italki Teaching Tips: It's the first lesson, what should I do?

Our italki Teaching Tips are real teaching tips from real italki teachers who have first hand experience teaching different students from all over the world.   We share these tips to help you become a better teacher.

It’s the first lesson, what should I do?

nervous_computerIt is nice to know the level of the student before starting sessions, but it is not necessary. I have often found that people are too hard on themselves and ‘misdiagnose’ their level (they write to me and tell me that their English is terrible and then when we meet, I start talking to them and find that they are intermediate).

For me personally, I go into all first lessons the same and determine where to go from there based on the student’s level. During the first meeting I ask about the student and what their language goals are. I talk about my teaching approach and show the student an example of how my lessons typically work. THEN I plan the second lesson based on what we discuss during the first lesson.

Some teachers may like to know “why” the student is interested in improving their English ahead of time, but I prefer to discuss that with them 1-on-1 during our first meeting.

I always ask my students what is the purpose or reason for their desire to learn English. Whether it be to get into a good college, to do well on the TOEFL test, to be able to communicate effectively in work environment, to get promoted to a better position or for personal gain, all are important reasons that I have heard over the years. All of these different answers will be your key as a teacher to create lesson plans that will benefit that particular student’s needs.

For example, if they want to learn English because it will enhance their employment opportunities, you can build your lesson plan around Business English and Vocabulary. Another important question to ask is how long they would like to take lessons. This tells me whether their expectations are real or unreal. If they need to get a high score on the TOEFL test and they only have a week, we know that this is not a reasonable goal. However, if they want to do well on the TOEFL test and want to book 10 sessions, this would be reasonable.

As far as preparation for a first lesson, it is good to have a variety of engaging activities. First impressions are so important in this business for repeat students. I like to spend the first few minutes of a lesson just talking to the student and getting to know a little more about their interests. Then we do a grammar exercise where they edit some sentences and paragraphs. After these two activities, I can gauge whether they are beginning, intermediate or advanced. Depending on their level, this guides me to the following phases of the lesson. I like to give them 10 new vocabulary words to learn each lesson based on their level. I usually have some role play/dialogue scenarios where we can work on speaking fluency and pronunciation, and so on. It is as important to have a lesson plan when teaching on Skype as it is in the classroom.

Share your teaching tips!

At italki, we want to create a world in which everyone can be fluent in another language by connecting with people. The purpose of the italki community is to facilitate communication and share in the love of language learning between our all our members and teachers. If you are interested in “paying it forward” and sharing your teaching tips, please fill out the below form.

If we publish your teaching tip, we will credit you with the tip by providing a link to your teacher profile page so include your italki teacher ID.