Beijing, China is effectively 15 hours ahead of me. I always schedule during peak hours (for the pay incentive) so a typical morning class for me starts at 4am. I get up early already, but nothing can prepare you for a new schedule quite like making specific alarm arrangements. Set multiple alarms. Put your alarm somewhere you know you will be forced to wake up, and turn it off. Get to bed early (a hard one for me, that I have paid dearly for). Do as much as you can the night before (set up your coffee, lay out clothes, etc.) Getting used to such a large time difference takes time, for your body as well as your psyche.


Third: make it fun! While 51 Talk provides all lesson material, and prep becomes minimal after some time, the key to securing a regular student base, as well as a more enjoyable classroom environment, is to make it fun! Make a child-friendly backdrop! Below are a few goofy photos of what I use, or what I have tried.



Keep an eye out for props and toys that will fit within your lesson! Invest in several sets of magnetic letters and numbers. I think I’m going to create a separate blog *just* on props, because I have had so much fun with them. Props are my personal favorite- the kids LOVE them, and when you find an item that fits perfectly with the lesson, their joy in response is priceless.My favorites right now are the finger pointer, clapping hands, and stuffed monkey (all from Dollar Tree!).

Online teachers, what are your favorite things to use? What are the things you use the most? Leave them in the comments below!

Use free educational resources such as flashcards and other printable material for simple words. My favorite thing currently is this set of Free Printable Sight Word Cards for K-1st grade. These packs are free, use a fun and colorful font for the kiddos, and use a lot of the simple words you will use in lower level classes.


You can find this and other free resources at Education.com

Can’t wait to get started?

Click my referral link to get set up with an interview!

Great for freelancers, the self-employed, contracted teachers, working students, and part-time employment.

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts in the comments. See you next time. 🙂

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