How do you teach English one-to-one?

Before delving into the specifics of conducting one-to-one lessons, we need to be mindful of certain preliminary steps essential for effective lesson planning.

Initially, you must assess your student's English proficiency level. This is usually achieved through a level test. The level test typically begins with a verbal conversation to gauge the general competency level of the student. English proficiency is often categorized on a five-point scale:

  • Level 1 Starter
  • Level 2 Elementary
  • Level 3 Pre-Intermediate
  • Level 4 Intermediate
  • Level 5 Upper Intermediate

A basic level test could involve asking progressively complex questions to pinpoint the level at which the student begins to struggle.

Once the level test is completed, the next step is a needs analysis. This process aims to ascertain why the student is learning English, as needs will vary among learners. Younger students might seek to enhance their overall English proficiency, older ones could be preparing for external examinations like IELTS, and adults might need English skills for professional purposes.

The insights gleaned from the needs analysis will shape your teaching content and methodology. Furthermore, it is crucial to understand your student's background. Knowing their experiences, hobbies, and interests will prove advantageous when individualizing your lesson plans to cater to their needs.

Also read: Is it easier to teach English to children or adults?

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Teaching one-to-one


Teaching one-to-one

Teaching on a one-to-one basis presents unique differences compared to group instruction, both for the teacher and the learner. Without peer interaction during lessons or activities, the student becomes the sole focus of the entire session. Unlike in a group setting, where teacher participation in activities is generally discouraged, in a one-to-one setup, it often becomes necessary.


As previously noted, the lesson structure for a one-to-one session will significantly differ from a traditional group class. In a group setting, where you might draw responses from 20 students, you will now need to adapt your strategies to engage your single learner effectively.

In pairwork activities, your role transitions to being the student's partner, being careful not to dominate the conversation and allowing ample room for the student to speak.

Activities designed for group interactions, such as mill drills and surveys, aren't practical in a one-to-one scenario. Therefore, they must be restructured to suit the needs of an individual learner.

To ensure a productive learning experience and to minimize your speaking time, make your lessons as visual as possible. Rather than lengthy verbal descriptions, opt for diagrams, charts, and illustrations to explain concepts and grammatical rules more efficiently.

Personalizing your lessons using the information obtained about your student can help sustain their motivation throughout individual lessons and a sequence of lessons. By aligning your lesson content with their needs and interests, you make the learning process more engaging and rewarding for them.

Also read: Where can I get free TEFL lesson plans?