Making One on One Teaching Work: 10 Need to Know Tips

Making One on One Teaching Work
10 Need to Know Tips

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 26,714 views

Teaching ESL one on one can be challenging. Traditional lesson plans often won’t work with a two person classroom, and the dynamic between you and your student is completely different from that of a traditional class.

Don’t be discouraged, though. Teaching one on one can be one of the most effective and enjoyable ways to help a person learn English. These need to know tips will make sure your next one on one session is a success.

How to Teach One on One: 10 Need to Know Tips

  1. 1


    In a traditional classroom, most teachers stand in front of seated students. When you teach one on one, you want your student to relate to you as a guide or mentor, not necessarily as an expert or authority. When you teach one on one, sit next to your student at a large table. This way you can look off the same texts and relate on a personal level. You are two members of a team working together toward a common goal.

  2. 2

    Take a Look

    Visual materials such as maps, brochures, diagrams and pictures are of limitless use in the one on one teaching setting. These visual materials are great conversation starters, and you can choose the ones that are most applicable to what you plan on teaching. For example, if you are teaching your student personal adjectives, a group photo would prove a great resource. You can ask your student to describe the people in the photos or ask him to guess at their personality traits. You might also ask your student to bring a family photo and have him introduce his family members to you.

  3. 3

    Do Your Research

    Most students that study English one on one are adult professionals. They have specific needs and goals when it comes to their English educations. Take some time before meeting with your student to do a little research in his field of expertise. You will not use this information to teach your student about her job of course, but you can use this information to ask intelligent questions and get your student talking.

  4. 4

    More Than Words

    Often, one on one teaching sessions become interesting conversations, and some students may want nothing more than that for the entire class period. As much as your student may enjoy listening and speaking, though, he does need specific language instruction. As you and your student talk, take a few notes on repeated errors in grammar, pronunciation or word choice. Then, in the last ten minutes of your lesson, take some time to talk about the errors you hear your student making. This will give your student practical feedback on his English skills without resorting to unnecessary grammar lessons and still focusing on the conversation he so highly values.

  5. 5

    Keep It Practical

    Your student is learning English for a specific purpose, so make sure your lessons are focused on that purpose. If she is learning English for career purposes, ask your student to bring in the materials she uses in the work place to use during your lessons. These might include forms she must complete or procedures she must read and follow. In addition, give your student exposure to real work materials in their field with field trips, interviews or special guests any time you can.

  6. 6

    Get Technical

    Technology is important in almost every field today, and no technology is more common than email. Making email a regular part of your class will benefit your student as well as give you an authentic sample of his writing abilities. Have your student submit homework via an email attachment. Use his emails to point out any areas for improvement in his writing skills.

  7. 7


    Many English students will find themselves making career related presentations after their English studies are complete. Give your student a chance to practice her presentation skills with you during your sessions before she gets put on the spot in the work place. This low stress context will give your student a chance to use her oral skills, and you will find it a natural lead in to pronunciation evaluation and instruction.

  8. 8

    Show Variety

    Your student will benefit from exposure to other English speakers, so bring in any outside sources you can get a hold of. These include guest speakers and audio and visual materials. Since you only have one student listening to these, let him stop and rewind audio materials when he needs to giving him more control and giving you a measure of how much he’s really getting when he listens.

  9. 9

    Take it Home

    Make homework a regular part of your language instruction, even when you are teaching a class of one. Rather than spending valuable class time on grammar exercises and written work, have your student complete these exercises at home. Then use class time to discuss her work and any questions she might have. Make sure your student never feels like she is doing busy work. Respect her time and efforts and make each class as communicative as possible.

  10. q

    The Sound of Silence

    When you are teaching one on one, silence is not a sign of failure. In fact, quiet moments to think are essential to your student’s successful language learning. Don’t be afraid of the moments when he is quiet and composing his thoughts, and don’t give in to pressure to fill the empty air with your own words.

Feedback is a good thing, and when you are teaching one on one you can get useful feedback from your student on a regular basis.

Ask your student what he finds valuable or effective in your sessions and if there is anything else he would like you to include. When you have only one student, you can tailor your classes to his specific needs. And when your client is happy, you will be also.

Do you teach English one on one? What are your need to know tips?

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