Lower Level Learners In One To One Lessons

I’m always a little baffled when students with low levels of English opt to take one to one lessons. To be sure, I enjoy teaching lower levels, and find that once I’ve taught a level a few times it’s more straightforward because there is (what I think of anyway) as quite a natural order to the basics; you don’t have as many choices for what to teach as you do with higher levels. Also, progress at lower levels tends to be proportionately greater, so there is a bigger and more obvious change.

In any case, I like teaching lower level students, but in a one to one context it can be challenging. Repetition factors heavily into learning the basics, and in a bigger group, students can practice with each other, say, by asking the same question to ten or twelve other people; in a one to one lesson, they can practice with you. This is fine, but in my experience, they are not going to feel okay repeating the same question to you twelve times, whereas in a class, they would end up doing this, mostly without issue. Certainly a teacher should respond to this by ensuring regular revision and thinking up creative ways to incorporate repetition, but it’s not as straightforward with a one to one student as with a group.

As with any students in one to one lessons, the learner is more “on the spot”; there isn’t anyone else to answer. Often this is just what people need to perform, but there may be awkward moments where they just don’t know or understand or can’t do a task. As a teacher you can often work to avoid this, and once you get to know the student better it may become less of an issue. But to some extent, these moments are inevitable.

Finally, even in a setting where English is the only language of instruction, students in a group will often help each other out in a pinch by translating or explaining in their own language; even with the basics or more of your student’s language, it won’t be the same if you do it.

I’m sure plenty of lower level learners who choose one to one students have good or just practical reasons for doing so; they may not be available at the time when a class is going on; they may feel inhibited to be part of a group; or the company may be paying and they just like having the teacher’s complete attention. Perhaps it’s also my own personal preference – as a lower level language learner I like being in a group – that contributes to my surprise.