How to Maximize Interaction in Online Adult ESL Classes: Best Practices and Strategies

online English tutor for online adult ESL classes with laptop and bookshelf behind her with flags and books and a blue wall



Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Online adult ESL classes have become increasingly popular in recent years. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have become a necessity.

But one of the biggest challenges of online classes is keeping students engaged and creating opportunities for interaction.

This blog post will discuss best practices and strategies to maximize interaction in online adult ESL classes.

Learn how to create engaging and interactive online adult ESL classes for adult learners with this best practices and strategies list.

  • Discover how to maximize student interaction, increase engagement, and promote language acquisition.
  • Get tips and ideas for using technology and incorporating real-world tasks and authentic materials.


As an experienced educator with over 22 years of teaching adults, I bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the field of online English tutoring.

My educational background includes a Master of Arts in Conflict Analysis Management, a Master of Education in Teaching Multilingual Learners, certificates in Conflict Management, Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), and a Teacher’s Preparation Program. I am also a retired Chartered Mediator and hold an Advanced Certified Development Project Manager Certificate.

With my extensive training and practical experience, I have developed a deep understanding of adult ESL learners’ unique challenges and the strategies needed to create an effective online curriculum that engages and motivates them.

My commitment to excellence, integrity, and reliability ensures my clients receive the highest quality service and support.

In addition to my extensive credentials and expertise in designing adult ESL curriculum, my students consistently describe me as engaging, patient, and compassionate.

I pride myself on being personable and reflective in my teaching approach, always striving to meet each student’s unique needs and create a supportive and inclusive learning environment.

Watch this testimonial from one of my adult students:

Student Testimonial for Suzanne Marie, Teaching is Rewarding-

Setting the Tone in Online Adult ESL Classes

Establishing clear ground rules and class norms is essential for creating a positive and productive online learning environment.

Here are some tips for online English tutors to set ground rules and class norms for adult ESL learners:

Start with an Icebreaker

Begin your first class with an icebreaker activity to help your students get to know each other and build a sense of community.

Icebreakers set the tone for your class and make establishing ground rules and class norms easier.

Involve Your Students

Encourage your students to participate in setting ground rules and class norms.

Involvement in creating ground rules and norms will give them a sense of ownership and responsibility for maintaining a positive learning environment.

Be Clear and Specific

Clearly state the ground rules and class norms you expect your students to follow.

Ensure they are specific and measurable so your students know exactly what is expected of them.

Discuss Consequences

Discuss the consequences of not following the ground rules and class norms.

Discussions about expectations help your students understand the importance of following them and the consequences of not doing so.

Reinforce Positive Behavior

When your students follow the ground rules and class norms, reinforce their positive behavior with praise and recognition.

Setting clear ground rules and class norms creates a positive and productive online learning environment to help your adult ESL learners achieve their language learning goals.

What to Include in Online Adult ESL Classes

Including engaging activities in a well-structured adult ESL curriculum sets your students up for success.

Through refining my own teaching practice, well-planned ESL lessons make online English tutors’ workload and lesson preparation much easier.

These are the key elements of all lessons I design when teaching adult English language learners:

  1. Fun and personable icebreakers and warm-up activities.
  2. Technology for activities, homework, and engagement.
  3. Collaboration and group work.
  4. Icebreakers and warm-up activities.
  5. Positive and constructive feedback and encouragement.
  6. Homework for self study.

Icebreakers and Warm-Up Activities

One of the best ways to get your students engaged and interacting is by starting your class with icebreakers and warm-up activities.

These activities help break the ice and create a positive learning environment.

Some great ideas for icebreakers and warm-up activities include:

  • Pictionary: Divide the class into two teams and have them take turns drawing a word while the other team guesses.
  • Scavenger Hunt: Give the class a list of items to find in their immediate environment and have them race to find the items.
  • Two Truths and a Lie: Each student takes turns sharing three statements about themselves, two of which are true and one that is false. The other students have to guess which statement is a lie.
  • Photo Sharing: Each student shares a photo of something meaningful and explains why it’s important. This activity can help students get to know each other better and find common interests.
  • Virtual Scavenger Hunt: Give the students a list of items to find in their homes and take a picture of them within a set amount of time. This activity can be fun for students to explore their environment and practice their English vocabulary.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

One of the advantages of online classes is the wide variety of tools and technology available to make your class more interactive.

Some great tools to consider using in your class include:

  • Whiteboard Tools: Online whiteboards can be used for brainstorming, drawing, and annotating.
  • Polling Tools: Polling tools can gather instant feedback and opinions from your students.
  • Breakout Rooms: Breakout rooms can divide your class into smaller groups for discussions and activities.

Encourage Collaboration and Group Work

Collaboration and group work are essential to online classes.

These activities help students develop communication and teamwork skills while improving their English language proficiency.

For example, consider group discussions, where students are divided into small groups to discuss a specific topic and present their findings to the rest of the class.

  • Group projects can also be assigned to encourage teamwork and English language use.
  • Role-playing activities can also be used to improve language skills.

These activities help students develop communication and teamwork skills while improving their English language proficiency.

Some ideas for collaborative and group work activities include:

  • Group Discussions: Divide your class into small groups and assign them a discussion topic. Have each group present their findings to the rest of the class.
  • Group Projects: Assign a project that requires students to work together and use English to complete the task.
  • Role-Playing: Assign roles to each student and have them act out a scenario using English.

Provide Feedback and Encouragement

Feedback and encouragement are essential for keeping your students engaged and motivated.

Regular feedback on progress and encouragement to continue practicing and improving their English language skills is vital. Encourage students to participate and ask questions.

Homework Ideas for Online Adult ESL Classes

In all of my online adult ESL classes, I assign homework for students to work on between classes.

Homework topics for adult ESL learners to practice their language skills before each class with their online English tutor:


  • News articles on current events
  • Short stories or novels
  • Instructions on how to do something (e.g., cooking, gardening, etc.)
  • Biographies or memoirs


  • Journal entries about personal experiences or thoughts
  • Essays on a variety of topics
  • Practice writing emails to friends, family, or colleagues
  • Writing prompts for creative writing practice


  • Podcasts or radio shows
  • YouTube videos or TED Talks
  • TV shows or movies with closed captioning
  • Audiobooks or stories


  • Practice conversation with a language exchange partner
  • Practicing pronunciation with tongue twisters
  • Recording themselves speaking and listening back for self-evaluation
  • Role-playing scenarios with their online English tutor

These topics can be adjusted and personalized to fit each adult ESL learner’s individual needs and interests.

Helpful Resources for Online Adult ESL Classes

Over the years, I have accumulated several resources to use in each of my online classes.

This list includes helpful apps, blogs, and websites with immense value for tutors and students in online adult ESL classes:

  • Language Exchange
  • News and Popular Media
  • Blogs and YouTube Channels
  • Writing and Journaling
  • Podcasts for Learning English

Language Exchange Apps for Adult ESL Students

Here are some of the top-rated language exchange apps for adult ESL students:

Tandem – Tandem is a language exchange app that connects people worldwide who want to learn and practice languages. It offers a chat feature, video calling, and the ability to find language partners with similar interests.

HelloTalk – HelloTalk is another popular language exchange app that offers a chat feature, voice messages, and the ability to correct each other’s statements for grammar and vocabulary mistakes.

Speaky – Speaky is a language exchange app that allows users to chat with native speakers of their target language. It offers text and voice messaging and the ability to search for language partners by location, age, and interests.

Busuu – Busuu is a language learning app with a language exchange feature. Users can connect with native speakers and practice their language skills through chat and video calls.

Italki – Italki is a language exchange and tutoring platform that connects users with professional language tutors for one-on-one lessons. It also offers a community feature where users can connect with language partners for free conversation practice.

These language exchange apps can provide adult ESL learners a fun and interactive way to practice their language skills outside of classes.

News Apps for Business Professionals

Here are some top-rated apps for general news articles for global audiences and business professionals:

BBC News: BBC News is a free app that offers up-to-date news from the UK and worldwide. It covers various topics, including business, politics, technology, and sports.

Reuters: Reuters is a news app that offers global coverage of business, finance, politics, and more. It provides users with breaking news alerts and in-depth analysis of current events.

The New York Times: The New York Times is a leading news app that covers global news, business, politics, technology, and culture. It provides users access to breaking news alerts, video content, and in-depth analysis of current events.

The Economist: The Economist is a news app focusing on global business and politics. It provides users in-depth analysis, commentary, and insights on current events.

Financial Times: Financial Times is a news app that covers business and financial news worldwide. It provides users breaking news alerts, analysis, and commentary on current events.

Wall Street Journal: The Wall Street Journal is a news app focusing on business and financial news. It provides users with breaking news alerts, in-depth analysis, and insights into current events.

The apps offer news articles and content suitable for a global audience and business professionals.

Blogs and YouTube Channels for Adult English Language Learners

My Chinese adult ESLs enjoy reading the Economist. Personally, I find this publication includes welll-reounded journalism and unbiased viewpoints.

Here are some top-rated blogs and YouTube channels similar to The Economist:

Financial Times – The Financial Times is a British newspaper that provides global news, analysis, and opinions on business, finance, and politics.

Bloomberg – Bloomberg is a global business and financial information provider that covers news, data, and analytics on markets, companies, industries, and economies.

Wall Street Journal – The Wall Street Journal is an American business-focused daily newspaper that covers breaking news, investigative journalism, and opinion pieces on global business, finance, and economics.

Foreign Affairs – Foreign Affairs is a magazine that provides in-depth analysis and commentary on global affairs, including international politics, economics, and culture.

TED Talks Business – TED Talks Business is a series of TED Talks that feature business leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators sharing their ideas and insights on leadership, innovation, and creativity.

Harvard Business Review – Harvard Business Review is a magazine that provides practical insights, best practices, and thought leadership on global business, management, and leadership.

Stratfor – Stratfor is a geopolitical intelligence and advisory firm that provides strategic analysis, forecasting, and risk assessment on global events, trends, and issues.

The Diplomat – The Diplomat is a magazine that covers the Asia-Pacific region, including politics, economics, security, and culture.

CGTN – CGTN is a global English-language news channel that covers breaking news, analysis, and features on international affairs, including politics, business, and culture.

Al Jazeera English – Al Jazeera English is a global network covering breaking news, investigations, and in-depth features on international events, politics, and culture.

Writing Apps for Adult English Language Learners

Several apps provide writing prompts for creative writing practice for adult ESL learners and online English tutors.

Some top-rated options include:

Prompts – This app provides thousands of writing prompts, including story starters, scene builders, and character prompts. Users can set up reminders to write, track their progress, and publish their writing within the app’s community.

Writing Challenge – This app provides a new writing prompt every day and a library of prompts to choose from. It includes features such as word count tracking, progress tracking, and the ability to share your writing with others.

Story Dice – This app provides a fun and interactive way to generate writing prompts. Users can shake their device to roll virtual dice, displaying a series of images that can be used as inspiration for writing.

Writing Prompts – This app provides hundreds of creative writing prompts, including prompts for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Users can also save their favorite prompts for later use.

Evernote – While not specifically a writing prompt app, Evernote can be a helpful tool for organizing and tracking writing prompts. Users can create notebooks for different prompts and save ideas and notes for future writing sessions.

These apps can be helpful for adult ESL learners and online English tutors who want to practice creative writing skills in a structured and engaging way.

Podcasts for Adult ESLs

Many great podcasts can help adult English language learners, and online English tutors improve their listening and comprehension skills.

Here are some top-rated podcasts to consider:

ESLPod – This podcast offers daily English lessons on idioms, vocabulary, and grammar. Each episode includes a dialogue between two native speakers and explanations of complex vocabulary and expressions.

English as a Second Language (ESL) Podcast – Hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse, this podcast offers English lessons and discussions on various topics, including culture, news, and history.

The English We Speak – This podcast from the BBC offers short, 3-minute episodes that focus on common English phrases and expressions.

All Ears English – Hosted by Lindsay McMahon and Michelle Kaplan, this podcast offers practical tips and advice for improving your English language skills, with a focus on American English.

Luke’s English Podcast – Hosted by Luke Thompson, this podcast offers comedy, culture, and language lessons focusing on British English.

EnglishClass101 – This podcast offers comprehensive English lessons for all levels, focusing on vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.

Real-Life English – This podcast offers practical English language lessons and discussions on various topics, including travel, culture, and current events.

These podcasts can be an excellent resource for adult English language learners and online English tutors looking to improve their listening skills and learn new vocabulary and expressions.


By implementing these best practices and strategies, you create a more interactive and engaging online adult ESL class for your students.

Remember to use icebreakers, warm-up activities, technology, collaboration, and group work.

Provide regular feedback and encouragement to maximize interaction in your online classes.

Assign homework or group projects using the list of resources I’ve provided for reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Thanks for stopping by!

Before you go, browse our Shop with ESL lessons for adults with teaching materials: Shop.

Until next time,


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