How to Structure a One-to-One ESL Lesson

TESOL one-to-one teachingOne-to-one ESL lessons can be extremely beneficial for students because the teacher pays attention to them all the time and can cater the learning experience to the needs of each student. This article will show you a few things to consider for structuring a one-to-one lesson effectively.

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Tutoring and Teaching – TESOL One-to-One

Generally, there are two kinds of one-to-one lessons: tutoring and teaching. During tutoring sessions, the student brings in homework, tasks or assignments that they have been asked to complete in a particular class. The teacher’s job is then two-fold. On the one hand, she/he must help the student succeed in whatever they’ve been given by providing extra explanations. On the other hand, she/he must try to include teachable moments in which the student can then learn more concepts and progress further so the need for a tutor will diminish as time passes.

The amount of time devoted to each part of the one-to-one lesson is often divided equally; unless otherwise specified by the student or his/her parents. A tutor’s job relies on the teacher’s ability to explain concepts in a different way, and to guide students carefully so that they can complete the tasks and assignments they are required to do in their own style without the tutor dictating what they need to do at all times. Guiding the students in their learning process but always allowing them to take the lead and direct their own learning is a skill tutors must develop, and hopefully master.

Teaching and learning sessions are more similar to teaching English in regular ESL classes, and the student does not usually have another class that they need help with. Instead it is the teacher’s duty to instruct the student and ensure they learn the concepts and develop their communication skills. While a tutor needs to guide the student’s learning process, a one-to-one teacher must facilitate the learning experience, and encourage the student to be part of the planning process as well so that the lessons fulfill all his/her expectations.

Furthermore, a one-to-one teaching and learning partnership does not have a planned end or final goal from the beginning, and it can continue for several weeks, months or even years. One-to-one teaching sessions are usually one hour or one-and-a-half hours long, but if this time is not carefully planned it can be the most excruciating experience the teacher and the student have ever encountered.

Schedule – TESOL One-to-One

Just as there is a schedule in regular group classes, it is recommended that one-to-one classes are carefully planned and scheduled as well. Of course these plans can quickly go awry since classes depend 100% on a single student’s attendance, attention, participation, interaction and development. When something interrupts the lesson, or when the student is not feeling well, or is feeling particularly intrigued by something the teacher has not planned for, the teacher’s flexibility plays a key role.

Every one-to-one lesson should have a plan B or back-up plan in case a situation develops and the class needs to be conducted differently. If the lessons happen daily, it helps to have a particular weekly schedule as well so that the student can prepare ahead of time for every different kind of one-to-one lesson they will partake in.

A good way of structuring one-to-one lessons is to plan for conversation time, instruction time and practice time separately. Even though there is no need to have strict time-tables or schedules, a framework will allow the student to know what to expect and thus lower the student’s sense of anxiety, which in turn improves rapport and promotes more genuine participation and discussions.

It’s important to mention that the students’ needs and their purpose for learning the language will also influence the way the classes are scheduled and conducted.

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