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Teaching Groups or Individual Students: What's Better?

Teaching Groups or Individual Students: What's Better?| ITTT | TEFL Blog

What do you know about speaking and teaching English? Well, the answer to the first part of the question goes back to early times. I started to study English when I was between ten or eleven years old. I can say that after a few classes, I was already able to say short, simple but probably still inaccurate sentences. However, teaching English appeared as a possible professional job a long time after that.

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

My Personal Experience

After my high school graduation, I decided to get a university degree in Tourist Business. By that time, my English skills had improved enormously. My Tourism career took me four years to finish with the mandatory classes. English was one of them. For me, taking Tourist English classes were as easy as “to take a walk in the park.” For that reason, I became a private tutor for some of my classmates without realizing that actually, I was doing the job of a private English teacher. Certainly, at that time, I didn’t have any English teacher certification to grant me the formal title.

group lesson

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English Teaching Approach

That was my first approach to the profession of teaching English. The students were my classmates; a solid mixed-gender group of young adults with the same intention; to approve Tourist English classes and improve fluency and knowledge so they were able to keep a conversational relationship between the clients who usually consume tourist services. My lessons were informal and planned without any educational strategy or methodology to follow. I believe that those English meetings were a simple excuse to hang out with my fellows. No matter what, there were many advantages that I can think of; the intimate connection with my students made the teaching process smoothly. I was completely flooded with the theory since I was a student of those classes and that career myself. Also, Spanish was our mother tongue which made the communication easier when it was necessary. On the other hand, the connection between my students was so friendly, making role play games and practices a fun joke hard to avoid. That was the main reason why my lessons didn’t always finish up with the expected results, demanding more teaching time.

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Work in China

Moving forward to more recent years, 2018 was an extraordinary time for my teaching English profession. I traveled abroad, to China specifically where I worked as a Foreigner English Teacher at kindergartens. Working with Chinese families, giving private and personal classes to one child from that family was also part of my experience. In all those cases, I must clarify that I was teaching to younger ones, beginner learners. That required another type of lesson plan, more focused to use the game as a teaching and learning resource. In addition to that, I didn’t speak any Chinese. My only language to be spoken was English and it wasn’t always understood by the students, parents or the rest of the kindergarten staff. Being said, I think that was one of my biggest difficulties. Communication was complicated, instructions were unclear and hard to follow and I couldn’t count on the parent's extra help since they didn’t speak English at all.

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The Challenge

Therefore, when you’re teaching one to one and the level of understanding is almost nonexistent, the lessons turn to become a little dull. There is a loss of motivation that can occur constantly, demanding to have prepared more exercises and games that it should be needed for a one-hour standard English class. Young children also tend to get distracted easily and quickly than an adult. Once and again, as a teacher, it requires to be creative to apply different and entertainment tools. By contrast, working with an only student, giving full attention to that only student make to see big progress. Children that have one to one classes usually show to learn more effectively in shorter times.

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My working experience at Chinese kindergartens was different in many aspects in comparison to what I’ve described above. When you work with a group of students, time seems to fly. Sometimes, it only takes one student to understand the instructions and to be enough interested in performing the activity so this person can share the enthusiasm with the rest of the group, even explain how the practice work, especially when communication is an issue. Groups can keep with the same activity for longer periods. Sometimes, students even invent new alternatives to that same activity. However, big groups can create noisy moments and inappropriate discipline behaviors, influencing the learning process. Unfortunately, teaching English with groups may leave someone behind since the attention is difficult to be given to the whole group, at the same level for each individual.

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To summarize, my teaching English experience hasn’t finished yet. Some jobs are more convenient for certain students, times and places. Others may offer more disadvantages and they require a more effective way of lesson preparation. No matter what, I believe either of them can give something to achieve.

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