« Managing large classes | Main | The impact of exams »


August 06, 2007

Hello again,
Having made a few suggestions about managing large classes, I now want to turn my attention to the ways in which schools can help teachers deal ...

... effectively with one-to-one lessons.

Certainly teachers should not be expected to walk straight into individual teaching without some preparation. The dynamics are totally different from group teaching and the intensity of the experience for both teacher and learner can be a great strain.

I think we need to understand the sort of opportunities that one-to-one offers: a skilful teacher can help the learner grow in self-awareness a while achieving very personal learning targets. It is therefore worthwhile spending the early lessons on exploring the learner’s specific learning preference. Many questionnaires are available online to help do this. Observe as well. Does the learner like to take lots of notes, to doodle, to listen patiently, to gesture, to talk a lot, to fidget? Theses mannerisms give helpful clues to help the teacher plan appropriate activities.

Let me just give a couple of examples. Recently I taught a man who made no notes during the course of our sessions but his questions showed that he needed to understand the basis for everything we did. It became apparent that his analytical skills were better served by diagrams and mind maps than by dense notes. I started offering him time lines for tenses, and maps of his targets. By the end of the course, he was producing all the visual representations himself and he felt that as well as improving his English he had acquired useful learning skills he could apply elsewhere.

Then I taught a lady who doodled constantly. I changed places with her so that she held the board pen and following, my instructions, she would draw a relevant sketch on the board and then we talked about it and analysed the language she needed. She drew her family, her flat back home, her office, some symbols that represented her daily activities and so on.

One-to-one teaching is I think much more a collaborative effort with learner and teacher developing the sort of rapport that allows for an appropriate learning style: the learner contributes as well as the teacher. I suggest that schools and academic directors might pool experience of this kind of teaching to offer mutual support. And given the intensity of it, plan varied activities with frequent pauses and don’t forget to give the learners space for quiet time and reflection. Perhaps the most important point is that each new learner will present a fresh situation and teachers have to respond to that individual always bearing in mind that what has worked with one person may not be good for another.

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


  1. michael warren Says:

    As an instructor in special and the general education settings. I have found that with my training, the lines that were previously held between general ed. special ed. and English language learners have been blurred if not erased. Though this presented a challenge at first I feel it has made me a more flexible, adept and competent teacher in the California teaching system.

Post a Comment



Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)