Teaching trial or demonstration lessons are part and parcel of teaching privately to students, in which teachers and students should meet to ensure both parties are happy to continue lessons with each achieving that much needed rapport in the initial of online. As such, online private English tutors need to make a good impression in that first hour. If not, the tutor will have a challenge to convert the learner into a paying student – this is the crux of the matter.
So what should private tutors do to make a valuable first impression and how best to achieve this? In this post, we will review this and I will share my tips and tricks for establishing a good relationship with potential students.
1. Prior Preparation
The first tip seems to be obvious but is often overlooked: preparation is vital for delivering a good first demonstration lesson. What do I mean by this? Essentially, you need to learn as much about the student before you initially meet remotely with such tools including Zoom, Skype or through another third party application. Request the student to complete an initial questionnaire before they attend the lesson, so that you are able to anticipate potential areas where the learner is expecting to improve or seek language services via a professional tutor.
There are many free surveys which can be created and delivered to you automatically once completed: Microsoft Forms, Google Forms or Survey Monkey. You can create questions which give you an immediate idea of the potential student: key aims, areas of weakness, how long they have been studying English, possible future examinations, etc. Students will hold this initial task in high regard, thinking that their potential tutor is professional and wishes the best for them.
Once you have this student information, now is the time to prepare demonstration lesson material which fits with regards to what the student is expecting their tutor cover, and I usually create a PowerPoint establishes a structure for both parties.
2. Structure of the First Lesson
It is vital to have a suitable structure for the first lesson and, as previously mentioned, a PowerPoint will help organise the structure of this. I have a template PowerPoint (please see below) which I use for each lesson, with over 90% of students responding positively during first lessons. The structure, for a 60 minute first online lesson, which I tend to follow focuses on the following:
- Introduction: welcoming the student and thanking them for booking an initial lesson (5 minutes)
- Get To Know You: questions posed to the potential student to gain greater understanding of their background, followed by receiving and answering questions from the student (15 minutes)
- Tools Used for Teaching: an explanation of all tools that I use during live online lessons such as the software used to conduct lessons (i.e. Skype, Zoom, etc.), whiteboard tools, etc. (5 minutes)
- Course Expectations: what the student is expecting to achieve with private language lessons and how they expect lessons to be delivered (10 minutes)
- Demo Lesson: delivering a short lesson task with the student which matches the students expectation or area of study, using the student questionnaire to aid me in developing a suitable task (15 minutes)
- Lesson Reflection: a brief review of how the student found the lesson and the prepared material, providing feedback to the teacher (5 minutes)
- Self Study Provision and Answering Questions: deciding on suitable self-study material for the student to complete prior to the next scheduled lesson, with the final few minutes answering any final questions
Each element of this structure helps answer the usual questions that they may have about your experience of teaching and also appears professional. I have included a template PowerPoint that you could use and adapt for your first online lesson with private students, which also follows the aforementioned structure.
3. Provide Spoken Feedback
The third recommendation that I have for any private online English teacher is to offer some form of speaking feedback after any speaking activity, especially when you are teaching individual students. Almost all students are approaching you for feedback on their speaking: wishing to learn more natural expressions or phrases to help them communicate or receiving advice on their pronunciation to reduce L1 intrusion. If you demonstrate limited spoken feedback, that potential student will move to another tutor who is keen to help guide them. I have spoken to many students asking why they wish to book me as their individual tutor, and one reason that I have consistently received is that their previous teacher showed limited interest in providing feedback. Thus, spend some part of the initial first lesson showing that you incorporate feedback into your teaching.
When students are talking, I use a pen and notebook making a note of what the learner is saying (I hope to learn shorthand one day to speed up this process). I use these notes and start to type it out (while sharing the screen) to Google Docs, offering feedback as I do. Google Drive is accessible and you can share an individual folder to one student, adding a folder within this for each lesson. Word documents can be accessed, saved and printed by students, with all this feedback being available for review at a later date.
4. Closing The Sale
The final part of the first online lesson with a potential private student is to suggest a ‘call of action’, or asking students to complete tasks for the first official lesson post-trial. This is essentially agreeing potential self-study tasks for students to complete and then explaining your availability in the coming days or weeks, so that the student is ready to complete tasks and book their next lesson with you. This stage obviously is towards the end of the trial lesson, whereby you essentially ‘close the lesson’ and offer a proposition to generate a sale as a private tutor.
Personally, I find pushing students to book lessons uncomfortable and something that I try to avoid by focusing on encouraging potential learners the benefits of studying with me. However, it is one of the most challenging stages but is required to end the first lesson. You need to know whether potential students are to return and you should not hold back in asking. If you have delivered a suitable and professional first lesson then this will be an easy choice for your potential student.
I personally explain at the end as a side note how lessons can be booked, the cost of lessons, how invoices are raised and settled. This will alleviate any questions if this stage is covered.
I hope this post helped guide those that are attempting to take on private teaching with some structure and support. If you wish to better understand the structure of a first lesson, I have created some videos which could help. However, be careful as they are unedited and last a long time.
If you found this post useful or have any questions, please let me know in the comments. Take care and best of luck with your private teaching!