TEFL Book reviews

Teaching English One to One

Priscilla Osborne (2019) - Pavilion Publishing and Media Ltd

Reviewed by Dr. Stephen Louw

Chichester College Thailand

Teaching students one-to-one is a popular way for teachers to supplement their income after hours. Students like one-to-one lessons too – alone with the teacher, the lesson is more personal, more relevant, and potentially more likely to lead to quick learning outcomes. For these reasons, one-to-one lessons are common. It is surprising, then, how few resources are available for teachers engaged in this kind of teaching.

A sought after subject

Priscilla Osborne’s book seeks to address this by providing teachers teaching students individually a set of principles to follow to help them maximize the time they spend with their student. The one thing this book does not do is provide photocopiable activities that you can use in class. Because each student has different needs and goals, a teacher needs to create lessons that are highly individual and specific: whether a top salesman from a manufacturing firm, or a child preparing for an important examination. What this book does very well, though, is cover the fundamental elements that a teacher needs for running a successful one-to-one programme. 

How the book is organised

Teaching English One to One is divided into thirteen chapters. The first chapter covers some fundamental concepts of teaching one-to-one such as how this kind of teaching differs from traditional group classroom lessons. The next three chapters deal with what the teacher needs to do in the initial stages of a one to one course: the pre-course preparation, conducting a successful needs analysis, and writing the course. The following five chapters focus on the techniques for teaching one-to-one, including useful tips for working with children and teenagers, how to teach business English, and how to give feedback on errors, a section I felt was particularly helpful. The final four chapters deal with big-picture questions relevant to all one-to-one lessons including how to organize a lesson plan, how to evaluate your student’s progress, and how to handle problems (for example, what if you feel sleepy in class? – that sounds silly, but sitting alone with a quiet student has the potential to be boring sometimes).

The bottom line

Teaching one-to-one can be enormously rewarding and a lot of fun. It’s often not very stressful, and it’s a great way to achieve real progress with language learners. With a book like this one, a teacher can engage in these lessons with greater confidence.

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About the reviewer

Dr Steve Louw is the principal trainer of the popular Chichester College TEFL course in Bangkok. He also writes a regular blog here on ajarn.com.

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