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Lights, props, backdrop, oh my! Out with the old, and in with the new. Have you ever considered changing up your online classroom setup?

As the new year has begun, this is an excellent opportunity to think about doing something new and different in your online classroom. Depending on which company you work for, there may be specific requirements that you must meet. However, there are certain essential elements from which all online classroom setups can benefit.

“Integrate something new into your online classroom.” 


Changing your laptop’s or computer’s workspace can affect how you teach. A new rage to online class set up is the use of a standing desk. Using a standing desk can transform your teaching style by allowing you to incorporate more movement in the classroom naturally. 

Many teachers have described how much more engaged their students are when they use a standing desk or laptop stand as they teach. The standing desk enables them to use more TPR and physical activities within their online classroom setup.

Miniature Red Car Carrying A Colorful Pencils And Red Apple On Wooden Table And Place For Text. Back To School Concept
Simple items from around your house make great props!
Image courtesy of Zaikina |


For a change of pace, consider changing out your props. Props can range from puppets to flashcards or digital props. And, don’t rule out using realia. Students typically love to see and talk about everything from fruits and vegetables that might not be available in their area to what it looks like outside your window. I often turn my camera to show my students what the weather is like where I live. 

Are you struggling to engage a young reluctant student? Try using a hand puppet to facilitate engagement. Hand puppets can help a student feel at ease. They are useful for modeling sentence structure and conversation skills. You could update your hand puppet stash or create your own using popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, and visual images.

If you have not tried digital props, this year could be the time to try something new. Digital props can be used in such programs as Manycam and Zoom. They are the go-to for some online teachers. Using digital props as a part of your online class setup also helps eliminate clutter in your teaching space.

Online ESL tutor with panda puppet
Teacher Rhanda shared a photo of herself with her new puppet in ALO7’s tutor support group.


If physical props are your thing, maybe purchase some new flashcards! Flashcards are effective in providing visual examples of targeted vocabulary. They can be found at your favorite local Dollar Tree store or in the Target dollar bins! Here are some links for reasonably priced flashcards, check out sites like Dollar days and Dollar Tree.  


Has your décor remained the same for some time? Think about changing your background to freshen your online classroom setup or to reflect seasonal changes. Your students may also enjoy seeing decorations that celebrate their native festivals or holidays. For example, for Chinese New Year you could include greetings such as Happy New Year, and I hope all goes well with you: 新年快乐, 万事如意 xīn nián kuài lè, wàn shì rú yì in your online classroom set up. 

You might also consider changing your sign if you have one. Many teachers usually have signs showing their name, so giving your sign an update by changing the font or colors may be just what you need. Think about which colors you may be required to use, but also consider colors that complement you as well as colors that engage our eager online learners.

Try what you think will work best for your teaching style, your students, and the learning environment you are trying to create.

Reading and Writing Haven: A blog for educators

Online Teaching Practices

Improve your teaching practices this year. Set a goal to include more target language in your warm-up or summary of the lesson. Include playful activities such as tongue twisters as appropriate for your students’ levels. This activity helps improve speaking skills and word use, while also providing a fun diversion for your ESL students.

Sometimes a makeover of our online classroom setup is just what the doctor ordered! It also helps engage and motivate us as we teach our global students. 

Let your creativity and passion be your guide when redoing your online classroom setup! If you’re excited about teaching, your students will be, too.

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