Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

I’ve just started teaching a new private student. He’s a complete beginner in his 30s, having studied Russian at school and learnt a little German when working as a waiter a few years ago. He’s recently decided that he really needs to study English as he’ll soon need it for his job (he’s a salesman in the Czech Republic). He constantly travels and spends many hours a week in his car. The lessons will be sporadic, depending on when he is away. I thought it would be interesting to catalogue my approach and his progress here, which he has agreed to.

Our initial meeting was conducted almost exclusively in Czech, as he really couldn’t understand anything I said to him. He couldn’t count to ten, so we decided to start with numbers. During our meeting, I recorded myself counting to 20 using Audacity, leaving gaps between the numbers for him to say them. I also sent him a copy of a powerpoint presentation I had made previously for young learners, without adapting it as I wanted to get him started as soon as possible.

(Feel free to download and use this with your own students if you think it will be useful)

The plan is for him to do as much self-study as possible, with internet support where applicable. He will listen to the audio files in his car and use the presentations as he likes (printing them, on-screen or on his phone). We will then consolidate what he has done by himself by practising it further in class. If there is time, I will introduce the next topic in the sessions too.

I have decided not to use a textbook and to record the audio myself, as I feel this will personalise the lessons as much as possible.

What do you think of this approach? Have you ever taught in a similar situation? Do you have any advice?

Comments on: "Diary of a Beginner: First Lesson" (10)

  1. Hey, Sandy…

    Looks very good. Your student should be thankful that he’s got someone who’s so creative and dedicated and willing to help.

    We Twitted (?) briefly about this last week…I’ve got a guy who was in a similar situation about a year ago – six years of French at school, no English, and a brother-in-law from Surrey who made my student feel extremely incompetent any time there was a family visit. So I was lucky that I had a guy who was really into the idea of getting a grip on his English (even if it *was* just to show someone up.) That’s the one great thing about getting older beginners like that as students…they’re usually motivated as hell and can be a ton of fun!

    I can’t remember how to say “Good luck” in Czech, but whatever it is, good luck to both of you!


    • Hi Dawn,
      I’ve enjoyed both of the lessons so far 🙂 I can’t remember ‘good luck’ either at the moment, which probably means I should get some sleep! Now I just have to remember to keep posting so you can find out what happens next!


  2. Hi Sandy,
    I had my first total beginner one to one class last year. She was my daughter’s primary teacher – she still is, but she isn’t still my student! I found the lessons really fascinating and challenging and rewarding. I was really disappointed when she had to give up. I didn’t use a book either, and we started with the numbers 1 – 10 🙂 – and the alphabet. My daughter was learning the alphabet in Spanish at the time, we had fun comparing approaches 😉
    We took it really slowly, everything was based on our shared context, our families, photos – and follow-up emails. She was particularly good at picking up patterns and playing with them and sounds and was making really good progress. I was just about to introduce cuisenaire rods in the class (!) when she had to cancel the course. She claimed time issues and extra job responsibilities. It was a real shame.
    I’d love to have another go with a dogme beginner 🙂


    • Hi Ceri,
      Thanks for your comment. I think dogme is a great approach for 1-2-1 students, especially beginners because it’s really motivating. I’ll only be teaching my student for three months as I’m leaving in June – hopefully that will be enough to get him started.


  3. I immediately thought of recording the lesson, since you said he’s doing so much driving, and then you said you’ll be doing that. Have you thought of screen capturing software? You record what’s going on on the screen, and also what the two of you are saying.


    • Hi David,
      Thanks for the idea – hadn’t thought about using that yet. I mentioned doing things online with him, and he was a bit reluctant to go home and use his computer as he spends a lot of the day on it. The flashcards are something he can use on his phone (I hope!) in between other things, but I’m hoping to work him round to other supplementary tools during our lessons!


  4. […] just finished my second lesson with the beginner I’m teaching and blogging about (read the first post to find out more). For homework he had to practise the alphabet using the audio file I had sent him […]


  5. […] you’re interested, you can read about the first, second, third and fourth […]


  6. Hi Sandy,
    I just wanted to quickly thank you for the slideshow above – this week I am teaching the lowest group at our school at the moment (A1.2) and I used it to help them revise numbers 🙂
    All the other posts in this series are also super helpful for this class, which contains no Germans, but thankfully six people who have only German as another common language 🙂 I’m trying to use as little English as possible though, unlike that company class we’ve spoken about already, where they freeze without German.
    Hope your job is going well! 🙂
    Thanks again,


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