How Can you Prepare for the First Lesson With Your New Online Student?

The first lesson can be a nightmare for both teachers and students and you need to prepare for the first online lesson with a new student! There are many amazing teachers out there who want to transition to online teaching but they don’t know where to start. They are also not sure how to conduct that infamous first lesson. This post may help you outline your teaching plan and methods before you start teaching, so keep on reading!

Here are some tips that may help you successfully prepare for the first lesson with your new online student:

Use diagnostic tests to find out more about your student’s English level

Before the lesson has even started make sure to send a level test to your student. The student should do at least a grammar level test in order for you to see which structures should be your focus. You can assess the other language skills during the lesson. For example, you can make your level test In Google Forms and you will have a clear idea of the student’s level.

Don’t be afraid to describe your teaching style – I always prepare for the first online lesson

Explain how to like to teach your students and break down the method in a language they can understand. If you want to use Flipped Learning, but your student didn’t go through the material you sent, he/she probably doesn’t understand the significance of completing certain activities.

Make sure to understand what kind of learner your new student is

The Multiple Intelligence theory can help you with this. Most students think that they do not have a learning style, when in fact most people do – this is their preferred way to study. You can use the MI theory and a test to discover what is the strongest intelligence in your student out of 9 Gardner’s intelligences. (Take a look at the interactive presentation of the first lesson below to see an example of such a test.)

Offer students more than they expect

Do this not just because you want to present yourself in a positive light, but because additional engagement after the class offers such amazing opportunities for further learning. For example, other than having interactive homework, I offer 2 free group lessons monthly, where my students have to chance to meet and chat. I also offer a very unique chance to connect in a private classroom on Edmodo, where I post different tasks and students comment and solve them, while also communicating with each other. Edmodo works like Facebook, only for learning.

Here is a screenshot of my Edmodo classroom. Notice that every student has his/her personal teaching portfolio on the left side.
How to Successfully Conduct the First Lesson With Your New Online Student

Edtech should be your best friend

Having lessons online wouldn’t be possible without technology. Embrace it and use it to your advantage – there are tons of already made quality materials and you do not have to plan every single moment of your lesson. I use Edmodo, Quizlet, Off2Class, and EF class. Do not overuse edtech since it may overwhelm your students – the edtech in your classroom must be used seamlessly and with a proper method.

I use Quizlet for creating an individualized vocabulary for all students and Off2Class and EF class for grammar lesson materials.

Keep the 40% vs 60% speaking ratio during the first lesson – In the next lesson your students’ speaking ratio should jump to 70% and the student should have a chance to speak more. The first lesson is there for both of you to share information about each other so take it slow. Try to monitor how much you speak and try to keep your speaking to a minimum – don’t teach frontally and try to use your speaking time to elicit the answers from the student.

Use the positive correction – the sandwich method – Some correction is needed, but only in the form of advice when the student finishes his/her sentence. Make sure to embed the area of improvement between two positive feedbacks. Do not use words such as ”NO”, or ”THAT’S NOT GOOD”. Use ”YOU SAID ______, BUT WE SHOULD SAY _____.

1 positive thing + 1 area of improvement + 1 positive thing = the sandwich method

the sandwich feedback method

To conclude

It’s not all about money – Sometimes you won’t like the student. Sometimes the student may not like you. All of this is perfectly normal and neither side should get stressed about it. If there is a student you think you won’t have pleasant lessons in the future, do not encourage this student to continue learning with you. I’ve had only 2 cases like this in the last 4 years – they are rare, but it happens. Your first online lesson is all it takes to help you decide what to do next.

I have been working through Preply for the past 3 years and I have been extremely pleased with my regular students and the staff. If you are interested in using the platform, let me know and I could help you join. I already helped many teachers create a successful tutoring profile on Preply!

Last, but not least, be POSITIVE and SMILE! Remember that the first lesson is stressful for the student as well. Think about it as a first date – you are there because the student liked you, your accent and qualifications. The student made the first move by inviting you to a lesson, and now you need to take your relationship to the next level. Sounds better?

You don’t want this:
How to Successfully Conduct the First Lesson With Your New Online Student

Or this:

How to Successfully Conduct the First Lesson With Your New Online Student

Because what you really need to achieve by the end of the first lesson is this:

(Just not in a romantic way, of course!)

How to Successfully Conduct the First Lesson With Your New Online Student

P.S. Take a look at this post if you are interested in seeing a presentation I created for an effective first online lesson!

Do you have a checklist or a trick in your sleeve to turn the first online lesson into a regular student and how do you prepare? Do you prefer working for a company or acquiring your own students through advertising and social media? Let me know in the comments, I would love to chat!

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About Alice Glass

Alice is a 29 years old preschool teacher (Pre-K) with a B.Ed. She is currently enrolled in her Master's studies, with a double major, one of them being English teaching methodology. She is also an online ESL teacher and blog writer for the British Council. Last but not least, she is the mother of a very energetic toddler.


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