Small talk in one-to-one classes
How to start one-to-one lessons

Using the board in one-to-one classes

Alex CaseTEFL Contributor
ESL Lesson Handouts - Using the board in one-to-one classes
Photo by Thirdman

Although this is an article about one-to-one classes, the fundamentals of good boardwork are the same whatever the class size or use of technology.

These include being:

  • quick and easy to read, copy, and understand (both the original boardwork and copied down version later on)
  • the right number of words (including using full sentences or note form, and using symbols to show “opposite meaning”, word stress, etc)
  • organised logically and neatly
  • flexible (so things can be added in response to student questions and mistakes, parts can be erased to make room while the important info stays up, etc)
  • a mix of things the teacher planned and responses to what happens in class

These criteria can be tricky to meet even before adding possible issues in one-to-one classes like:

  • the board in one-to-one classrooms being small
  • the freewheeling style of classes guided by one student producing chaotic board work
  • the teacher stepping up to the board ruining the atmosphere of the one-to-one class/ seeming unnatural in such a small class

One-to-one students are also less likely to copy from the board, perhaps because learning one on one is less like the traditional class where they have previously made such notes, because doing so can produce awkward silences, or because there is no time when they easily copy in silence while the focus is on another student. However, private students are just as likely to forget what is written on the board, so such note-taking should be encouraged.

Solutions to problems with board use in private classes include:

  • keeping your chair and table near the board, so you can quickly and easily write on it without upsetting the rhythm of the class (perhaps without even standing up)
  • writing on paper or a small portable whiteboard in front of the student
  • cleaning off chaotic improvised boardwork and writing it all out again in a more organised way as you check student understanding by trying to elicit it from them
  • making your own copy of what is on the board to give to the student

There are also generally good boardwork techniques which are even more useful in one-to-one classes, such as:

  • planning your boardwork by writing out a small version of it on an A4 sheet of paper (before the class, as there won’t be any lulls during pairwork in which you can do so)
  • saving a part of the board for things that come up during the class such as vocab the student asks you for, with the rest of the board being used for presenting the lesson’s main language point

An advantage of using the board in private classes is that it is easier and more natural for the student to jump up and write on it than it would be in front of other students. This should be encouraged, as it helps make the student more dynamic and makes for a different interaction, something that is difficult in one-in-one classes. If you want to encourage this, you could plan to do a drawing game with the teacher and student guessing what vocabulary related to the topic they are both drawing, taking turns standing at the board to do so. They should then hopefully be less shy about standing up to do so whenever there is something they don’t know the word for but could draw to get the word from the teacher, etc. You might also want to arrange the seating so that the student can easily access the board, for example by the teacher sitting to the side of the board instead of in front of it.

Alex CaseTEFL Contributor
Alex has 25 years' experience as a teacher, teacher trainer, manager, writer and editor in Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Greece, Italy, Korea, the UK and now Japan. He is the author of the "Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities" series of e-books on business and exam skills.

Disclaimer  We aim to provide useful ESL and EFL teaching resources and educational ideas. Our articles are written by educators with extension TEFL experience. They contain only general information about teaching English as a foreign language and are meant purely for informational purposes.

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