Teaching 1-1: A Personal Touch Part 2
by Sophia McMillan
(Shane Training Centre, Japan)
Adult 1-1 Activities
The Scrap Pack: Make some small cards from scrap paper before the class and when a new phrase comes up or the learner makes an interesting error write a note on one of the scraps. 6 or 7 minutes before the end of class, hand the pile of paper over and encourage the learner to go through them, remembering meanings, corrections, pronunciation, how they are used etc Afterwards they can put them in their pocket – a handy self-test for quiet moments on trains etc.
Tape it: Have the learner record the class or part of it e.g. the learner doing role-plays, making conversation with you etc. This can help with further listening, speaking, pronunciation and correction practice.
You’ve got mail!: Divide a pile of scrap paper between you. Set a time limit, say 5-10 minutes, during which you will only communicate by writing messages to each other – with a strict no talking rule! Write a short message to the learner to start off and then see where it goes. Reply to each other’s mail, ask new questions, raise new topics etc. This activity provides a change of pace and mood and a welcome breathing space and the messages can be used to give feedback on language and content etc.
Guess the News Story: Collect a week’s worth of newspapers and cut out pictures of news stories from each one. Aim for a selection of five or six topical news pictures from that week. Then take an A4 or letter size sheet of heavy paper (or card). Cut a small square out of the middle of this card. When you come to class, place a picture from the news under the card so that only some of the picture is visible. The learner must 1) speculate about what the picture is about, and 2) tell you as much as they know about the news story.
Questionnaires: Prepare a series of question prompts on a topic. For example, sports –
– / like sports?
– what / sports/ play?
– what / sports / watch on television?
– ever / win / sports award? etc.
Board the prompts and interview the learner. Then ask them to do the same for you. When you have finished, review any special vocabulary or grammar that came up. Tell the learner that for the next class they should prepare a similar list of questions on a different topic to interview you.
Think of Someone Who …: Find Someone Who activities can be adapted to a Think of Someone Who. With a Find Someone Who worksheet, ask the learner to write the names of people they know who match each category. The learner should just write the names randomly, the teacher does the same and then swap papers and ask/answer questions to find out which person matches which category.
Long Distance Calls: Write out some telephone tasks e.g. book a hotel. Pick one at random and sit as far apart from each other as possible ideally out of eye contact. Conduct a ‘phone’ conversation.
Personalising lessons make the language more memorable for the learner and increases their interest and motivation to study. If a learner is reluctant to use a text or does not have one it is important to carry out a needs analysis to determine why they are learning English and how they use English in their everyday lives. This can help develop a suitable course or give ideas on how to adapt current course materials to make it more relevant for the learner.
One way to do this is to elicit at least 5 things of interest to the learner e.g. sports, films, shopping etc. Then ask them to rank them in order of interest (1 being the most interesting). This activity generates a lot of language and learner talking time. Once the teacher has this information they can (away from class) break down each topic into 4-6 sub-topics (e.g. films = entertainment; actors/describing people; film reviews; genres & feelings to do with films; functional language – invites etc; timetabling). These can then be further broken down with respect to vocabulary, structures, skills, pronunciation etc. if this is done with all 5 topics then a syllabus/course of study has been determined for at least one academic year.
These “lessons” can be adapted from the learner’s class textbook.
Learner wants to chat but needs to improve grammar, vocab & pronunciation. How do you deal with this?
Correct errors made while speaking.
If you show them a sentence they actually said with the error in it then the relevance of the point becomes clear.
Make correction relevant by choosing sentences they need in everyday life, or adapt it into a more generally useful one.
Correct areas where misunderstandings are possible. Contrast pairs – minimal pairs for individual sounds (made and mad), sentences where the main difference is the stress on different words (I can do it/ I can’t do it), contrasting prepositions and verb patterns (I arrived in London/ I arrived at London and I stopped to look at her/ I stopped looking at her) etc.
Go into the lesson with a grammatical structure and/or vocabulary list that you want to cover and either slip these into conversation or try to steer the conversation into areas that encourage use.
Take copies from a text or grammar book into class. This can help with prompts for conversation – and if they ask for an explanation you can let them have a look at what the book says and then let them take it away.
Learner’s company wants Business English but they want to chat. What can you do?
Strike a balance. Choose topics that combine social English or general interest (e.g. functional language for travel) and business vocabulary.
Start with the most ‘serious’ things first, e.g. grammar, work-based stuff or a reading. Anything but conversation! Start with their homework – if they never do it, you could even start by doing it together.
End the class with a general conversation. If they get the idea that this is coming at the end of each lesson, they might be happier doing ‘your’ stuff during the rest of the lesson.
Top Tips for Teaching 1-1
1-1 classes tend to be more flexible, should have a clear consistent focus, contain an element of freer practice and be fun and interesting for the learner. Below are some practical tips for making 1-1 teaching work.
1. Logistics: Think about your position in the classroom and about where the learner sits. Try breaking up the lesson by moving around and encourage them to do the same. This can have noticeable benefits in terms of concentration and motivation.
2. Visual materials: Visual aids such as photographs, graphs, maps, pictures etc provide a rich source of vocabulary and conversation.
3. Use the Learner: Find out their needs and why they are studying English. Get to know them and their preferred learning style.
4. Give feedback: While some learners ask for ‘conversation’ this does not deal with persistent errors or develop language skills. Make it a regular practice to have a blank sheet of paper and note down any language use issues. This will enable you to spend 5-10 min at the end of the lesson focussing on specific needs of the learner, where possible getting them to self-correct, and as a basis of future lessons.
4. Authentic material: Ask the learner to bring in examples of the English material they need to work with (reports, forms, emails etc). This can also help you to plan your classes and keep it focused on the learner’s real needs.
5. Use the internet – Many learners will need to write e-mails in English. A regular e-mail writing activity with the student writing job-related or simulated e-mails to the teacher and vice-versa can be very beneficial and also presents an alternative to the normal classroom routine (emails written on paper rather than sent via the internet).
6. Using silence – Don’t be afraid of silence. All learners need space and thinking time. It is very hard to maintain a discussion in a foreign language. Try breaking up the lesson with a short writing activity, or perhaps ask the learner to research a few words in the dictionary. Above all, get to know your student and their preferred learning style.
6. Personalise materials – Always approach a new language topic, materials and activities from the learner’s perspective. Think of contexts that will be recognisable for the learners.
7. Review – It’s easy to forget that adult learners (like young learners) need a lot of reviewing of language they have been learning recently. Start each lesson with a fun warmer or game that involves language they have been studying recently
8. Timing and pacing – It’s easy to let an activity run too long or allow the time to slip away. Plan carefully and make sure that even with a 30 minute 1-1 class you have given a balanced and meaningful lesson.