The TEFL Life: A TEFL blog

a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures

the 1-2-1 dilemma

Teaching 1-2-1 students is a daunting thought. While in Cambridge, the DoS who had the balls to give me exam classes when I knew nothing about them, also decided to throw me another learning curve with private students. This, again, was not something I was comfortable with. I was still getting to grips with teaching adult students and all that entailed and now I was expected to work with just one student for 90 minutes. Gone was the pairwork, or the chat-to-your-partner activities. No more group discussions or information gap games. What on earth was I supposed to do with them?

The day I had my first 1-2-1 student I was pretty nervous. Teaching a group lets you move the focus around the classroom onto other people, but teaching just one student means that you are always involved. I had no idea what to do, so I went in with a few introductory activities and very low expectations. I was in for a pleasant surprise. When I asked what the student wanted to do, she replied: “I want talk”. Fabulous!

Oh….wait….no. 90 minutes of idle chitchat, trying to think of new and interesting things to think about every 5 minutes – because that’s how long the conversations lasted? Kill me now.

But I let her speak, and I asked questions every now and again and it was actually quite enjoyable. Then I realised I should probably be doing something teacher-y instead of literally just having a chat, so I did that annoying thing that I always do when teaching: I wrote down all of her mistakes. ALL of them. Every once in a while, in an appropriate break, I stopped the conversation and we went over the problems she had had and why they were problems and she tried to fix them. When we had finished with those, we carried on talking and I carried on writing. A surprisingly great class.

From those notes, I was able to see that she needed more work on comparisons (or whatever it was) and so for the next lesson I came up with topics which naturally needed those constructions. So one surprisingly great class turned into many.

So, tips for 1-2-1 students:

* Have a general plan. Think about topics to talk about – current events, life events, personal anecdotes.

* Let the student dictate the direction of the lesson. If they want to speak about something completely different, let them. You can even ask them to bring topics to class that they would like to talk about.

* Keep track of:

grammatical mistakes

inappropriate vocabulary (eg collocations)

unnatural language

unknown/new vocabulary

pronunciation problems

* Make sure your notes are consistent from week-to-week. Use colours or the layout of your pages to differentiate the different sections.

* At the end of the lesson, give the student the notes to look through in their own time. If necessary, give them grammar reference notes or activities to work on after class.

* Use the notes as a form of reference in the next lesson. Use them to recap regularly.

Interestingly enough, as the universe so often works, as I was writing this I became aware of this post  basically saying the same thing. What can I say: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


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This entry was posted on May 14, 2015 by in General TEFL and tagged , , , , .
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