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Teaching English One-to-One

Readily accessible to teachers with limited experience, Patricia Osborne’s “Teaching English One-to-One” offers an honest, pragmatic guide to how to teach one-to-one classes in a responsible, professional manner.
Reviewed for Teflnet by Kathryn Sagert

Teachers new to one-to-one teaching, whether they are new to the profession or have years of classroom experience, are often unprepared to deal with the particular nature of student-teacher dynamics that come into play when the teacher and student must spend hours alone together. In her book, Teaching English One-to-One, Osborne makes it very clear that establishing a working relationship with the student is the most essential element in ensuring the success of the class and that fostering these good interpersonal dynamics is the responsibility of the teacher. That is, no matter how great a teacher you are, if you and the student don’t get on well the class just won’t work, and it’s up to you to make sure it does. Osborne also emphasizes the importance of professional behavior and practice and deals extensively with the importance of first conducting a thorough needs analysis and then, based on each student’s needs and preferred learning style, preparing a simple, clear course program (something all too many one-to-one teachers neglect to do).

Based on the experiences of Osborne and her London-based colleagues in working with individual students in classroom and homestay settings, the book covers all the essentials for teachers new to one-to one teaching: the difference between group and individual classes; the importance and methods of pre-course preparation and needs analysis, the role of and method for writing course programmes and lesson plans; techniques for teaching, evaluating and giving feedback; information on dealing with different types of learners – business English students, children and teens, and learners on intensive homestay course; a list of recommended resources; and tips on troubleshooting. This is a lot to cover in a single book, but Osborne manages to present her key points effectively and also to deal with a wide range of pedagogical and professional issues, mentioning concepts such as types of error and aspects of pronunciation and discussing issues ranging from the key elements of successful presentations, meetings, and negotiations, through the importance of ensuring materials you choose for children are suitable for their overall level of cognitive development, to dealing with difficult students or feeling sleepy during class. For experienced teachers, Osborne’s concise coverage may serve up a few useful reminders. Less experienced teachers, especially those with limited formal training, may need to look up these points elsewhere but will at least have a clear sense of what they should be aware of and why.

Although some of the examples given in the section on dealing with problem students do refer to experiences of teachers working in EFL settings, the book does not really deal with some of the major practical difficulties teachers working in counties outside the UK, the US, Canada, and Australia may come across: things like work permit restrictions, the constant interruptions to classes held in an executive student’s office, last-minute cancellations, cultural misunderstandings, sexual innuendo, dealing with an agency’s set program, and ensuring you actually get paid. For advice on such matters, aspiring teachers would be well advised to check out the blogs of other teachers working in the same geographical area.

With this one caveat, Teaching English One-to-One gives a thorough overview of the ins and outs of teaching individualized English classes and is full of ideas and advice of benefit to both new and experienced teachers who know they could be doing a good job better.

Reviewed by Kathryn Sagert for TEFL.NET October 2009

One Comment

  • ahmed says:

    this is an interesting book

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