Teaching Private English Lesson Tips

If you’re considering teaching private English lessons, here are a few things to keep in mind.

First off, it is not going to be like teaching in a school or classroom, so some of the things that set up and kick off your lessons will not be in place. You are not going to be spending time getting everyone checked off for attendance or making sure who has their textbook.

So what do you need to do to get started then?

Here are a few things to keep in mind for your private lessons.

1. Make sure you stick to the time allotted. Running over will only cheapen the value of your time, starting late will encourage students to do the same.

2. Have a small whiteboard handy. This is great if you’re working on a table in a coffee shop, or even in your own home. Keep a couple of extra markers handy as well as it is a major pain to have your marker run dry.

Having the whiteboard can help you to quickly give examples, show spelling, or have the student or students do the same.

3. Have students pay you in an envelope. Especially if you are teaching in Japan or Korea, people don’t like to just hand off cash. Give them an envelope that has the months listed on it. This way you can check off the “Paid” months. It also gives that impression of both professionalism and continuity.

4. Be prepared with what you are going to do. Don’t just sit down and say “what do you want to do today?” Treat the lesson the same as you would any other class but allow yourself some freedom to go where the student likes and wants to go depending on the material you have planned for the day.

5. Give the student some prep work for the next lesson. No one, and I mean no one, likes homework, but you have to instill in the student the idea that the lesson is great, but it alone is not going to be enough to see real or rapid improvement in their English skills. Don’t call it homework, call it prep work. Have them bring some questions, write down a certain number of phrases they have come across during the week that they thought were interesting or did not fully understand and you will then go over them at the next meeting.

6. Ask them what kinds of information they want to learn. Classes, especially at schools and universities, have an outcome in mind. This means that students all too often learn what is taught only and that does not always match their needs or desires. Learning should always include at least some material that the student has a desire to know and hopefully use.

6. Don’t take breaks! This goes for during the lesson and between. Taking a break during the lesson, even a scheduled one will give the impression that you are stalling out the time. Get to it, stay with it, and finish on time.

You also want to avoid taking breaks for the week from lessons. The more times you take a ‘day off’ the more students will find that time was more fun being spent at the coffee shop, or playing with their friends. Retention is the key to success in private English lessons, and taking those breaks leads to more breaks and all too often permanent breaks by the students.

That should get you started.

Remember to make it fun. Be upbeat. Greet them warmly. Look happy to be doing the lesson. This will help the student to start off the lesson in a positive frame of mind, and it will help you to do so as well.

Teaching Tips – Taking Attendance

It’s something you have got to do, in most classes. It takes up time, it’s a cause for embarrassment if you get a name wrong, and it sets the tone for what you have on the plate for your class that day.

So, how do you take attendance and not make it a waste of time?

Taking Classroom Attendance

Most classes begin with taking attendance. It can be a time-consuming, often overly so, task. It can also be a cause of embarrassment for the student or the teacher.

If you have big classes, this also may be the only time there is a real one-to-one conversation going on between the teacher and the student.

So, what to do with this beast? How can you use this time-killer to your advantage? How can you get students to understand it’s importance?

Glad you asked.

First, even if your grades don’t reflect this, stress to your students the importance of good attendance, and of keeping a good record of attendance.

I often use this shopping analogy when I talk about attendance and participation in class.

Ask the students if they have ever gone to a department store, picked out something they liked, wanted, or needed, took it to the cash register, paid for it, and then said, “Thank you” and intentionally walked off and left the item behind?

If they understand your story, they should all answer quickly, and with a laugh, “Zero!”

You answer, “Of course not. Even if you were shopping with money from your parents you wouldn’t even consider doing this.”

“But in a way,” you say, “When you sign up for this class, pay your money, or your parents pay, or even on a scholarship, and then don’t attend, you are doing that exact same thing.”

Tell them, “I know you are all smart shoppers.”

This always works for me.

Here are 4 tips for taking attendance:

1. First read over the names until you can say them clearly. Do this before meeting the class. You still might not get them all correctly, but it will increase your chances.

2. Tell the students that if there name is mispronounced to please let you know and that you want to know how to say their name properly.

3. Have them answer clearly in a way you define, ie Yes, here. (More on this in a moment.)

4. When you finish, count heads. This is especially important when you have large classes. This also re-enforces your statement that you are serious about keeping good attendance records.

Here are a few ways to spruce this up a bit.

1. Write a short phrase on the board. For example, “The weather is great today!” Have the students repeat it together a couple of times to make sure they’ve all got it. Then tell them to answer with this phrase when you call their name. You can use key phrases from the day’s lessons, longer, shorter phrases, whatever suits your situation.

2. Take attendance with a quiz! Be sure to count heads though to make sure you collect the proper number of papers and that you didn’t miss anyone or that no one is ‘answering for a friend.’

3. Have each student stand, say their name and a short statement. For example you might use: “My name is Mari, my favorite color is blue.” where students repeat the same phrase changing only the color. You can also use food, movies, singers, or songs.

Just remember to use a different phrase or a different method or you will soon find you are right back in the same old ‘taking attendance rut.’

About the author:
Allen Williams is a professional educator, speaker, and writer. You can find out more of what he is up to by visiting:
http://www.tcobag.com kNow Thinking Aloud
— or —
http://www.powermeup.com Personal and Professional Growth

TCOBaG: Do You Know a Shortcut?

What’s the fastest way to get where you want to go? Save time? Save money? Make more money, more sales, get more leads for your business?

This is something I deal with on a daily basis. The shortcut. Marketers ask me, customers ask me, my wife asks me, my students ask me: Isn’t there a faster, ie shorter, way to get what I want?

Just what is a shortcut anyway? My quick definition: the fastest way I know to get to the destination I have in mind.

Now, the key here, is the ‘way I know.’

The way that is known is always the ‘shortcut.’ Period. There’s no arguing this point. It’s a fact. Yes, I know that if I turn off two streets earlier there’s a street somewhere there that if I find it, if I turn the right way, it will get me home, or to work, or to my meeting a little faster.

But what if I’m wrong?

I don’t see the road, have to backtrack and end up doing what? Taking more time, spending more money to get to the destination.

So, Allen, are you saying, “Don’t look for or try shortcuts?”

No. I’m saying, that when you have time, or your current path to success isn’t getting you there as fast as you would like, then experiment.

Make time to try a different route, a different way to convert your prospects, to set up your linking campaigns or whatever it is that you are trying to do.

Then if it works. Congratulations! You just found a shortcut.

If it doesn’t, you still have your old path, the one that was working for you, that you can go back to until you’ve had time, asked a few more questions, learned a little more, and can try again.

I was just listening to Gary Halbert who was doing an interview with Michel Fortin. He was talking about something along this line. He defined it as the difference between being effective and being efficient.

My way works. It’s effective. Is it always the most efficient? Probably not.

But for me the way I know, the one that works, that is always the shortest, fastest, most effecient way to go to get where I want to go.

I used to play golf more regularly than now, not any better, but more often 🙂

One of my friends was always ‘cutting the dog-legs’ because he could hit a fairly high ball on his drive. He saved a stroke, sometimes 2, on every dog-leg on that golf course.

He knew the course, he knew his swing, and his ability.

It was his golf ‘shortcut.’ It worked for him.

My drives tend to be a little flatter. I ‘knew’ the path, the way to get there was shorter over the trees and across the dog-leg, but I would more often than not just end up with a 2 stroke penalty for landing out of bounds.

My score was the same as before, the same as the times I took my safe drive toward the corner of the dog-leg and then on up the fairway.

Sure, I’d get lucky, yes, only lucky since I never worked on that part of my golf game, and save a stroke now and then.

But for me, the shortcut, the most efficient and effective way to get to the green, was to follow the path I knew, and that my skills allowed.

Now, stop looking for the easy way, the shortcut, and work on making the game you play more efficient, and effective.

Be well,


The problem with teaching math

The problem with teaching ‘math’ is much like the problem with teaching any ‘subject’
Originally posted – August 6, 2008, 9:09 pm

So some of you know, I have 2 boys, and they’re being raised in a trilingual household.

How’s that relevant?

Glad you asked 🙂

Since I work mostly from home while living in Japan, I am also mostly responsible for the English education of my boys. I am charged with teaching them all kinds of things outside of their regular Japanese public school curriculum.

I am a professional educator, so you’d think that wouldn’t be so hard, but I also am used to teaching university students (who, quite frankly, don’t differ much in their enthusiasm levels most of the times from my boys who are 8 and 6). It becomes paramount for me too that the ‘lessons’ be more than a classroom lecture.

NOTE: I also still teach English, mostly writing and advanced communications skills, to non-native English speakers.

Math is very similar in this way to learning English, or any language, first or second.

Without understanding ‘why’ the student is learning, or how it applies, or if it even really does, there’s no motivation to learn. (okay, to get a good grade, or avoid being in the doghouse – people still have those, right?)

Math, and language, are tools. Not ends.

Sitting around and learning (by learning I’m mispronouncing ‘parroting/memorizing for later regurgitation) rules and formulas is just not interesting, or engaging.

Using those things, math and English for example, as tools to do something else should be the ultimate goal.

If students can see and practice applying the things they are learning in an atmosphere or situation that doesn’t involve a test or score, they’re more likely to find it interesting and later retain the information.

The recently departed Randy Pausch termed this the ‘head fake’.

Good teaching should always incorporate the head fake.

Use money for counting.
use a variety of wooden blocks
use license plate numbers on passing cars
give them sets of numbers and ask them where the pattern is
use the clock (great for introducing base number systems, counting by 5’s and 10’s and also introducing fractions

Use math to play games, to shop (pretend shopping is easier on the pocketbook 🙂 ) or figure out how to build something fun.

Ask questions about how to get the information they need. Then just ‘do the math’ to get it. Maybe check that or test your answers as review, then get to the ‘doing’ part.

The same is true for language learning, or most learning for that matter. It’s always much more beneficial, interesting, and yes, fun, to be ‘doing’ than aaaarrrggghhh! studying something.

So, get to doing something now, ok?