Teaching 1-1: A Personal Touch Part 1

by Sophia McMillan
(Shane Training Centre, Japan)


There are numerous advantages and disadvantages to teaching/learning in a 1-1 environment. For example:


Advantages
* Learners have teacher’s full attention
* Tailored/personalised lessons
* Go at the learners pace
* Teacher modified input suitable for the learners
* No mixed abilities to deal with
* Rewarding
* Teacher needs to develop strategies & approaches for 1 learner
* Higher STT (student talking time)
* Focus on individual strengths and weaknesses
* Learner more confident/less worried about making mistakes

Disadvantages
* Exhausting/demanding for both teachers & learners
* Little published material available – difficult to adapt resources
* Limited/no individual study time
* Lesson can get monotonous
* Can be difficult for T to take notes for correction
* Chance of a personality clash
* Learners focus of T attention
* Easier to get side-tracked
* No peer teaching/correction
* Difficult to measure progress
* Teacher is always ‘on’

1-1 is probably the oldest method of learning a language, it is the choice for a large number of learners, and is an important sector of English language teaching.

Types of 1-1 Learners
Anyone can prefer 1-1 classes: general English, business English, exam prep, young learners etc.

These diverse learners will have different needs and how this affects activities and/or skills practiced in the class. For example, a 1:1 kids’ lesson will require a different style to a general English adult class; many business and general English classes may follow similar language points/materials (e.g. making offers) while many exam skills and business skills are similar (E.g. describing a process; process writing).

Young Learners
In teaching young learners in a 1-1 class there are some issues that might arise:
* motivating the learner
* keeping their attention
* adapting games & activities - difficulties in making activities fun and exciting

Lessons need to be fun, active and interesting. The classes should still contain games and activities as in group classes but they might need to be adapted. Some ways to adapt the activities include:
* Give the learner a head start of 10 to 30 seconds
* Award three points to your one
* Use your non-dominant hand to draw, write, throw etc.
* Lose deliberately by being slow (but pretend to hurry), throw badly in ball games etc
* Use a stopwatch or timer so the learner can race against themselves and try to beat their best time – this way they are not always racing against you
* Introduce a random element e.g. a dice or flashcards turned face down

A 1-1 lesson may be very daunting for a young learner. A successful learning experience requires using the space appropriately, setting up activities carefully and making activities accessible and fun.

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