Teaching 1-1 – the advantages.


Since I started freelancing in the Netherlands four months ago, I’ve been almost exclusively teaching 1-1. Of course, I’d taught it before, but never so much in such a short time. And the more I’ve taught it, the more I’ve liked it. Of course, I there are definitely quite a few things about teaching groups, such as being able to pair students up, do mingles and ladders, that I miss, but I’ve started to realise more and more that teaching 1-1 can be not only fun, but also very challenging and rewarding.

For a teacher just fresh off the CELTA course the perspective of doing 90 minutes 1-1 can be a really daunting one (at least it was for me). You’re simply not prepared for it! You’re taught how to do all those fun pair and group work activities, but interacting with only one student is a different kettle of fish altogether.

But with time you find out that in many ways 1-1s can be as fun (or even more) as group classes. They can also be much easier to teach. After all, you only have to discipline one student ;). Of course there’s always the challenge of individually planning the course, choosing the right materials and living up to student’s expectations which are usually much higher than in a group courses. I’ll talk about these challenges and the ways in which we can tackle them in the future posts on 1-1.

In my first post on 1-1, however, I wanted to share with you my enthusiasm and show you the bright side of things. Because I really think that despite the initial challenges, teaching 1-1 offers teachers and students some undeniable benefits.

So why do I like teaching 1-1?

Because it’s easier for the teacher to:

  1. Respond to the student’s mood and be flexible about your lesson plan

  2. Be more natural and spontaneous

  3. Respond to and upgrade the emerging language on the spot

  4. Give very personalised and detailed feedback

  5. Tailor-make the materials to fit your student’s interests and needs, thereby increasing their motivation and engagement

  6. Monitor student’s progress more closely and include regular feedback sessions

  7. Involve the student in the process of creating the course and setting the objectives, making them much more relevant and motivating

  8. Give the student more responsibility for their learning

  9. Do field trips

  10. Be flexible about the course objectives and goals, and revise them as the student progresses

  11. Avoid covering material which is demotivating or irrelevant for the student

  12. Go at the student’s pace rather than following the deadlines set by a generic syllabus

  13. Focus extensively on a particular task which is relevant to the student, e.g. giving presentations, without worrying about other students snoring in class

  14. Offer the student choices and flexibility about what and how they are taught

  15. Get the student to bring materials to class (e.g. an article they need help with or would like to tell you about)

  16. Work intensively on particular language difficulties even over several classes

  17. Train the student to become a better learner.

    Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list. So if you have any comments or things you’d like to add to the list, please let me know. I’d love to hear what you love (or hate) about teaching 1-1.
    And if you’re keen to read up a bit on 1-1 teaching, take a look at:
    • Osborne, P. 2005. Teaching English One to One. Keyways Publishing.
    • Wilberg, P. 1987. One to One: A Teacher’s Handbook. LTP.
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4 thoughts on “Teaching 1-1 – the advantages.

  1. Mm, great post, thanks..being a very enthusiastic 1-1teacher, I didn't know there were SO many reasons to love it! I personally tend to choose 1-1 over groups, and mowt of your readonsvr my reasons too, especially 2 and 5.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.
    Actually, whenever possible, I like to teach a mix of groups and 1-1s. I really love teaching individuals, but I definitely do miss teaching groups (as a freelancer now, I exclusively teach 1-10).
    Thanks for commenting!

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