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How to Improve Teaching One-to-One

How to Improve Teaching One-to-One | ITTT | TEFL Blog

In the last couple of years, I have been teaching English in Italy by using the one-to-one methodology. I’m registered on a platform called ProntoPro and this is how I get in touch with my future students. Teaching one-to-one can be very challenging, but also very rewarding. From a teacher’s perspective, it is very important to find the methods that work best for you and for your students so you can both accomplish your goals. From my experience teaching, one-to-one is more student-centered and very motivational for the teacher since you need to create constantly new materials. It gives a lot of space to be creative to satisfy students’ needs and interests.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Marija K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Advantages of One-to-One Teaching

There are many advantages and disadvantages to this approach, and it is always important to balance them. Some of the advantages are: students are more exposed to the language, students feel part of the class, students go at their own pace and don’t feel pressured and some of the disadvantages are: potential for exhaustion-due to a constant interaction in an unnatural way with the teacher, difficult to measure the progress, monotonous lesson format, lack of individual study time. They might not have the same ‘sink in time' as they would have in a group. This can go against the acquisition of language, especially if teachers don’t give enough restricted practice (Scrivener, 1987) of the new language, and students don’t absorb the language as effectively as they would if they had more time to reflect and process input in a class where the teacher might be more comfortable with silent periods.

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Personal Experience

During these two years of experience I have been facing various issues and I’ve learned a lot how to improve my teaching approach in the future. With mostly all of my students, I’ve realized that it is important to set up the rules at the very beginning, on your very first class because individuals tend to change their schedules a lot, however, if they know the rules right away they tend to respect your time as teacher-so professionalism is very important. Also, in the very first class, it is important to do the placement test to check their level of English and to discuss their motivation and goals they want to achieve by attending the English lessons. In the past, I had a Basic level student who told me that wants to learn English in 6 months. This is a very good example of how we discussed that her goals should be realistic and that learning a language is a long term process. Another thing that I would like to highlight is the importance of choosing topics that are of interest to the students and to balance grammar, vocabulary, functional language within lessons. Even though as a teacher I couldn’t do group activities I realized that all the students enjoyed activities such as dictation, analysis of the lyrics of the songs, drilling, videos.

esl student

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Adapting Materials

Materials adaption and prior preparation is a very important issue as well. I tend to prepare always new and interesting materials, mostly using authentic reading and listening materials. Using authentic materials helped most of my students hearing different accents and everyday usage of the language.

Being Flexible

Flexibility is another issue. I try to be as flexible as possible, but I still follow the syllabus during the lessons. This includes also homework, but I had several cases where students didn’t want to do their homework, so for those kinds of students I usually prepare several controlled practice tasks during the lesson, especially if it is a grammar lesson.

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Explaining Learning Goals

It is also significant to tell them why they are doing the activity. I always follow the engage, study and activate stage of the course and try to elicit more from the student. Drilling is easier and you can make sure that the student pronounces the word correctly.

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In conclusion, classroom management seems to be not important, but you should make sure to set up the rules clearly and to think of effective ways to substitute the presence of the board work. (I usually prepare them hand-outs and explain them on the spot or if it questions during the lesson, I use a white-paper and write on the side where they can see). I still follow a coursebook and give them extra materials as a well-a lot of songs, crosswords, authentic materials as well it depends on their level. Even though it is hard to do tests I do placement tests as well as progress tests in different forms. Speaking about motivation it is always on a higher level than in a group, because sometimes students are forced to attend an English course which is normally not the case in one-to-one lessons. You should be flexible within limits because you still need to be careful the student not to get into your personal areas. At last, but not least giving feedback as much as possible and dedicate some lessons on error correction is very important because do not forget that you are there for the student and the feedback can help the student, but it will also help you to modify and reorganize your activity and approach if needed. To sum it up one-to-one teaching can be improved a lot and you are only getting better by doing it.

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