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Katie Thornton GO TEFL



This article aims to focus on teaching English to students on a one—one basis. It covers some simple ideas that you might want to consider and a suggestion of a lesson plan. When talking to students one2one and finding out their needs it’s important to know what they motivations are for learning English. If a student is paying for it themselves for either business gains, personal gains or for a hobby it’s probably important to understand what they are wanting to get from their lessons. If a student is younger and their parents are possibly paying then lessons might need to be lighter in order for the student to remain interested; hobbies and interests could be a better starting point. Questions I could ask students to find their specific needs one2one are;

Your student will learn in one or a combination of the following ways. It is important that you know how your student learns so that you can put together the best learning sessions. The subject I will be covering is travel/tourism.

If students are feeling uncomfortable or shy in an one2one situation there are a few possible solutions to help or ease the problem. •

As a teacher in any situation you will need to gain the trust of the student, so here it’s vital to offer lots of praise and correct mistakes when necessary, let the little ones go if needed so they don’t feel criticised.


Gain the students attention by using a little bit of humour, tell them a couple of things about yourself such as your interests/pets to see if they can relate to any of them. Common ground is often good to get anyone talking.

If your student has had a bad day and is finding it hard to concentrate, along with treating you like a counsellor as they want to discuss their problems there are some possible things to try or remember. •

You are the teacher so you are in control, while you need to safeguard your student by ensuring their problems are just “a bad day” and nothing something that may require assistance, you need to move the lesson on.

Use the student’s frustrations as a lesson. Where they might say they are feeling sad, push them into using better vocabulary and sentence structure.

Get them to write their problems down and read them back to you, again using their frustrations as an exercise in learning rather than a ranting session.

If a student has poor listening skills there are a few solutions I would consider. •

First I would have to find out why the student had poor listening in the first place. This could be due to lack of motivation, lack of attention, a learning need or their receptive skills just weren’t as strong as their productive skills.

All distractions from the room should be removed.

Lack of attention or motivation would suggest that they weren’t the ones paying for the tuition in the first place. Talking about things that grab their attention or motivate them would be a good start.


Simply questions to ask the student, this would mean they would have less words to take in and then you can build upon more complex sentence structures later on.

When asking them to complete tasks or asking questions, you could write down the instructions or questions and get them to use their productive skills to answer them.

I, myself, don’t suffer from poor listening skills but sometimes find it difficult to take things in all at once, as I can zone out of conversion at any time. What I have found is that listening to music from the country whose language you’re trying to learn helps. The beat behind the words helps me to remember, so I would consider this as an option for any student.

Keep lesson familiar to them, spend longer recapping the previous lesson at the beginning of the next lesson, this means they have a better chance of picking up on the words and sounds that they have heard before.

Your student expects you to dominate the lesson and do all the talking. •

Explain to the student that although learning the art of listening to and understanding English is important they need to be able to respond in English and hold a conversion.

Set up your lesson plans so that within each lesson the teacher talk time is reduced by about 5 minutes so that the student talk time increases. Making the adjustments small will mean they become less noticeable and the student should feel more comfortable.

Keep the lesson simple from your side, ask simple questions that may need a detailed response such as, “What did you do this weekend?”, “Where did you grow up?” this means that means although you’re leading the lesson the student is doing most of the talking


Get the student to prepare work such as monologues or a talk on a topic.

Aims/Objectives – Increase fluency and encourage the student to think Target Language – Fluency Assumptions – The student is upper intermediate so has a good understanding of English Anticipated problems – The student is shy, having a suitable audience that speaks English Solutions – The teacher is the audience, plan for family or friends to be there that speak English Resources and Materials – Computer, library, internet, flipchart, pens, flash cards

Traveling is a board topic to cover. I am suggesting an activity that I use for my English functional skills students to improve their native English speaking. I would ask the student to make a presentation about a country that they would like to visit, if they can’t think of one than England would be a suitable suggestion. Set out some guidelines or questions for them to answer on that country so it has some structure. They would need to research the country in English, using the internet or library if possible, which would mean they use their receptive skills, and then use their writing skills to make the presentation. The student could use a computer, flip chart or flash cards for their presentation. They would then present what they had found out to an audience if possible, or just the teacher, I would expect it to last at least 10 minutes and then have a discussion about the country and presentation afterwards. This activity works well as fluency in the presentation comes from the preparation and then the discussion afterwards encourages free thinking, but they have the backup of the language that they have already used so fluency is better. This activity would work for children and adults. This lesson is based on some grammatical work on the tenses and concludes with the student writing an article.


Aims / Objectives – To improve the grammar and use of the tenses, written form Secondary Aim – To improve speaking (reading out work completed) Target language - Tenses Assumptions – The student has a basic to good understanding or English Anticipated problems – Understanding of student, level of activity Solutions – Break the activity down into steps, check understanding Resources and Materials – Articles, flash cards, pictures, paper, pens, computer if available




Introduce the lesson, explain that the past,

To set up the tenses in a basic way

future and present tenses will be covered in

in order to build upon in future

there “simplest” form. In this lesson the

lessons. Introducing the lesson to

student will write a simple report. In the

the student means they know the

preceding lessons he will learn about the

objective for the lesson and how it

tenses in a more in-depth way.

will fit into future lessons

Simple Present

The miming helps the learner to see

s 5 minutes

5-6 minutes

Mime to the student some of the things you do on a daily basis and write the sentences down after each mime.

the everyday things rather than looking at a flash card. The learner is a reporter so they will need to be able to see things happening in

Such as

front of them and find the English

I get up at 6am in the morning

word to describe it usually in notes

I have a shower at 630am I eat my breakfast at 7am I drive to work in my car at 730am I go running at 6pm I go to bed at 11pm Next ask the student questions such as

then be able to change the tense. Asking the student questions makes them aware of the phrases they are saying.


What time do you get up? How do you get to work? Where do you live? What do you do at work? What do you do after work? 5-6 minutes

Simple Past Make up some sentences written in the past tense, and make up some suggesting the same thing but written incorrectly such as My dog died last year.

This will show if the student has an understanding of sentence structure, which being a preintermediate student they should have. The student can see the correct

My dog was died last year.

way and wrong way in front of

My dog has died last year.


Get the student to pick out the ones that are correct. Correct the ones that the student marks as correct but aren’t. 5-6 minutes

Simple Future Set up the scenario that the student had won the lottery. Some them some flash cards of items such as a car, a house, an aeroplane. Say to them “I have won the lottery, I will be buying a new car.” Get them to repeat the sentence. Say to them “You have won the lottery, what will you do?” They will answer with, “I will be going on holiday.” Or “I will be flying around the world”

This sets out the simple future tense for the student with simple events that could happen in the future. Asking them questions and getting them to answer will improve their spoken English along with their grammar.



Show the student some simple, regular verbs,

This will allow the student to


between 10 and 20. Show them in a table,

recognise the simple pattern of

so the student can recognise the pattern

verbs. Simple meaning adding ‘ed’

and get them to fill in the gaps.

to past verbs and ‘ing’ to future verbs.


Give the student some flash cards of things

Flash cards will help the learner as


such as a dog, phone ringing, a hairbrush, a

they’re visual, and the activity

paint tin, someone shouting etc. The flash

follows on from the previous one to

card has to be related to a simple verb so

build upon their knowledge and

nothing like someone thinking, swimming

check understanding.

etc. (irregular verbs) Along with the flash cards give the student some mixed up sentences and get them to make sentences based around the pictures, and the rules they learned in the first activity. For example The dog barked Chloe brushed her hair Tomorrow Tom will be shouting at his team. This means that the student is also introduced to the third person. 5-10

Give the student some photos, a headline

This will see if the student can put all


and some witness statements from an event

the things learned in the lesson

that they saw.

together, get the tense correct and

Get the student to write a report using the materials and then to read it out to you. 5 minutes

will give good practice of their productive skills.

Recap on what the learner has covered

This gives the student a chance to


practice the language that they

Set them 2 assignments to write a report on something that they saw in their life. It could be as simple as them going to someone’s birthday party or something that is in the

learned in the lesson and gives the checking of the written piece as an opening to the next lesson. Recap and then build upon the



tenses adding in irregular verbs and

One report should be on a passed event,

different forms of the tenses.

and one a future event, such as a store opening. Get them to include witness statements into the pieces. You would expect the statements to be written in the present tense.

So have a go, make up some lesson plans of your own! Acknowledgements

Teaching English One-2-One  

Some ideas and thoughts for teaching as a second language on a one-2-one basis.