Thursday, November 30, 2023
In the world of language learning, 1-1 English classes are sometime an invaluable option for students seeking a tailored or personalised educational experience. While group classes are certainly beneficial, there are specific scenarios where individual learners greatly benefit from the focussed attention and customised approach that one-on-one classes provide. This might be because they have specific learning goals such as English for a specialised job. Alternatively, the learner might want or need more personalised attention and feedback from the teacher. There are certain students that are not well-suited to group classes and perform much better in 1-1 classes, such as students with anxiety or specific linguistic issues for whom a 1-1 class is a much safer environment in which they feel more confident. In this case, the 1-1 class can move at the pace of the individual student; helping them to build their confidence and allowing them to speak more freely than they would in a group. One other reason for choosing a 1-1 class might simply be time constraints. Many students with busy schedules opt for 1-1 classes as the group classes do not fit in with work, studies, or other activities they are doing.
Teaching 1-1 classes can be challenging at times. These can include going through activities very quickly as you do not have any of the peer-checking stages that you would have in a group class. As a result, you can start to feel quite tired as the teacher because you have to constantly focus on engaging the student and maintaining the conversation. Due to the more intensive nature of these classes, the student might also get quite tired towards the end of the lesson, so it is important that you have a few lively activities up your sleeve to bring out at the end of the class. Coursebooks can also be a bit trickier to use in 1-1 classes and we’ll look at some tips on how to use them in 1-1 classes below. Depending on your student, you may also run out of conversation topics quite quickly, so it helps to have some questions ready to ask somewhere in your classroom that you can pull out if necessary.
As previously mentioned, using coursebooks with 1-1s can be tricky as most of the activities involve some kind of pair work. In this case, we need to be a little bit creative and find new ways to make the coursebook engaging for our student. So, instead of checking in pairs, go through the answers to activities in the order that the student feels the most confident. This will then replace the confidence reinforcement that students get from checking in pairs. If an activity requires discussion in pairs, you have to become the partner, just make sure you give the student time to contribute to the discussion before you give your ideas. If there is a brainstorming task, the student can always do this at home to give them more time to think about their ideas and not have to come up with something on-the-spot when the teacher is waiting for them to respond. Finally, if you have a student that doesn’t want to use the coursebook in the 1-1 class because they just want to talk to the teacher, you can set coursebook activities for homework and just review them in class so that you don’t take up too much of the student’s valuable speaking time.
This is a great activity that gives you something to talk about in each class. You can choose a series that is interesting for the student or perhaps a graded reader (https://english-e-reader.net/). You can then discuss the content of the book or series and look at any new or tricky vocabulary that comes up. This can be a regular part of your classes and creates a routine in your 1-1 classes. It also means that the student gets regular English practice outside of the classroom, and it might be more appealing to them than traditional homework activities.
This is a very quick activity to prepare. You can do it on your smartboard or projector if you have one, or simply on a piece of paper. All you need to do is look through different news websites and take four or five images from different news stories. The student then needs to look at the pictures and guess what the news story might be. This leads to lots of interesting discussions and you can also talk about the real news story or perhaps even read the article once you have revealed what it’s about. Just make sure you right down the headlines so that you don’t forget what the pictures were about.
If you have a student who has chosen 1-1 classes because they lack the confidence to speak, this could be a great activity to use with them. Instead of spoken conversations you can have short written conversations by passing each other messages on post-it notes. This also works really well in online lessons using the chat function of your video conference program. This activity allows the student to think carefully about what they want to say without having the pressure to speak spontaneously. It also allows for both immediate and delayed error correction.
In this activity you need to find a short video with lots of things happening in it. You then watch the video with your student with the sound off. The student then has to tell you what they think is happening. This is great for teaching language for speculation. Afterwards you can then watch the video with sound and compare the student’s ideas with the real theme of the video. Of course, you can then mine the video for useful language as well.
A final simple activity here to get your 1-1 student speaking. Using a random wheel (https://pickerwheel.com/) you write a series of controversial statements such as “pineapple is the best pizza topping” and you and the student debate whether you agree or disagree with the topic. Discussion is guaranteed with this activity because the student has to take a position on each statement. It usually brings up loads of new, interesting language as well.
We hope you find this blog post on teaching 1-1 classes useful, and hopefully you now have a few new activities that you can try out in your next class. Have fun with them and good luck trying them out!