The first lesson with a private student is different to the first lesson with a BTL student.
The main reason is that you don’t know the student’s level, so you can’t prepare much.
So, after introducing myself, I start by saying that my objective of the lesson is to determine their level and that will help me prepare activities for the next lesson. This gives you a bit of leeway – unlike BTL students, whose companies pay for their lessons, private students are paying themselves, so they expect value for money. Saying this takes the pressure off the first lesson, but means you’d better bring something good on the second. I lost a private student by bringing activities that were too simple on the second lesson, so it’s probably better to overestimate than under estimate their levels.
But back to the first lesson! It’s just a conversation class. If the conversation is easy enough, I let it flow naturally and wait until the end to ask them about what they want to achieve.
If the introductory small-talk doesn’t branch off to other areas of conversation, I ask about their goals and bring out my fail-safe activity – Have You Ever.
Have You Ever is a pile of question cards, each beginning with the words ‘have you ever’.
- Have you ever done a job you really disliked?
- Have you ever met someone famous or important?
- Have you ever called the police?
- Have you ever experienced problems in a foreign country?
- Have you ever eaten something strange or unusual?
It’s good if you’re teaching the present perfect, and it’s excellent for conversation, it usually averages about 40mins, which is plenty of time to observe someone’s level and pinpoint the errors they make.
And I know that whenever I cut a sheet of paper into smaller cards I feel like a much better teacher. :p