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How to set up your digital library of teaching resources when you start teaching a language online

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

If you are going to teach online, it is important to have all your material in digital form. It is also important that you don’t design every lesson uniquely to each learner.


It takes too much time, and you want to minimise the time you have to spend preparing for a lesson so that you can go straight from one lesson to the next. You don't get paid for the time you don't teach.

Also, if you have only digital material, you can work from anywhere on your laptop – even if the student have the physical copies of the material. It makes your work life very flexible and you can become a real Language Teacher Rebel!

Here are some things that are good to have in your digital library:

1. Folders for every learner, named after them

In this folder you can keep everything that is relevant to that learner; copies of invoices, their lesson logs (we’ll come to the lesson logs in a moment), homework they have sent you, things you have sent them, etc.

2. Textbooks and exercise books

Let’s face it, beginners in particular need to go through roughly the same things in order to learn a language. And there is no need for you to reinvent the wheel and write your own book; use the best ones in your field. If you don’t have a textbook already that you work with, look into the most popular ones for your language. Market them on your website so that the learner buys a copy. Gently guide the learner through the textbook, and give listening exercise and exercises in the exercise book as homework. Next lesson, start by going through the homework.

Ideally, use textbooks that use the CEFR levels, so that the learner gets a sense of progress. I have three main books books that I teach from; one for A1-A2, one for B1-B2 (half of B2) and one for B2-C1. They include a textbook, and exercise book and also accompanying audio clips for listening exercises (great to give as homework).

3. Focus slides/documents about a particular grammar issue

You can design these yourself. It doesn’t have to be super fancy, but should deal with particular language issues. For example, in my language, many learners struggle with the idea of possessive reflexive pronouns. Everyone struggles with this! So I have made a cheat sheet for this. So when we come to this point in the textbook, I give them a copy of this document as well and talk them through it. Think through what areas are particularly tricky for your learners, and create some additional material for it. You can also use these cheat sheets or templates to make into Content Upgrades and write a blog post about it, to attract new learners. You can create them in Word, Powerpoint or even Canva.

4. Other resources

There may be some other books that you want to use, besides a textbook and an exercise book. Make sure to have digital copies of these too. Or it may be a particular resource, like an article that’s good for discussions, quizzes or pictures, or whatever. And when you find some new resources, or end up using something new during a lesson, make sure to save it into this folder.

Where to keep your digital library

You should keep these documents somewhere you can reach them online, so somewhere in the cloud (Google docs for example). I personally use Dropbox. Dropbox is a file hosting service that offers cloud storage, among other things. I use dropbox as backup (it automatically backs up all your documents), and also as an alternative place to get to my documents if I am not on my laptop.

For example, if I had to teach from someone else’s computer, I could still get to all my personal documents by logging on to my account on the internet. If you download the app, you can even view your document on your smart phone.

I also use it everyday as a tool for sharing files with my learners, by giving them a link to a dropbox file so they can download it (instead of doing the transfer in realtime over skype, or e-mailing it). Their basic account (2GB) is free, and then you can pay to add more storage.

You can download Dropbox here.

Lesson Logs

There are many different ways to do this, but the most important thing is that you keep track of your learners. It is important to note down the date when you taught them, what you did during the lesson (roughly, or maybe just which page you finished on in the textbook), what homework (if any) you have given them, and any other additional notes that can be useful.

This way, you can just simply open the lesson log a couple of minutes before the lesson starts, and immediately be up to date with where you left the previous lesson with this learner. You can immediately see what homework you gave, and so on.

I always try to take down some personal notes about the learner (where they are from, why they are learning, what they do for a living, maybe their partners’ names (especially if they are from you country), so you can easily refer back to this during any session.

If you want to download a copy of the lesson log I use, you can do that here.

#digitallibrary #languageteacherrebel #teachonline

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