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TEFL Training In Costa Rica | Updated: 01/08/2023

5 Tips for Successful Private Classes

Written by International TEFL Academy Costa Rica

Many ESL/EFL teachers, if not all, will teach private classes at some point in their career.  Most language institutes offer this option to clients, especially VIPs, like cooperate executives.   Taking on private students is a great way to make some extra cash too!  Check out our five tips on teaching successful private classes! 

3 Important ESL Classroom Techniques

1 - Assess your student's language levels, wants and needs.

Before teaching anything, give your student an assessment to determine the learner's English levels, interests, reasons for studying English and specific needs for knowing English.  We recommend incorporating survey questions to identify the student's background and language needs.  For instance, questions like the following will give you lots of insight: "When did you start learning English?"  "Do you use English at your job?"  "What are your hobbies?"  "Do you read books in English or watch TV shows in English in your free time?"  "Do you like playing games or role playing?"

Your assessment should also include short reading, listening, speaking and writing portions.  This will allow you to identify your student's levels and language needs.  Check out the Proficiency Guidelines on the ACTFL website if you have never done this before. 

2 - Base your classes on the assessment results.

After thoroughly analyzing the assessment, you should have a lot of useful information about your student.  Incorporate the interests, like travel or music, and needs, like the business world or for furthering education, in every class to keep your student engaged and motivated.  For instance, if I know my learner loves basketball, I can bring in biographies about specific players to practice reading.  I can offer listening practice by finding audios related to this as well, like a sports broadcast. 

To address your learner's language needs, spend time building lessons based on the concepts and skills the student made errors with on the assessment.  This should include grammar, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, and the skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking.  There are so many great websites and textbook series that can help make this process easier for you.  We love Betty Azar's grammar books, and we incorporate TED Talks and YouTube videos and news articles from websites like NY Times.

3 - Keep track of and correct student's errors.

Don't be afraid to correct your student's errors.  Many new teachers excuse errors by telling themselves, "I know exactly what she's trying to say!"  Yes, but did she say it perfectly?  She is paying you because you are an English teacher! She wants to be corrected so she doesn't continue to make these mistakes. 

We recommend correcting pronunciation errors immediately so they don't get stored in the student's memory as being correct when they actually aren't.  However, we recommend writing down the other grammatical errors and going over them at the end of each activity or at the end of the class, so you don't interrupt the student's flow of communication. Plus, designating a time to go over errors will allow you to properly discuss the error and get into the explanation of why it's wrong and how to fix it.

Role of the Teacher

4 - Limit Teacher Talking Time.

Remember, this class is about the student, not you.  You don't need to practice English, so the conversations and activities should all be based on the student's needs and interests.  Keep your explanations and answers short and direct.  Ask the student open-ended questions like "Why?"  and "What do you mean?" to get him to explain all of his answers in detail. 

We also recommend "playing dumb" and feigning interest in topics you really don't care about.  This encourages the student to work on his speaking skills and explanations.  For instance, if a student asks me, "Teacher, do you know what Cartago is famous for?"  Despite knowing the answer, I say, "No!  What?"  Or if he says, "Teacher, I got a new game called Fortnite.  Do you know what it is?"  I respond, "No!  Tell me about it!" 

5 - Meet in a comfortable place.

Finally, make sure you decide on a regular meeting place that is comfortable and quiet enough for you to hear each other well.  It's also a good idea to have Internet access in this place so you can use online resources in your class, if necessary.  A library, coffee shop or even a meeting room at a business or school are good options!  Make sure you go to class prepared with a notebook and pen in addition to all of your class materials. 

Final tips?  We recommend exchanging phone numbers so you can communicate easily about any schedule or location changes.  And if you are getting paid directly by the student, we recommend collecting the payment each class, at the very least.  If you can get a month in advance, even better!    Even though it can be awkward to ask, you deserve to get paid, and they shouldn't owe you money for previous classes.

Looking for practical experience teaching a private class and more tips on teaching ESL/EFL?  Save your spot in one of our 4-week TEFL trainings at International TEFL Academy Costa Rica!

11 Things You Will Learn in Your 4-Week Costa Rica TEFL Class

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