Ten tips to minimize the disadvantages of teaching in a one-to-one context.


Be prepared to take on different roles. Talk to colleagues if you are feeling stressed by being a ‘counsellor’. We can guarantee other teachers will have similar experiences.


Set clear goals. It is important to set long- and short-term objectives which include types of activities such as reading, role-plays and watching videos, as well as language points. Also do feedback regularly to check if these goals have been met. The student then has a list of achievements and an opportunity to review things they are still not sure of. You can also get feedback on types of activities they have enjoyed. Try to do this once a month.


Do a thorough needs analysis.


Embark on learner training from the start of the course, emphasizing how they can improve through better learning strategies. 


Why throw out all of the good things you do with groups, like drilling, games, standing up to do a dialogue and so on? Students in one-to-one classes can enjoy this too. It could be argued that they need it even more, especially if monotony is setting in. At the very least, change the room around and change your sitting positions from time to time.


To combat the strain of extensive, unnatural periods of concentration and interaction for both parties, go and get a coffee or have a walk for a few minutes while your student reads or does some other individual activity. They’ll probably appreciate the time out too!


Take notes openly. Explain why you are doing it. This could be for correction purposes or for things to address in future classes or good things they have said you want to reinforce. The student will enjoy the fact that you are paying attention to their language problems.


Take part in pair work activities – be student B. This can be a great listening exercise for the student as well as a speaking activity.


Communicate with other teachers who are doing similar teaching to you. If you are using published ELT material, organize idea sharing sessions with other teachers on how to adapt coursebooks and supplementary material. (See this article on collaborative teaching in the Methodology section for more similar ideas).


Take time to discuss the real concerns of the student. Depending on your relationship, it’s a great opportunity to talk about things which are meaningful for them such as family, stress at work, their plans and goals. You’ll find that students often come out with their best English if what they are talking about is real to them. Teach the person not the material!