English teaching jobs come in numerous shapes and forms, from public schools to private language institutes, from online tutoring to teaching your host family a few catchphrases each week. Regardless of your position, every teacher will eventually encounter the challenge of lesson planning for private English classes.
In Ukraine, I was a regular classroom teacher. Anyone that has taught there is aware of the “Olympiads” held in each subject throughout the year. Students compete first within their school. If they win, they advance—to their city, region, and ultimately to a national level. Winners of such competitions are often rewarded financially or have their university tuition covered, so the stakes can be quite high.
One of my most motivated and talented students, Oksana, approached me in February of 2007 to assist her with English Olympiad preparation. Classes had been suspended at that time due to “quarantine” (too high a percentage of students were ill), so the school was all but shut down. I was therefore available and willing to help Oksana prepare with private English instruction; the only question was where to begin.
Obviously every student has different needs and motivations for studying English, but based on my personal experiences, I recommend the activities below as a starting point. With a little practice, there is no doubt one-on-one, individualized classes can become one of your strengths as an EFL teacher.
- Texts followed by comprehension questions. One of the Olympiad tests in Ukraine was actually focused on measuring English listening comprehension. A quick Google search will reveal numerous websites that contain short texts with questions, but as my student was more advanced I quickly found it more interesting and challenging to create my own texts and questions based on articles from English magazines and journals.
- Record your student. While Oksana didn’t love this idea initially, we were able to record her voice while reading a short story and then listen it together. This allowed us to discuss the nuances of her pronunciation.
- Find ways to use English socially. What most language learners lack most of all is authentic interaction. Hosting a meal for your students or taking a walk around the city and discussing what you see can be a great way to improve language. Inviting other advanced English speakers if available can help facilitate such gatherings.