Action Language classes have been slowly starting up again this month after the UK went into lockdown. The team have been working incredibly hard to find new ways of making sure asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants in Tyne & Wear can access free English lessons from home.

It’s not a one size fits all situation, as not all of our learners have the same access to technology – with some people using computers, others trying to get by with a mobile phone with limited phone credit and then there are those who literally have none of that at all.

So, we’re delivering free English language lessons in a few different ways including:

  • 30 minute live video lessons with volunteer teachers via Zoom
  • Lessons posted on a website that can be easily accessed on any device
  • Printed worksheets sent out directly to learners

The classes are building up now – with four zoom sessions in the first week, but next week we’ll be up to 12!

Action Language volunteers Hilary and Michael are some of the teachers who are leading the Zoom lessons and have kindly agreed to write a diary of how everyone gets on with this new approach to teaching.  In Diary Entry One, Hilary gave her thoughts before the zoom classes started, but here’s the second instalment from Michael now things are up and running…

Well, we’ve now done two lessons. I spent ages preparing material, scrapping it, preparing again, scrapping again….and so on. Most teachers will recognise the process. And I sent Hunter the springer spaniel out with a friend: he’d have loved meeting the students and would have joined in happily with his own brand of English. But I don’t think it would have helped the class.

‘Some way to go…’

I led the classes, with Hilary and Barbara assisting the students and giving me moral support. And we had Ruth in the background, managing the technical side. I really couldn’t have managed without their help.

How did the lessons go? My line has always been that just as the students are learning English, I’m learning to do an effective zoom lesson. And on the evidence, I think I’ve got some way to go.

It’s difficult to engage properly with students when you can’t see them all (we had 13 at the first lesson and 12 at the second). And it’s hard to manage everybody’s input, and to make sure everybody gets to speak and that the quiet students don’t get forgotten. I don’t think I managed that very well.


But the point is that I think the students enjoyed the opportunity to see each other, to speak in English in a safe place, and to see us. And it was a huge pleasure for me to see them, after such a long gap. It was truly heartwarming once again to spend time with such a lovely, positive and enthusiastic group of people. As ever, I was humbled.

And I loved it! Whatever else, I think we had fun. Though the 30 minutes flew by, by the end I felt drained. I had to restore myself with tea at least four chocolate biscuits. But I’m looking forward to the next lessons…

English Classes

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