Published 20th November 2015


As you can imagine, teaching English as a Foreign Language can mean that you end up teaching in any number of different situations. TEFL classrooms all over the world can be very different in a number of ways: number of students, age of students, motivations of students and type of English to be taught, just to name a few. One situation you may find yourself in is teaching one-to-one.

While of course there are different challenges teaching different situations, teaching one-to-one can be especially rewarding, as you are able to monitor and track the progress of your student. You can tailor-make your lessons for the specific needs of your student and you can focus on their particular problem areas, without wasting time where you don’t need to. So what’s so different about teaching one-to-one? Here are five differences you need to consider when teaching one-to-one:

Focus on their needs

Having a one-to-one students is great in that you are able to really focus on the needs of the individual student. Find out why they need English and what skills or language they need to work on. Besides being able to specify content and language, you can also focus on their areas of improvement and their particular problems.

Prepare more activities

Whatever you do in class, it won’t take as long with one student. There will be no comparing answers with partners or pairwork or groupwork. You will not need to wait for slower students or for students to exchange ideas. What this means is that everything is much quicker with a one-to-one student, so you need to prepare more.

Flip the classroom

With bigger TEFL classes it can be useful to spend time on grammar or vocabulary exercises in the way that this allows students to work together and collaborate, so helping each other to learn. With one-to-one students, this can be pointless and a waste of time. This is not to say that these exercises shouldn’t be done, just that they shouldn’t be done in class. Instead, let you student do readings, exercises and even grammar reference activities as homework before the class. Then, the lesson time can be spent on clarifying any questions and practicing the language in a freer context.

Let them speak

The reason EFL students usually opt for one-to-one lessons is for the chance to speak at length with a native English-speaker who is able to correct their mistakes and teach them ways to speak better English. Speaking English is the top reason for EFL students wanting to learn English so it makes sense to let them speak as much as possible. Get to know your student and come up with speaking activities that are interesting and relevant to them. By doing this, you will be able to assess where their language needs improvement and focus entirely on them.

Teaching on-to-one is an interesting experience. It can test your teaching in very different ways to teaching bigger classes but at the same time it can be much more rewarding. If you remember these five points, there’s no reason why you won’t be able to be a great one-to-one teacher.