512. Arranging S.O.S. problems

This is a reply to a teacher of English who published a post to ask for help to teach private classes. I don’t remember his specific problems. Now I post my reply to him, if it could provide anything useful. His post and mine appeared on www.teachingenglish.org.uk, British Council - BBC’s website for teachers of English, at the end of September 2010. (I have corrected small things and left some mistake).

Hello jack and cmftrier,

I'm writing some things in case any of them could help you out, jack. Here I'm referring to private classes, to help a male student to learn mainly grammar and vocab for an exam within some days! And we started a few days ago! It's like a S.O.S. situation.

1. Listen to the student at a first short interview. We both are Spanish. Find out what he is in need of, to pass the exam.

2. Approve any small target he hits, for example when doing an exercise from the text book. This action by you will boost him up. Make him think whenever he fails by writing or saying the correct answer. Say nothing to him for a short while, make him think.

3. Assign, by negotiating, the amount of time he's going to spend studying on his own. The classes are not enough.

4. If he did not reach the assigned time, for example he didn't reach the set span of time just for 5 minutes... tell him he has to study 5 more minutes today, adding to the assigned time. But sort of a cordial accomplicing or cooperating, sort of something challenging. Recognize when he reached the time alloted to his personal study.

5. Make him clear the date of his exam at school is approaching!

6. Help him how to fill the assigned study time with stuff of his opinion plus some help from you - he might not know what to do in 45 minutes.

7. Believe what he tells you about his study at home. Trust is essential. All in all, and this not lack of trust, you be realistic whether he is proggressing or not.

8. Send him emails, not many!, to show him you are concerned and thinking hard how to help him.

9. Plan every class: 'I had thought for today to do this and that, but, N, what do you think about what we should do today?' He will be somehow amazed and happy you are really after his passing his exam.

10. With all this treatment it is more likely you both will reach a nice rapport: you two are in the same team, though he is the protagonist of this 'game'.

11. Positive motivation. Let him see his progress. But also, and in a realistic way, let him see what he lacks to learn and practise yet.

12. Tell him about your remembrances when learning yourself, in a slight funny way.

Sorry for the long list. You could pick up a few points, or whatever you think.


Fernando M Díez Gallego

Teacher of English and teacher trainer. Granada, Spain.


/ Photo from: Le petit Nicolas (2009). The mom of the family is starred by Valérie Lemencier, the dad by comedian Kad Merad, the sweet and 60’s-typical teacher of the school by Sandrine Kibertain.


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