Teaching one to one One large challenge faced by most ESL
One large challenge faced by most ESL teachers is dealing with private, or one to one, lessons. These provide a great challenge for many reasons. For example, many exercises, games, and lesson plans used for groups do not work or are not appropriate with individual students, and thus the activities and methods used must differ greatly. As well, one-to-one lessons tend to be overwhelming for the teacher, especially new teachers. With group lessons, the teacher is distanced from the students, which is possible due to the number of students; however, with private lessons, the teacher cannot ''get away'' from the student 1.
However, learning-wise, private lessons offer a unique opportunity to individualize and personalize the lesson, and to focus specifically on the needs of the student, which will increase the pace and strength of the lessons1. In fact, the teacher should give the individual student space to follow up his/her interests. The teacher of individual students needs to be flexible and willing to follow the students' lead2.
Similarly, the student should be allowed to assist in planning the syllabus for the class. Some individual student ESL websites suggest that the one-on-one teacher use the process approach1. The process approach describes the teaching method planning according to the specific needs and issues that arise, and not sticking exclusively to the course book. To help plan the syllabus, the student should be encouraged to provide authentic English materials from his/her job or life that he/she wants to work on3. This could include personal or business material, such as letters or email that he/she wants corrected, an article or website that he/she wants to read, etc.1
It is often difficult to provide effective one-to-one lessons, but there are many ways to increase the efficacy of this type of lesson. First, it is suggested by some websites that the teacher of an individual student use the test-teach-test approach. In this approach, the lesson should begin with a role-play or discussion on a particular topic. After this initial role-play, the teacher teaches what is needed, and then engages in the same role-play as at the beginning of the lesson. This method allows the student to be aware the relevance and practicality of the lessons being taught, and also allows the student to concretely see his/her progress lesson-to-lesson1.
Another way to increase the effectiveness of individual lessons is to review constantly. One website suggests to keep a list of any new vocabulary learned, and then to review words from last lesson at beginning of the next lesson. The teacher should also get the student to use these new words in a sentence. Through constant revision and usage of new vocabulary, the student has a greater chance of retaining the material4.
Individual lessons should also use lots of variety to keep the student focused, concentrating, motivated, and interested. Variety can be utilized in many different ways; for instance, the lesson medium. That is, not all lessons have to be in person; in fact, some can take place over the internet or on the phone1. The use of audio and video is also very useful for individual students, as it exposes the student to different accents and speech speeds, and also takes the teacher out of the spotlight3. Of course, the lesson materials and activities should also be varied. A variety of authentic and course books should be used4, as should the internet3.
Variety can also be used in the physicality of the lesson. First, the teacher should experiment with using different seating positions; for example, the teacher and student may sit across the table from one another, next to each other, facing away from each other (if the student is working alone)1 or at a round table. The teacher should always think about his/her position with respect to the student, and should position him/herself to make it easier to work on tasks with the student. The dynamic is different for individual lessons than it is for group lessons, and so the teacher should not stand at the whiteboard as he/she might for a larger class3. Finally, the teacher should move around the class room a lot to vary the pace of the class. Encouraging the student to move around as well helps him/her to maintain concentration and to feel more comfortable2.
When teaching individual students, the teacher should also make sure to use a lot of visuals. Visuals, such as pictures or maps, are very useful for introducing new vocabulary, stimulating conversation, or helping the teacher to focus on a structure3. Another way to increase the effectiveness of the individual lesson is to take occasional breaks. It is difficult to talk for an extended period of time in another language, and offering a short break for longer lessons can help the student to refresh and keep motivated1, and to give them time to think and reflect2. Another possibility is to provide a short writing activity or research task3.
However, it is not advisable to use only free conversation for an entire lesson. Even if the student is permitted to speak freely, the teacher should make sure to note any persistent errors or gaps to mention and help the student with at the end of the lesson. Furthermore, these persistent errors or gaps can then be used to help plan future lessons3.
Homework is also an important part of teaching individual students. There are many kinds of language work that can be assigned, such as grammar and vocabulary3. The homework should be written, so that the work can be checked and corrected in the next class, and so that the student can ask questions3.
It is also important to record progress together. At the end of each lesson or a series of lessons, the teacher and student should review what has been covered, keep track of difficult areas, and discuss areas he/she would like to work on in the future. This gives the teacher the opportunity to explain the reason why certain activities or procedures are being used1. This can also be used to gain feedback with respect to the teacher's teaching ability, and can be used to help the teacher improve3. Many individual students tend to be business people, and thus the classes should be adjusted as such. For example, the teacher should do some research on the student's company prior to the lesson so that he/she can ask the student informed questions3. However, the teacher shouldn't attempt to teach specialized vocabulary or jargon for the student's business, since he/she probably already knows the terminology. Instead, the teacher should focus on teaching grammar, function, and other language surrounding the student's business. Further, the class time should be used to rehearse real-life situations1. For example, if the student does presentations at his/her job, it is beneficial to allow him/her to practice making a presentation in the safe and less stressful environment of the classroom. The teacher can then help the student with presentations and with the language of presentations3.
In conclusion, although individual students can be a challenge, the ESL teacher should not fear them. Instead, they should be seen as an opportunity to use lots of creativity and to focus in depth on the individual needs of a student. It is important to remember to maintain professionalism with one-to-one students4, to follow their lead, and to provide the sort of care that is needed or wished by the student.
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