One-To-One Teaching It was two hours before the first
It was two hours before the first lesson and I was staring at an almost blank lesson plan. What would be appropriate' I had gone over study books on lesson plans ' but still nothing that I was comfortable with. I knew the questions I wanted to ask to break the ice, as well as to assess her needs and wants. 'I guess the rest will come to mind when the time comes,' I thought to myself. As it turned out, I was real lucky because my first one-to-one student was very pleasant and happy just to converse in English. The hour flew by! Private (or one-to-one) lessons can be very fulfilling, both for the student and the teacher. The relationship is closer between the student and the teacher; therefore, the teacher will be more involved in the direct growth of the student. The lesson does not have to fit a 'common denominator' of many students with varying skill levels; each lesson can be tailored specifically to the individual's needs. This means that the student can go faster (or slower) than a usual class as well as being able to focus on both particularly troublesome areas and aspects related to the student's primary purpose of learning the language. However, there are some disadvantages and pitfalls to be avoided in teaching private language lessons. For the teacher, lessons can be inconsistent because it is easy for the student to cancel anytime, either one lesson or for good; in classroom learning the students usually commit to at least a semester (three to four months) and often one year. Also, the freedom of private lessons can be too much of a good thing; the lesson could turn into an unstructured hour of chit-chat. Even if the primary purpose is learning to speak better, the student still needs to have some grammar and vocabulary work in order to progress to the level of mastery desired; the previous weeks' material should be reviewed also to ensure absorption. Another possible difficulty for the teacher is tiredness. The pace may be quick and the pressure greater to keep the momentum going for the entire lesson. In classrooms, the students can be put into pairs/group work to allow the teacher to relax into an observation mode; in private lessons, this cannot be done. Furthermore, while activities like filling out worksheets and silent reading can be done in a one-to-one class, normally the expectations of the student will be that this type of independent work should be discouraged; the student can do these in his/her free time (ITTT, p. 4). In my personal experience, though, tiredness has not been an issue. However, since my student wanted to just freely converse for the whole hour, I had to work hard at making sure that each lesson did have at least a little structure; in our conversations, I made sure to point out some vocabulary which I thought would be helpful, as well as at least one or two grammar points. Overall, I feel that one-to-one tutoring can help students tremendously in language learning. And there has been plenty of research which shows the worth of private lessons. For instance, in a large analysis by the US Department of Education of over 60 studies, the results showed consistent improvements with students who did private lessons over students who did not. In one study, students taking lessons progressed three to four times faster in reading and speaking skills than their counterparts without private lessons. While it may not be for everybody, I feel that teaching one- to-one can be very satisfying for teacher and student alike. References
ITTT (2006). Teaching special groups (Unit 19). International TEFL Teacher Training. London, UK: ITTT.
Office of the Under Secretary Planning and Evaluation Service (1997). Evidence that Tutoring Works. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/inits/americareads/resourcekit/miscdocs/tutorwork.h tml on Sept. 2, 2006.
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