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Mark Crocker

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Why I Prefer Teaching ESL to Individuals Rather than Groups

Why I Prefer Teaching ESL to Individuals Rather than Groups | ITTT | TEFL Blog

In the field of teaching and all its many styles there are none more binary as teaching a single individual versus a group of individuals. Any teacher who has taught in both environments will soon discover that there are many differences, benefits, and drawbacks associated with teaching ESL on a one-to-one basis.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Chase E.

The Many Benefits of Teaching One-to-One

When a teacher is teaching only one individual they can focus on their specific needs and wants, which is an incredible boon for the student’s growth. Teaching one-to-one has many benefits for both the teacher and students alike; one of the greatest being the friendly relationship between teacher and student that can only be forged in a interpersonal one-to-one setting. Once this strong teacher/student relationship is built, the other benefits of teaching one-to-one such as student motivation, ease of feedback and the effectiveness of custom lessons can only be enhanced.

For example, a student of mine, who loves sweets but has been plagued with chronic problems with weight, was having trouble understanding the word “temptation”. So, I related her experience outside of the classroom to that word enabling me to make the meaning of “temptation” real to her using her love of cakes. The one-to-one environment allows the teacher to give the student 100 percent of their attention, prime feedback and use effective custom lessons that maximize on the student’s experiences.

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

The Downsides of Teaching One-to-One

Even though there are many positives to teaching students one-to-one, no style of teaching is perfect and teaching single individuals does have some drawbacks. Most of the issues associated with one-to-one teaching are caused by simply not having any other students in the class. One of the most common complaints among ESL teachers is the loss of classroom dynamics. With the presence of other students to connect with and bounce ideas off a student will not only learn from the teacher but also from other peers. From my experience in the classroom I have learned that students like to feel special by being able to help each other. I have also found that each student learns differently from their fellow students. When the classroom dynamics fall onto the teacher, a few issues can more easily arise; such as it may be boring to interact with the same person every time or different personalities may clash causing conflict.

Other drawbacks of teaching students one-to-one is that it’s obviously not possible to do many traditional class activities because they are mostly designed for a group setting. For example, in a class conducted using the ESA (Engage, Study and Activate) teaching method it is very common to have students working in groups or pairs in the study session and especially in the activate session. A major benefit of group/pair work is that by using the strong students to help the weaker ones the class can autonomously improve their own skills, build confidence, connect, and have more recreational elements to engage with in the process. For that reason and others, very few dedicated teaching resources have been created for one-to-one classes. Frequently, a lack of materials requires the teacher to be more creative and design their own.

Also read: 4 Easy Ways to Build Confidence and Persistence in Students

Teaching Groups or Teaching Individuals, Which Do You Prefer?

Every teacher will have their own preferences regarding the style of classroom they enjoy teaching in more. Teaching students one-to-one can cause you to lose many of the benefits that can be gained by teaching in a group, but it can also bring many positives that simply can’t be ignored. When it’s just the teacher and student, they can’t depend on others to help in the learning process. Therefore, they must put in 100% of the work and work together to succeed. If they achieve this through effort and understanding, the learning experience will fulfill the needs and wants of the student more efficiently than any group course. That is why I personally prefer teaching in a one-to-one environment.

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

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