An Italian Online Tutor's Tips For An Effective Lesson

Make Online Tutoring Work For Language Lessons
Summary: I’ve given 1,600+ one-on-one Italian lessons on Skype for over 4 years.

How To Make Online Tutoring Work For Language Lessons

In this article, I’ll share with you a few tips that make an online language lesson productive and enjoyable.

8 Tips For Giving Online Language Lessons

1. Teach 1-To-1, Don't Give Group Classes

Most of the lesson time should be available for the student to speak, not for listening to the teacher or for waiting until other students are done. That's why I always turn down requests from casual learners who ask me to teach two or more people at once.

2. Find The Right Timing To Correct Students

It takes a lot to master the art of correcting language learners. Don't just interrupt them at each and every mistake or they'll go blank and lose confidence. However, if you let too many mistakes go unnoticed, they'll never know how to improve. Actually, in some cases, they don't even notice that they made a mistake until you tell them. The ideal timing for giving feedback depends on the student's personality and speech rate, as well as the speed of the internet connection between the two of you.

3. Ask For Full Sentences

There are many ways to express a concept. Some are easier and more convenient. Others are more elaborate and advanced. On the one hand, students shouldn't hesitate too much about grammar before uttering a word, or they will lose the flow. On the other hand, it's tempting to play it safe and use a simple expression instead of venturing into advanced grammar patterns. For example, when the teacher asks, "Where are you going tonight?"A good answer would be: "to school," but a better answer would be: "I’m going to school" because that forces the student to conjugate a verb. How high you should raise the bar depends on the student's current language skills, confidence, and past performance.

4. Encourage Mimicking

Everything that the teacher says can work as “comprehensible input” (i.e., content that is intelligible but just a bit more advanced than the student’s current ability to use it). In other words, if the overall message of the language is clear, the student can infer some words and grammatical patterns even if they've never heard them. Skype, or any other video conference software, enables the tutor to type this input to reinforce the audio. Then, it's up to the student to repeat it and actively use it during the lesson of master it. People can be lazy and just answer "Yes, got it." Force them to repeat, instead. This applies to corrections and new words as well.

5. Hint At Answers With Questions

Basically, a language lesson should be a long conversation. A conversation is a series of questions and answers. Indeed, there are many ways to ask questions. You should choose a form that helps your student give an answer, even if they're not prepared for that. If they don't understand on the first try, you can always reformulate the question.

Generally speaking, closed questions are easier than open questions. This means yes/no questions or multiple-choice. For example, an open question like "Where do you go on the weekend?" doesn't hint at an answer and a beginner would be left without useful words to answer. Instead, asking, "Do you go to the beach on weekends?" lets the student answer something like "Yes, I go to the beach."

6. Wait Before Typing

Audio should be given priority over text. If a beginner relies on text to learn new words, it can be difficult to familiarize themself with the sounds of that language. That's why, when introducing new words in class, I pronounce them first, and only after that I type them in the chatbox. Explain this to the student because it might make them feel anxious.

7. Check Regularly If The Student Is Following

Cooperation and trust between teachers and students are vital for a successful lesson. Since teachers don’t know exactly which words the student knows, they need to check regularly if the student has understood. This can be done through simple questions. The student shouldn't just nod, smile, or timidly mumble "got it." Don't let them pretend that they understand when they don't.

8. Feel Free To Make Mistakes

People are embarrassed when they make mistakes. However, we all learn by making mistakes. Thus, students should be encouraged to leave their comfort zone and take mistakes as a sign that they are learning. It's a matter of setting realistic expectations. This will avoid a lot of frustration.

Unleash The Potential Of Online Language Teaching

1-on-1 online tutoring on Skype is possibly the most effective way to learn a language fast in spite of minor technical inconveniences, like video quality, audio quality, and lag due to internet connection. However, language tutors need to master the art of conversation and master the tools they use for teaching.