An Independent Teacher’s Guide on How to Teach German Online
Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
It’s the German teacher with all of his stuff!
As you probably know, this is the opening line of Goethe’s famous “Erlkönig” poem about a father burden with a heavy (and tragic) responsibility.
Teaching German sounds familiar, except for the tragic part, right?
Teaching’s great, but it can be exhausting.
Not just German teachers—all educators, for that matter. Sure, you stay prepared, using your ready-made customized materials, and you capture your students with multimedia presentations, but all of that requires planning and lugging resources around.
On top of that, you also need to drive through traffic or wait for public transport, to go out in rain and snow, in winter and summer, just to get to class.
Or do you?
What if you could teach from the comfort of your own home instead? Imagine sipping on a hot cup of tea while sitting on your favorite blanket, while teaching your students the fine art of German.
You can, online.
The Newbie’s Guide on How to Teach German Online
If you have never considered teaching online before, consider the benefits.
First and most obviously, you are flexible with your time and workspace, and you can skip the commute.
What’s more, teaching German online is one of the easiest ways to become your own boss. All you need is a computer, headset, an internet connection and maybe a webcam—that’s it.
And best of all, when you teach online, you will meet scores of people interested in the German language and get to interact with them. You are in control and can pick your students, and you can decide how much or how little time you want to invest into becoming the best online German teacher the world has ever seen.
Ready to become an online German teacher?
Read further to find out how to get started.
Starting Your Online Teaching Career
Before you do anything else, pin down what you want.
- How many people do you want to teach per month?
- Do you want one-on-one or small groups?
- Where do you want your students to be from?
- Are you fine with teaching different types of learners?
Answering these questions will help you determine how to structure your teacher’s profile, as well as give you an idea of which students you want to teach.
From there, it’s time to join a teaching platform. I recommend concentrating your efforts on no more than two or three platforms, so that you do not spread yourself too thin.
But how do you choose?
You want a platform that has a large base of students—one with visibility and exposure. The more people are aware of the platform, the easier it will be for you to find the right students. But keep in mind that with great popularity comes more expectations. Students pay a lot of money to learn German (and other languages) on the top online teaching platforms, so you have to make sure you are willing to dedicate the time to creating high quality lessons.
Popular platforms you can teach German on include:
- italki: With over two million users, italki is one of the biggest platforms out there. Because of high competition, prices seem to be slightly on the lower end, and italki takes 15% commission on all earnings. Still, if you want access to a large pool of students, this service might be the way to go.
- Verbalplanet: Another platform with a large user base, Verbalplanet allows teachers to keep 100% of their earnings, which are easily paid out through PayPal. If you want something that is easy to set up and charges no fees or commissions, this might be the choice for you.
- Lingoda: This platform uses Skype and virtual classrooms for sessions; it has a standard rate for teachers so you don’t have to evaluate the competition and set your own rate.
- Verbling: You can teach on this platform even without being a native speaker, although they do require good qualifications. Verbling lets you set your own rates and uses PayPal or Skrill to cash out any time you want.
- Tutor.com: A large and well-established platform that provides a lot of structure, which can be a huge benefit depending on your teaching style and experience.
This list is far from comprehensive, but these platforms are a great place to start your online teaching career. And in most cases, the higher your teacher rating, the more money you can earn. So, you want to make sure that your lessons are well structured and cover important topics. That way, you are on your way to becoming a great teacher.
Setting Yourself up as a Great Online German Teacher
First and foremost, you need a great profile.
The more polished it is, the more it will set you apart from your competition and the greater the number of students it attracts.
Start with a clean, friendly portrait picture. Make sure the text doesn’t contain any errors: after all, you are teaching a language. It should both be professional and conversational. You want to appear approachable without looking like an amateur.
Go ahead and showcase your qualifications and experience: more than an open persona, this is what students will scrutinize. Provide an outline of your teaching style and demonstrate:
- That you know what you are doing.
- What your students can expect to gain from your course.
Finally, provide all your logistical details as bullet points, including:
- Your time zone
- Fee structure
- Whether you teach with video or only audio.
After that, it is time to start writing lessons. But first, you need to have inspirational material to draw from.
And that’s where FluentU comes in.
FluentU offers an ever-growing library of German curriculum taken from real-world material. Instead of your regular old workbook problems and unnatural scripts, you get to teach students using content made by Germans, for Germans like:
- Video clips from popular German movies and TV shows
- German songs
- German commercials
- Excerpts from German newspapers and magazines
As a teacher, you are able to give online students access to the FluentU platform, which they can access on their desktop, Android and iOS devices. This makes it easy to add projects and homework assignments into your online lessons.
But FluentU doesn’t just offer curriculum to teach with, it also comes with smart teaching tools that track the progress of your students from start to finish.
Ready to start a new way of teaching German? Visit the FluentU website today and register for a free trial.
And, if you happen to be looking for some additional work, FluentU hires paid freelancers to work on everything from writing blog posts (like the one you’re reading right now) to creating and voicing YouTube content for language learners (perfect for experienced teachers and tutors.)
Joining our team is an amazing opportunity to maintain a completely flexible work schedule in a calm, supportive and collaborative environment.
Check our “Jobs at FluentU” page to see what we’re currently hiring for.
Now that we have covered that, let’s take a look at how to create interactive German lessons online.
Start with a Clear Objective
Even more so than for normal classroom teaching, good curriculum is crucial for online teachers.
You need to aim for, and reach, clear achievements—for you and your students’ sake.
Set one well-defined objective for every session and communicate it clearly. It needs to be compact enough that you can get there within the session, and clear enough that you can easily evaluate your success.
For example, have a session focused on modal verbs or personal pronouns, or maybe one that revolves around conjugating the verbs sein (to be) and haben (to have). If you have your goal, write down the essential elements and trim away all the fat.
Know How to Manage Online Classrooms
What’s more, teaching online means that you cannot rely too much on visual and non-verbal cues. What you say and what is on the screen mean everything—literally.
Therefore, it is of paramount importance to speak as slowly and clearly as possible. Build a lot of repetition into your presentation to guarantee the main points don’t get lost; stress them over and over, and don’t rely on getting them across with the first mention.
To keep your students engaged and alert, ask constant questions and keep the session going as a dialogue, not a lecture. The more questions you ask, the better you can judge your students’ progress or the need for clarification.
Always keep an eye on the time and don’t run over. Utilize the advantages of sitting in front of your computer to make things easier. Have your reference material open and ready, use electronic notes, set up alarms and watch the clock.
Don’t Forget the Activities
Just because you are teaching online does not mean you should skip out on activities like games and icebreakers.
Start off your classes with a quick discussion. I like to kick off the lesson with something fun to talk about, preferably a short video clip—like something from the latest “Tagesschau.” This news show is in German, freely available world-wide and showcases the topics Germans are currently talking about.
If the language is too advanced, substitute the “Tagesschau” with slowly spoken daily news provided by Deutsche Welle, another German public service broadcaster.
Watching and discussing the news is a good way to open a session, but you will need more to keep it going. Most of the time, you will be talking or asking questions, and sometimes students may drift off. For this reason, it is always good to give some extra incentive to pay attention.
Games and Homework for Online Lessons?
If you are teaching with video, you can play a fun game by placing some objects in the frame and tell your students you will mention them during the session.
Their task will be to spot those objects mentioned and point them out. At the end, you tell them how many objects they caught and how many they missed. This will motivate students to be more alert and fully concentrated.
And since you cannot physically interact with your students or take them on excursions, remember that offline homework projects can involve more than just writing.
Give your students some tasks that require them to go out and interact. For example, you could ask them to find a German bakery, sausage shop or restaurant in their area, or to visit their local Goethe Institut. Have them photograph as many German dishes or products (from cars to washing machines) as they can find, or ask them to try out a German recipe and summarize their experience in German.
Teach with the Right Tools
When you are teaching through technology, technology becomes your best friend.
Make use of tools and features that are ideal for online teaching. It will improve your teaching and make your life a lot easier.
As a basic example, you can use a digital whiteboard to replace the classroom one. It is easier to clean, it never smudges and you can be sure your students can see it large and clear.
And since you will be doing a lot of presentations, why not skip PowerPoint and try something more advanced? For example, you can make beautiful and visually engaging presentations with Haiku Deck, or create a video presentation with Knovio.
Another good method of preparation is to record yourself for instructions or commentary. You can take a text, image or video and add some additional information; or you can give your students homework assignments with all the necessary explanations already included.
And don’t forget to use a cloud service like Google Drive or Dropbox to transfer files directly from your computer to your students—no lifting and carrying required!
And that’s it! Now you are all set to enjoy the many benefits of teaching German online. In many ways, it can be easier, more flexible and just as direct as teaching in front of a physical classroom.
Ready to give it a try?