Planning Private Lessons for Advanced Adults?

Teaching ESL to adults

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Planning Private Lessons for Advanced Adults?

Unread post by doctorcolossus »

Hello all!

I finished the CELTA course about three months ago, and have been looking for work teaching in a language center in Kraków ever since, to no avail. The market here is quite saturated, above all with Brits, and I'm at a disadvantage being an American and not having a bachelor's degree.

Anyway, I've started to pick up some private students lately and I'm very confused about what approach to take with private lessons. Students usually say that they "just want conversation", but when we meet I invariably find that they expect some kind of preparation and presentation on my part. This makes sense, but so far I've only had preliminary meetings with two students and didn't prepare for either, not having had any idea what I could prepare for students I've never met. The average learner of English in Kraków tends to be at a very advanced level and has studied under numerous previous tutors, further contributing to my nervousness. d-:

For those not familiar with the CELTA, it's a very good, brief, and practical introductory course to teaching groups of adults. Providing a variety of activities and interaction-patterns is stressed, and the basic format of lessons consists of setting up tasks, where students usually interact with one another in groups, while the teacher monitors, correcting and stimulating, then brings the group back together to share and summarize and segues into the next task. From my experience, the CELTA methodology was very effective and interesting. Although I believe most of its concepts (generating and stimulating interest, using a variety of tasks, presenting language using in a well-rounded way using student-centered methods, and thoroughly checking understanding) are still valid in a one-on-one context, the technique of applying such concepts must be completely different...

One of my teacher friends recommended I center lessons around news articles. That seems to me like it would be fine now and then, but I can't see it being interesting time after time. CELTA introduced me to many games and group activity types which just aren't adaptable to tutoring sessions. It doesn't seem possible to "set tasks" for students during a one-on-one sessions. Asking them to fill out worksheets or solve puzzles seems kind of boring, and I think it would make them feel awkward if I'm just monitoring and not participating with and engaging them. Plain conversation on the other hand seems like it would also be boring, and difficult to plan per se, since I think good conversations usually spiral off into tangents.

Furthermore, I think lessons should be presenting some kind of language and moving toward long-term goals. Actually designing a syllabus is something the CELTA course overlooks -- it focuses on lesson planning and execution, but candidates are entirely guided in selection of teaching material. In theory it's easy to say, "assess the student's learning needs and develop an appropriate syllabus." But these are people I'm meeting for the first or second time... I'm confused about how to start envisioning the bigger picture.

I've found very little advice online for planning private lessons. The little I have come up with tends to deal with teaching lower-level students, which isn't very helpful for me in Kraków, where the average level is quite high. And most of the discussion I've seen online about private lessons tends to discuss the problems of finding and keeping students, getting paid, etc. -- not methodology or actual teaching issues.

I have found one book which looks promising:
... and a bachelor's thesis on the topic:

Any other advice, encouragement, or resources would be very much appreciated. THANKS!

I'm meeting new potential students on Tuesday, who work at an IT firm. I really don't want to blow it, since this could lead to a lot more business, but, again, I'm confused about what kind of lesson I can present without having met students before and knowing very little about their level. In my favor, I'm an IT expert myself. But with my luck, they'll probably be some kind of big-wig managers that I'll have trouble relating to... ]-: Who knows.
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Re: Planning Private Lessons for Advanced Adults?

Unread post by systematic »

This reply is late because unfortunately it didn't appear in my 'new posts' watchlist.

However, at the level you describe, on-to-one lessons will definitely be focussed on improving oral communication skills; you can therefore employ all the elements for oral work that you learned on your CELTA course.

It is essential to make a lesson plan for each lesson. To get ideas for topics, your first lesson with your student could be used as a relaxed conversation to discover what he/she needs to improve his/her English for. You can then select lesson support material from appropriate sources and conversation English course books that focus on those needs. If you use a course book, the accompanying teacher's manual will walk you through the plan for each lesson. You can easily adapt that plan for use with any supplementary material you would like to use.
I offer any information or advice 'as is' and hope that it has been of help. I am not an admin of this board, and my postings do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board management.
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Re: Planning Private Lessons for Advanced Adults?

Unread post by SGreene »

While using news lessons occasionally can be very useful, you are right in saying that they can get very boring very quickly.

I have used a lot of stuff from youtube. You can either use it online if you have access to the internet where you are teaching, or you can download the videos using one of a whole host of free programs on the internet.

If you want to see some examples of lessons that use youtube, go to the downloads section of my website at

Good luck with your classes.

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Re: Planning Private Lessons for Advanced Adults?

Unread post by hiro82 »

Doctor, did you ever find any good advice? I'm a new teacher now you must be an old hand at it. I have this same problem. Sometimes I think it might be a problem of perception - that maybe I don't think a lesson where I bring a few articles, introduce some new vocab, talk around the topic and etc. is a real lesson. Maybe, also, it isn't a real lesson. I'd like to know if you found a way of doing it that was satisfying to you. Do tell x
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Re: Planning Private Lessons for Advanced Adults?

Unread post by Awalls86 »

I would use the first lesson to really drill down to where the student uses language and where they feel they are inadequate. Then I would set tasks around what it is that they feel less than confident in doing. If I was unable to get appropriate responses I would suggest that the student could keep a diary and note any time where they felt they were unable to communicate as effectively as they would have liked, and why they thought their interaction was unsuccessful. Advanced learners should have a high degree of autonomy anyway, and I feel my job is to push that if they don't and feed it if they do.
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Re: Planning Private Lessons for Advanced Adults?

Unread post by lesaharmon »

Hi, doc

Make sure that each lesson has a clear takeaway. In fact also make sure of this point also that the viewer can understand what he or she is going to be able to do by the end of the lesson.

According to me, preparing classes online doesn’t have to be laborious or time-consuming. If you begin by asking them simple questions or youcan call it a normal conversation that enables you to see where your students are making mistakes. You can then correct their mistakes at the same time, when they’re doing wrong, and get THEM to come up with different ways of practicing it. In addition, you can even look for more help and advice at

Personal experience: Do make sure you have something fun up your sleeve, just in case a funny video, a short story, or an activity that you can utilize as a back up to avoid the atmosphere from becoming boredom.
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