How to be a Successful Tutor

One of the most important parts of learning to speak and understand a language is by practicing speaking and listening. However, this can be stressful and frustrating for students, especially in the beginning. Speaking a new language is difficult and can be embarrassing, especially with a partner.

Each Live Lesson is broken up into a number of small exercises at the student’s level, tied to what they’ve been doing in their self-study time. Exercises are designed to be small and guided by the tutor to reduce stress and promote conversation.

Your Role

You are a student’s guide through the lesson, and we would like you to lead the lesson. Our experience has shown that students value when the tutor takes initiative to lead, asks questions related to each exercise, and provides scenarios for variation. Less confident students especially will expect you to explain what an exercise is about and suggest when to move to the next exercise.

For example, if you get into a new exercise and the student looks confused or there is a long silence, explain what the exercise is about and who should start the exercise. If you’ve been working on a single exercise for a while, or if the student doesn’t seem engaged with the current exercise, suggest moving onto the next exercise.

Preview the Lessons

Lesson Previews are generally available from your dashboard 24 hours before a scheduled lesson. They allow you to review each exercise and familiarize yourself with the layout and the instructions ahead of time.

Previewing lessons will help your ability to lead a lesson, especially in the beginning. Leading a lesson starts with understanding how the exercises work and how the general conversation will flow. During the preview, we provide example questions for most exercises to get you started, but we encourage you to improvise additional related questions and scenarios to practice with the student. This helps make exercises feel fresh and new every time, even if the student has done that exercise before.

Types of Exercises to Expect

We have three main exercise categories in our curriculum: Warmups, Drills, and Situations. Each Live Lesson is made up of a series of about 10 exercises—around 3 from each category—that build on each other.

  • Warmups are short exercises that are designed to get the student warmed up and ready to speak. They often go over previously learned material and don’t require too much improvisation. Examples include short readings, listen and repeat, or dialog exercises.
  • Drills are guided practice. These exercises are designed to teach specific concepts and rules (such as conjugating verbs or using the past tense), and to practice common scenarios (such as asking for directions or ordering in a restaurant).
  • Situations are intended to get the student speaking freely and improvising conversations. These may include open-ended topics, questions, and games.

Be Friendly and Encouraging

It’s important that you are friendly and encouraging at all times. Even if your students are getting things wrong, help them feel good about their effort and remind them that they’re improving. When they get things right, be sure to say so clearly.

Your goal is to teach students how to communicate. So you don’t need to focus too much on error correction, but on their fluency and confidence in speaking and listening.

Be Patient

Make sure you read the instructions well and you give the student enough time to read theirs. If neither of you understands what you are supposed to do, feel free to either move on to the next exercise or just try to have a conversation about what you think might be the aim.

Observe Student Reactions

Our exercises sometimes have a high number of repetitions / variations. That doesn’t mean you need to complete all repetitions before moving to the next exercise. They are not all necessary and if you feel the student is bored or no longer challenged, suggest moving on to the next lesson. Don’t worry; our students may repeat our exercises 2 or 3 times, so they’ll get the chance to perform the other repetitions in subsequent Live Lessons.

If the student looks like they are frustrated or are struggling, slow down and try to describe things in a different, simpler way or just move on. Don’t let them just continue to struggle.

Promote Conversation

Speaking in a foreign language can be very intimidating and some students can be very shy. Asking the right questions will help you promote conversation. Don’t be afraid of asking too many questions as long as they are not too personal. Avoid yes/no questions and instead ask “how” and “why” questions.

Also, remember the student is here to learn how to speak, so please try to give them enough time to express themselves and avoid long stories about yourself. Be patient, sometimes they’ll need a little longer to formulate sentences.

Good Example ✅

How is your work? My work is nice. Why? Describe to me what you do each day. mmh.. I write e-mails. So you like to write, what else do you do? I see me co-workers. They are… , I…How many co-workers do you have? I see 4 co-workers every day, but I have more. My company …And how is your boss?….

Bad Example ⛔

How is your work? My work is nice. Cool. I also like my job. In fact, today I was in the office and…

Another Bad Example ⛔

Do you like your job? Yes, I do. Are your co-workers nice? Mm, yes. Ok. And your boss, is he/she nice? Yes, she is ok.

Be Tactful and Supportive

Throughout a lesson, the student will be attempting to pull vocabulary from memory and use new grammatical constructions. This can be very hard so try not to interrupt mid-sentence to correct them. Instead, take some notes while they are speaking and give them a little feedback when they finish speaking or at the end of the exercise.

Remember to always be very encouraging when pointing out errors. Students may feel very unmotivated and overwhelmed if you correct too many things and just focus on errors. Try to balance corrections with positive feedback. Be enthusiastic and encouraging when they do something right. Make them feel good about how much they are learning.

Speak (when possible) in the Target Language

The purpose of the Live Lessons is to help the student practice listening to and producing the language you’re teaching. It can sometimes be easier to switch to a student’s native language to explain something, but whenever possible, try to stay in the target language. Try explaining in simpler language, use gestures, or write a few words (in the target language) in the chat box. Providing a translation or explaining something complicated is fine, just make sure you don’t drift away and have a conversation in the student’s native language.

Don’t forget to speak slowly. When you say a sentence, there are dozens of things the student may be trying to recall in order to comprehend the sentence and it can take a bit of time. When a student looks lost or confused, try saying the same thing slower. If that happens, try speaking at that slower rate for the rest of the lesson. It’s a good rule to start out speaking more slowly than you think is necessary, even for more advanced students.

Write Things Down

If the student can’t understand something or asks you to repeat it, write it in the chat window. This allows them to read it, which is often helpful, and it also serves as notes that the student can review later. Anything you think they should be reviewing after the lesson, write it in the chat window. The chat window also allows the student to translate the word / phrase on their side, so you don’t have to break into the student’s native language.

Have Fun

Don’t forget to smile and have fun. Show the student true interest in what they are telling you. And finally, we don’t expect our tutors to be perfect! So relax! The more you teach, the better you will get.

If you have problems with some of the lessons, please let us know via the “take a note” feature. Your feedback will help us improve our materials.

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