Teaching advanced students on a one-to-one basis can be a privilege both for the student and the teacher.  The student has the teacher´s full time attention and has the opportunity to ask any niggling questions.  The teacher can prepare lessons according to the student´s needs and may see considerable progress in a short amount of time, which could consequently lead to personal satisfaction.  Concerning advanced students,   this interaction can be rewarding as both the student and the teacher are likely to be motivated and effective learning will probably take place. 

Gaining insights

From my experience of having taught individual students for 30 years, I would like to share with you some insights I have gained on this journey.  First of all, the first meeting with a new student is usually quite useful as we learn something about their needs and level of English.  Often an important decision is made based on this first talk, which is the material you are going to use as a teacher.  If a book is adopted, this entails buying it and using it.  However, what if this decision was taken too quickly and the level of the material is not quite right or the content is not exactly appropriate for your student´s needs?  Have you considered waiting a while before making your mind up about which book or material to use?  Do you really have a good idea about the student´s level based on one meeting?  For example, your student may have a very good level of speaking (considered advanced), however their writing skills may not match this level.  

The second point I would like to raise is to consider their learning style.  Some students do not adapt well to conventional multiple task questions or True and False questions.  They may switch off when they see such a task or, in some cases, even panic due to past traumatic experiences.  Some students abhor word searches or crosswords, while others thrive on them.  Some learners are more kinaesthetic and find it hard to sit down on a chair for an hour, while others like focusing on one exercise for a long time. 

Another aspect to consider is what makes your student tick.  What motivates your student to learn?  It may not be the same kind of thing that motivates you.  For example, you may love the Rolling Stones, while your student prefers classical music.  You may be turned on by classical British literature, while your student would rather read the Economist.  Motivation is a key aspect in learning and should be carefully considered.

Teaching strategies

As I mentioned in the introduction, teaching advanced students on a one-to-one basis can be a privilege for both the student and the teacher.  However, if we make mistakes about the material or how to conduct the lessons, we may trip up and the lessons can becoming monotonous and may not flow well.  I would like to suggest some activities you can use with your advanced individual student while deciding on which material to use and to get to know them better so as to plan effective lessons. 

ACTIVITY ONEIn one of the first classes, give your student the questions below.  Ask them to read them at home and make some notes next to each question.  Tell your student that you will discuss this in class next lesson.  While the student is talking, write down some things they are saying as this will be useful to prepare future lessons.

Read these questions and make notes next to each  one.  Discuss them with your teacher.

  • Which music/song makes you feel on cloud nine?
  • Which book/article have you read that resonates with you?  Why did it have a particular meaning for you?
  • Which film/series/TV programme have you seen that you know like the palm of your hand?
  • Which special memories do you have that you often reflect on?
  • Which person/people do you admire in your life?  Why?
  • What things are you proud of that you have done in your life?  Why?
  • Which one thing would you love to do in the future?
  • What learning method works best for you?  Tell me about any class you have experienced in your life that you really enjoyed.


Give your student a copy of the lifecycle  below.  Explain that the numbers correspond to their different ages growing up.  Ask your students to remember some happy times in their life at different ages and make notes of them next to the numbers.  For example, 5 – When I was 5 years old, I learnt how to read; 10 – When I was 10 years old, I went abroad for the first time.  Get your student to tell you about these happy experiences and ask more questions so that you can find out more about your student.



To sum up, I believe that you need to get to know your student well in order to choose a book or material for them.  Therefore, why not wait a while before taking this important decision, which may have consequences in the future.

Other activities like these  can be found in Jane´s book called Exercícios para falar melhor em inglês – Speaking Activities published by Disal, as well as https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/587804.

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