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Should You Teach One-to-One or Student Groups? - An ESL Teacher Explains the Difference

Should You Teach One-to-One or Student Groups? - An ESL Teacher Explains the Difference | ITTT | TEFL Blog

I founded an English training center in China in 2017 and have been teaching a wide variety of English classes since then. I teach both one-to-one and groups, and I find them to be very different.

Prospective TEFL teachers may want to consider: which kind of class fits you best?

Below I would like to compare my experiences in teaching and managing these two types of class, and also give some suggestions for prospective TEFL teachers to make a realistic choice.

This post was written by our ITTT graduate Yan Z.

Do you prefer small groups or bigger classes?

The first difference, obviously, is the class size, which decides your budget. When teaching one student, a single room of 10-20 square meters big would be enough. A group class will require at least 30 square meters plus facilities such as restrooms, depending on how many students you are teaching. If you are freelancing and renting a TEFL classroom, you would need to decide the class size according to your budget.

Do you like pair projects or independent student work?

The interaction and relationship between the teacher and the students can be quite different, thus changing the class dynamics and atmosphere. In a group, the teacher can arrange a lot of pair work and group activities, where students can work with and inspire each other. By having games and fun activities, the class atmosphere can be easily heated up. Whereas in a one to one class, communications only take place between that single teacher and student, so the atmosphere will be calmer.

If you are passionate about organizing group activities, you will find the group class easy and fun. If you are more introverted, you might find one to one teaching more comfortable. A traditional group class is close to a class in school, where the teacher is in charge and do the majority of talking. While in a one to one class, the student gets to talk as much as he can. The teacher can communicate with the student in a more friend-like manner, so they both feel more relaxed and equally engaged.

Also read: Top Time Fillers for an EFL Classroom

Do you have the patience to keep a large student group in line?

Discipline can be a major concern of group class, especially with young learners. Young kids between 7 and 10 years old are highly active and like to challenge teachers. Teachers frequently need to address problem behaviors, so discipline becomes necessary. In my case, I have a soft personality and I personally do not like to be tough on kids.

But if I am soft all the time, kids will start acting naughty. In order for me to maintain discipline, I have to build some sort of prestige by showing a serious face to those challenging kids. Rules and even punishments are employed. That can affect the class flow and atmosphere, which is why I do not like it. Unfortunately, no matter how hard a teacher tries to keep the atmosphere nice, when discipline issues occur in a group class, that tension between the teacher-student relationship will inevitably exist.

Thus, if you have a super soft heart and hate to be tough on kids, you might feel mentally struggled, as most teachers and I do when teaching a group of young learners. If you just want to stay calm and relaxed and do not want to worry about discipline, then one to one is the way to go.

Advantages of a one-to-one teaching environment

I think the biggest advantage of one-to-one classes is that the teacher’s time, attention and efforts are all devoted to that one single student, and the student can have maximum opportunities to practice and interact with the teacher. While in a group class, students share their practice time and the teacher’s attention. The teacher has to monitor the process and make sure every student is fully engaged.

Also read: Top Tips for Teaching English One-on-One

Advantages of a larger student group

Because of the facts above, group teaching requires more work in class management. From a financial perspective, group class will get higher pay. Such difference will be more remarkable in a larger group. One to one class tuition is limited during the average time period, but group class tuition can grow significantly with increased student number. Hence a teacher in immediate financial need will find group teaching more profitable.

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Which type of class suits you best?

Overall, if you just want to work in a relaxed manner at your own pace and do not want discipline pressure, one to one class will suit you better. If you enjoy working with a group and are passionate about organizing group activities, then you will find group teaching a lot of fun. Of course, you can practice yourself by teaching both and gradually figure out your best fit or stick to both. Whichever way you go, I believe you will find the experience very rewarding.

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