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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

One-to-One English Teaching: Top 10 Tips for Great Lessons!


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Although some professional language schools here in Paris tell us that up to 70% of all professional language teaching is on a one-to-one basis, not all TEFL Certificate courses actually prepare you for this.

So here is my first attempt at a list of ten key points to bear in mind when it's just you... and... him (or her of course)! Let me know what you think and feel free to add some more, thanks.
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Great One-to-One English Lessons: Top 10 Tips List

1) Ask Them What They Want
And give it to them! It's their lesson - their private lesson - and everything should be directly relevant to them.

2) Keep Your Shareholders Happy
You often have to keep several people happy: the student in front of you, the student's training department who chose your language school, your language school's director of studies, without forgetting yourself! So be aware of what all of them are looking for - often not the same thing - and try to give them all something to make their lives better.

3) Variety, Variety, Variety
Provide lots of varied activities for the student - it's more intense in a one-to-one situation so you need to keep changing the exercises regularly or you will both get bored.

4) Get Personal
Prepare highly personalised topics for your student based on his or her interests or needs - there's no excuse for not doing so. (but see No.7 below)

5) Personality Counts
So let's hope you've got one, eh?! If normal group teaching is a highly personal experience, for one-to-one teaching we need to replace 'highly' with 'intensely'! Personality clash? No-where to run. Boring, unmotivated student? No-where to hide. The fun, fast-moving lesson buck stops with you. So do your best to establish a friendly, professional approach from the start so that any problems down the line will be seen as being the exception rather than the rule and you should be able to work them out.

6) Perform Regular Rain Checks
Just because you get on well with them and they still smile quite often doesn't mean that they are totally satistied. Indeed, exactly because you have built up a friendly atmosphere may make it more difficult for them to let you know that they're not as happy as before. So ask them regularly if they are still getting what they want, if not why not, and change to rectify the situation.

7) Stay Professional
As long as money is changing hands, you ain't friends. You can never be friends. As long as money is changing hands. That's an important thing to remember. As long as they are the client and you the service provider they will be expecting you to bend over backwards to improve their English and if they don't feel that is the case, and you don't address it because you think you have become 'friends' and can get away with any old stuff, problems WILL arise.

8) Provide Structure, Not Content
The teacher provides the structure to the lesson but it is the student who will provide the content - the actual topics they want to study. Of course, the teacher may end up providing most of the materials, articles, etc., but in a one-to-one these should be closely linked to what the students has said they want or need.

9) Have Different Hats
At one moment you have to be interested in the student's son's soccer game at the weekend, the next firmly getting the student down to work and finally reassuring them that they really are making progress when they can't see it. If only we got paid in relation to the number of skills the average teacher needs!

10) Follow The LTP Approach
This is my own invention, what I call the Three Pillars of Being a Great Teacher, and is applicable, in my opinion, to any kind of teaching. LTP stands for Language Teaching People, and the idea is that to be a great teacher you need to love all of them. You need a love of Language (your chosen subject), a love of Teaching (the competences needed to help your students learn) and a love of People (the fundamental requirement to lead a happy life in our society). Read more here.
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Comments, as ever, are very welcome.
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Sab Will is Course Director at TEFL Paris, a TEFL Certificate Teacher Training Centre validated by IATQUO

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, that's really helpful.

My experience of one to one teaching has taught me that you have to work very hard sometimes to make students feel comfortable. As you say, it is an intensely personal learning environment and this can make more bashful or introverted students feel uneasy or embarrassed. I had to really work on trying to create a 'safe' and non-judgmental atmosphere so that my student would feel confident enough to chat openly without being afraid of making mistakes.I did this by not putting her on the spot too much and allowing her plenty of 'thinking time'.

It takes a lot of effort to really tailor a lesson to suit someone's needs. Your lesson content and teaching style both need to be adjusted.

Kate

Paris Set Me Free said...

Thanks Kate, your comments are very true. And of course, every one-to-one lesson is unique because the participants are unique. Real people skiils needed here in addition to language and teaching competence!

Anonymous said...

I very much agree with Kate but would also like to add that with one-to-one lessons it is vital that your student doesn't get bored. Although lessons can't always consist of fun and games alone, it is important to develop a rapport with someone and know what they enjoy to talk about and what they find fun. It's also important to keep the 'teacher and student' relationship at an appropriate level.

Anonymous said...

P.S The comment above was posted by Cassie

Lesli said...

I agree that it is important to ask the students what THEY want out of their lesson. We can only force-feed them our own self-indulgent exercises for so long before they become frustrated.

~Lesli Anne

Anonymous said...

Teaching one-to-one can be great fun but it is also very challenging. You need to be in touch with your student's needs at all times and when you see the progress they make with you, the rewards are worth the effort. Moz

Alex said...

This all makes perfect sense. I just hope I can remember it and apply it, starting today...

Alex

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sab. This does make perfect sense! I met with my one-on-one student today and I can understand how these tips can make or break a rapport with the student. All in all, meeting the student went very well.
Cale :)

Anonymous said...

I concur! I especially like the LTP approach... that's definitely something I'm 'gonna' remember :)

Edwin

Jessica said...

I'm excited to teach my first one on one class! My student for the project wants a lesson themed around American hip hop (which I clearly know SO much about). He was so surprised and excited when I gave him the option to direct the lesson. His reaction made me realize what a difference incorporating the student's interests and hobbies can be. So for now, I'll be reading up on Jay-Z.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great tips, Sab!
I definitely agree that it is important that you ask the student what they what to learn. My one to one session went well because we were covering a topic that the student wanted to learn.
Louise

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