Individual Lessons vs. Group Lessons: What Works Best for Teachers?
Teaching is probably one of the most rewarding professions that can exist. I've always dreamed to be a teacher, being able to make a difference and be the one students can look up to. This opportunity was given to me when an English training institute from China called Web international English (also called Web) hired me as an ESL teacher. The web is a private English school which provides different class sizes such as VIP(1 to 1), Private(1 to 4), Salon(1 to 10) and Social(1 to 25+). These various courses helped me to differentiate and experience the difference between teaching one to one and groups.
Hence I will detail in the following paragraphs my personal observations between both types of classes. Starting with teaching one to one and then contrasting with teaching groups.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Jonathan F. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Options for Private Classes
As mentioned before Web provides courses called VIP class where student and teacher would be alone in a small classroom setting, as a 1 to 1 class teaching configuration. In these classes, students or their parents would pay higher course fees than for a specific purpose such as working or studying abroad. I could identify several advantages in teaching my VIP classes.
Firstly the students could enjoy the opportunity to have a higher amount of speaking time, as they didn't have to share their talking time with any classmates. This higher talking time enabled them to have more opportunities to be familiar with the new materials and target language. Secondly, students could receive full attention from their teachers, so I could monitor, correct and manage easily the students during lessons. I remember how I could clarify students misunderstandings and answer all the questions they wanted to ask me.
Finally, this kind of intimate configuration afforded me to establish a better rapport with my students, I could get to know the likes and dislikes. Understanding their motivations or their goals on how they wished to use the language. I believe this was essential to design personal and individual lesson plans for them so I could complement their shortcomings such as their common grammar mistakes or misuse of vocabulary words.
Disadvantages of This Approach
Although teaching VIP students at Web revealed to provide ideal class experience, there were several downsides which I personally had trouble to deal with.
Firstly as much as the students talking time was relatively high, students couldn't enjoy interactions with other peers which sometimes reduced the fun students could get in learning a new language.
Additionally, students who had an introverted or shy personality could sometimes be reluctant to speak during Engage phases as those students usually would feel safer having a peer demonstrating the first participation. In order to cope with that situation, I have learned that clear instruction and eliciting what I was expecting from my students would help them to speak out along with appropriate praising when they finally gathered the courage to engage themselves in the activity.
What’s Important for any Lesson Types?
As just explained the importance for students to interact with peers, let me now expose my experiences teaching groups at Web.
While I was teaching whether Privates, Salons or Socials I always made sure my lessons would be entertaining. I often apprehended the fact that my students would not be attentive enough or would be rather bored with the content of the lesson. Therefore activities in groups or pair work were most of the time be used within my classroom management, which was allowing the student to still have high talking time and allowing them to share more ideas and thoughts even if they were shy.
Having this chance to practice with peers could increase communication and cooperation which helped students to feel less pressure from the teacher and feel part of a group that can progress together. When students feel like belonging to a group they tend to not be afraid of trying to use new language concepts.
Disadvantages of Group Teaching
Even though if classes were fun to teach, there were, unfortunately, real drawbacks in teaching these group classes.
The first and main disadvantage comes from the noise. During Salons or Socials when the number of students was 10+, they could sometimes forget the class rules and discipline then get to speak louder as every student could be more confident expressing and interacting with their peers. Therefore setting clear classroom discipline and instructions could probably help to maintain a quieter environment but also switching groups or pairs could sometimes make students speaking with different tones or voice volumes.
Another downside from group classes was the energy they required. With the Social classes, the number of students could be unlimited therefore maintaining class discipline was often challenging.
Finally, group classes ended up to be quite demanding in energy. Except for Privates, it was sometimes tiring to manage Salons and Socials because keeping your students concentrated by making lessons active and entertaining requires much energy at the opposite of one to one where I only had to keep the attention of a single student.
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From my experience at Web, I have understood the vital importance of class management within the different types of classes that the Web had. Whether it is with one to one or groups the best solution to keep a lesson smooth and effective was using clear instructions before every activity, control checking their comprehension and monitoring attentively students performances during classes. Finally giving appropriate feedback should never be forgotten. In the end, my students and I would enjoy every class with pleasure and satisfaction.
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