Planning your first lesson
The first lesson is all about building rapport and making the student feel confident. Once they show they have knowledge of the language they’ll be more receptive to learning. Katja explained that when you’re in a one-on-one tutoring lesson introducing role playing characters can be a great way to build a story and help the student to relax. It also brings more people into the conversation so that you can talk about “we” instead of “you” and “me”! The first lesson is also a great opportunity to get to know the student’s interest so you can use them later. Lucinda suggested audio visual resources such as watching TED talks so that the tutees can see difficult vocabulary in action. For younger students Sonia recommended Peppa Pig as the episodes are also available in French and German
Find out their aims
Students have a variety of reasons for wanting to learn a language so it’s important to understand what they are hoping to get out of the lessons. Sonia showed us the work books she uses which are specific to each exam board. By using these the students can practice exam techniques and ensure they are prepared. For student’s learning a language for the first time, whether children or adults, Katja said that introducing the culture of the country can enthuse students. Teaching vocabulary through discussions of food, films and products from the language’s culture (or cultures) can be an effective way to inspire enthusiasm for the language, therein aiding the students’ learning memory
Katja teaches German to students of all ages and finds that games are a fun and creative way for students to learn. She feels it’s important to get the students up and moving during the lessons as this can help them to remember the rules. Resources like this can be expensive but can also be easily made at home. For example she had created a dice and flash cards for story building which were laminated. Top tip: Laminators can be bought for less than £20 - laminate your resources so that you don’t have to make them again! You can also adapt classic board games such as Jenga and Snakes and Ladders.
Lucinda expressed the importance of visual aids - especially for younger learners! She always makes sure that her resources are colourful. Katie agreed and showed us an amazing grid she uses to build sentences - this can be particularly useful if the student’s native language uses a different sentence structure. Emma teaches Chinese and finds visual aids extremely important as Chinese characters can be quite tricky to teach. Her top tips for teaching tones in language is by using a toy car to map the journey of the tones used. As a the car travels up the hill the tone goes up! Mariota, who has learned Chinese before, agreed that this would be a really fun way to introduce tones without feeling embarrassed.
Speak the language
It may seems obvious but all of the tutors agreed that the lessons should take place solely in the language you’re trying to teach. This helps the client to become immersed in the language and get used to inferring the meaning without being explicitly told. It also ensures that the students get used to failure and really helps with listening exercises. It can be tough to train the students to do this but they’ll thank you for it later!
Online is becoming increasingly popular on Tutorfair and can be a great way to find students outside of your local area and cut down on travel costs. Luka has written an a great blog on teaching online in general but today we discussed teaching languages online. Lucinda explained that it’s really easy and effective to teach online as you can send over your powerpoint presentations and worksheets beforehand and go through them together. You can also type sentences via instant message and ask the student to translate. Katja recommended chatting via video chat on your phone but using your computer to share Google Docs which can be edited together in real time. The student then has notes to take away from the lesson! That said, Sonia warned that you have to trust the tutee not to cheat when you’re not in the room with them.
Do you have any really useful exercises or top tips for language teaching? If so, we would love it if you upload them to our Resource Centre to share with other tutors!