Our team of brilliant Action Language volunteers taught and supported 12 zoom classes with 80 learners last week.

Action Language volunteers Hilary and Michael are some of the teachers who are leading these online lessons and have kindly agreed to write a diary of how everyone gets on with this new approach to teaching.

Here’s Michael with the latest update…

Well, perhaps it’s time for another update on the online teaching Hilary and I are doing, with superb support from Barbara and Elaine, and, of course, Ruth in the background.

It frightens me a bit to say this, and I am certainly tempting fate. But we all seem to have got the hang of using zoom for lessons. When I say all, I mean the students as well as we teachers.

Cheerful interruptions

In our last blog Hilary spelled out the practical things we’ve learned as teachers: making sure the lessons are simple and have a clear thread running through them, using large print and clear pictures so the students can see the detail on their phones, and using break out rooms effectively.

And it’s clear that the students are now used to the online lessons: they are using mute buttons selectively, using the chat box for their answers (holding back from posting their answers until everyone’s had a chance to type in) and managing their own environments….though we occasionally have the huge pleasure of a young child joining in, usually demonstrating that their English is much better than their parents’.

Happy Social Time

So, what have we done? We’ve been to the beach, been shopping in town, grown and cooked food, been to the doctor’s (all of course in a virtual sense) and talked about jobs people do. Along the way we’ve practiced tenses, the language of discussion and disagreement, and all sorts of other forms of language.

Most of all, it’s fun. Students are entering into the spirit of it all, and it’s a happy social time for all of us: a great help in these odd and rather sad times.

‘I must look bonkers!’

Perhaps the biggest risk has been to my local reputation. Sometimes it’s easier to use a photo for classes that you’ve taken yourself than to search for one which is accessible on the net in terms of usage rights. So I’m often to be found, phone in hand, wandering round Newcastle taking photos of benches, street signs, fences, trees and the like, all the time avoiding capturing any images of people or private property. I must look bonkers.

Luckily my dog, Hunter, has signed all the documentation allowing me to use his images, so he features quite a lot, and he vouches for my sanity if we’re ever questioned.


Meanwhile I’ve been putting myself into the students’ shoes by trying to learn a language online myself: I’ve started learning Arabic, so, like many of our students, having to learn to read and write again. It’s giving me a lot of empathy into the difficulties they face. And I’m left with even greater respect for the progress they make. Believe me, it’s hard!

Telephone language lessons

And it’s not just Zoom we’re using to reach people, some of our fantastic Action Language volunteers have also started working by phone. Focusing first on learners who are unable to manage online classes due to lack of technology or confidence, volunteers are making one to one calls to offer English conversation practice.

This might include talking about the activities in the paper activity packs we post out, or even just about the weather and how their week has been. Zoom classes are great not only to support language learning but for people to connect and ask questions, we hope phone calls will do the same for others.

Catch up with previous diary entries

1. Hilary – Let’s get ready to Zoom!
2. Michael – Zoom Classes Have Begun!
3. Hilary – Learning in Miniature!

English Classes

Do you need English practice at home? Text ENGLISH to 07520 619 511 or WhatsApp ENGLISH to 07518 460 198