All By Myself: The Pros and Cons of Teaching One-on-One Lessons

All By Myself
The Pros and Cons of Teaching One-on-One Lessons

Joyce B
by Joyce B 10,708 views |

Teaching ESL one-on-one can be a beneficial learning experience for the teacher and the student.

However, tutoring students one-on-one can be challenging and you want to think carefully about whether you want to spend your time teaching one-on-one. Take a look at these pros and cons and decide if teaching one-on-one lessons is for you!


  1. 1

    You can utilize online games and listening exercises easily

    Sometimes this can be difficult in the classroom because you might not have the right setup, internet connectivity or your class is simply too big. With all the new technologies like iPhones, iPads, and laptops you can easily introduce stimulating online games and listening exercises. You can play games together, listen to podcasts, watch movie clips, or have a heck of a good time exploring YouTube together! Whatever you choose to introduce, be sure that you always have interactive language activities, discussions, and vocabulary exercises to make the most of your time plugged in.

  2. 2

    It's unlikely you would have to deal with any behavioral issues

    You generally know what you are in for when you find your individual student. There are no distractions or classroom drama to cope with, so you can just focus on getting the work done. Students most likely will have high expectations of you, and hopefully for themselves as well. Many behavioral issues arise out of boredom. With your one-on-one student you have the advantage of tailoring the level of difficulty to the individual, and you know when that level needs to be adjusted. When choosing students, be sure that you choose those that you know will be motivated and engaged!

  3. 3

    Students have your undivided attention

    Many students are really drawn to one-on-one lessons because their learning style really thrives in that type of arrangement, or they may really need serious attention. It gives you time to spend with that student how ever the two of you would like, and for some that freedom is really appealing. You can devise a plan of attack together, and you can alter things as you go, because there is only one student to consider. It is easier to set goals, work on trouble areas, and to divide lessons into substantive chunks. You may also find that you hit it off with the student, and that the time you spend together is productive, easy and meaningful.

  4. 4

    You can learn a lot

    Devising lesson plans for an individual can be a great learning process, as can the relationship-building that occurs during one-on-one lessons. You will sharpen some of your teacherly skills and you may find that you also learn a lot about a given culture or topic that the student shares with you. One-on-lessons are a two-way street for sharing and learning together which is a great motivator. You can also learn new skills that could take your teaching in a new direction. Think of one-on-one lessons as a forum, not just for the student to try new things, but for the teacher as well.


  1. 1

    It's difficult to make good money solely doing one-on-one lessons

    As with most work, teachers want good compensation. If you are trying to plan your main income around teaching one-on-one, you may find your bank account lacking funds necessary to survive. It's hard to arrange enough individual lessons where you will make a huge profit. You want to charge reasonable rates to attract students, so you may want to think about doing this on the side to see how it goes.

  2. 2

    It has the potential to be boring

    In all honesty, one-on-one lessons have the potential of being boring or you might find the time going by rather slowly. If this is the case, the student-teacher match-up may not be a good fit, or perhaps your student is just not cut out for all this student-centered attention. You can battle this by having a lot of tools at your disposal and by over-prepping for lessons. If you find yourself stuck in a boring lesson, try to make the best of it and switch gears!

  3. 3

    Limited options for activities

    Sometimes the activities that the two of you settle into become too routine, and there's just not much leeway. The simple truth is that there is only so much you can do with one student. If you are having difficulty coming up with new and exciting activities or your student is not much of a contributor, consult the web for more ideas. You have to be honest with yourself that as creative as you are, you only have so many games up your sleeve for one student.

  4. 4

    It may be difficult to gage the learner's progress

    One really challenging aspect of one-on-one lessons is getting a gage on progress. Without formal evaluations, a syllabus to use as a check-off, or group work it may feel like your student's progress is slow or not as apparent as in a regular classroom. Try to devise ways to note progress or setbacks, and if possible create a list of points and topics that the student has successfully completed. They will progress, but it may take more time depending on the work.

Making the decision to teach ESL one-on-one can be one that requires a lot of thought.

As with everything there are positives and negatives. Weigh these pros and cons and decide for yourself if it is for you part-time, full-time, or no time.

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