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How to be an English tutor

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This post has valuable tips on how to be an English tutor. Teaching your child or tutoring your pupil to learn English is an excellent idea in today’s world where English is becoming increasingly THE language through which diverse cultures communicate. So if you speak English, don’t let that precious gift go to waste. Instead, be sure to pass it on to your child; however, don’t blow it before you begin! Please do not nitpick because it’s discouraging. Also, notice that your pupil is not covered in colourful feathers; no, you are not teaching a parrot!

Thank you for coming along with me to learn how to be an English tutor and make your teaching effective and fun. If you go about tutoring in the right way, you will find your child or pupil loves learning English and spending time with you. However, if you traditionally teach with a textbook, you’ll have your work cut out because your pupil will consider these extra English lessons to be like yet more schoolwork and a chore.

 

Please don’t blow it before you begin!

Let’s look at a couple of big no-nos first, and these apply to parents and private tutors. The first big issue with teaching your child is to instill in them the belief that they can succeed. It does not take much to blow this step! For example, a parent once told me her daughter had no English skills whatsoever and was useless because her school was incapable of teaching it. That may be true, but you should have seen the little girl’s face fall when she heard that! So, set the right example by showing your child you believe they can learn English quickly. Your child will flourish if she knows that you love her unconditionally and are proud of her, wherever she is on the learning curve.

Nitpicking tutors beware!

When it comes to pronunciation, watch out that you are not such a nit-picker that the child freezes up and becomes paranoid about opening their mouth! Indeed, this discouragement can happen VERY quickly in the first few lessons so take extra care. Remember that the child is making their best attempt to imitate you on hearing those first few English sounds. Don’t penalise them by making them repeat it over and over, and it’s never right! Instead, put yourself in the child’s shoes, and you’ll feel a little FRUSTRATION!! “Forget it. English is way too hard; I can’t do it, so now I don’t want to do it, stupid irrelevant subject anyway….” 

You cannot correct everything that the child says because it’s demoralizing. Therefore, let pronunciation errors through and work on them gradually over time.

Your child is not a parrot

A classic error is to mistake your child for a colourful bird with a tiny brain that can be trained to repeat things. No offense to parrots here intended because they have infinite intelligence on some levels. Here’s a typical scenario: Mum bends down towards little Johnny holding a fork and says, “fork, Fork! FORK! Say fork Johnny, fo-o-or- k!” Johnny looks at mum and thinks, “why should I say that? Why is she saying that like a loony? If that’s English, then it’s weird, and I don’t need it!”

Engage your child through English games

Instead of this bizarre behaviour, it’s better to give your child a reason to use English through language games, plays and skits, stories, and songs. However, with children under three, you don’t use structured language games but instead play along with the child, chatting away using simple language and repeating the same words often. Please see this English lesson for toddlers. You rely on the subconscious to pick up the sounds and enter them in the database, and rest assured they will be!

However, English tutoring can take on a more structured form with children aged three and up, and the best way to introduce new vocabulary is through language games. Then, when pupils have learned the new words, follow up with more games using sentences. That’s also how you introduce grammar, by repeating sentences that contain the structure you wish your pupil to learn.

An effective strategy

Repetition is the mother of skill, but not parrot-fashion. Instead, create a reason for repetition through a game. The best way to understand this is to see it done. Let me give you a link to a demonstration video of a private tutor teaching a six-year-old English her first-ever English lesson. In the video, you will see how to be an English tutor to an eleven-year-old, using language games and role-play. You’ll find the video here: how-to-teach-a-child-to-speak-english.

You may teach all four skills like this. Initially, use listening games to introduce new vocabulary or grammar, but not both. Then, continue with speaking with a drill type of activity, disguised in the packaging of a game that encourages accuracy and is a starting point for speaking fluency. Next, play some different games using word cards instead of pictures or objects so that the children see how words are spelled. After that, practise writing – again, also through games.

Logically, a pupil should hear words several times before being expected to say them. Likewise, a child needs to see a word written before you can expect them to write it.

Priorities

If your child is learning English at school, I recommend focusing on listening and speaking in your private lessons because those are usually the elements lacking in the school environment.

Your child or pupil may very well be MILES behind the school curriculum and hopelessly lost. My recommendation is not to worry about that but to build a strong foundation. Firstly make your lessons fun and relaxed, because applying pressure is not likely to work. It’s like pulling on a flower to make it grow faster. Instead, your flower needs a little sunshine, a little rain, and maybe some fertilizer to help it grow faster, i.e., some encouragement, an effective teaching strategy, and some enjoyment in learning the subject.

Build a strong foundation with the BASICS. After all, what chance does your pupil have in learning fancy tenses if she has not mastered the present tense? In addition, remember that school exams are not the only chance in life to succeed. It’s more important to nurture a love of the subject and a desire to learn than to flog someone through an exam they have no chance of passing or rush and pressurize a young beginner. Why? Well, life goes on a long time! We can have many opportunities to take exams and to learn. So keep the joy of learning alive, and one day that seed will flourish into an autonomous plant.

Shelley Ann Vernon has helped 1000s of teachers be an inspiration to their pupils and achieve results 2x as fast. Teaching ESL creatively! Free one to one games and tips here: Teaching Your Child English

How to be an English Tutor Resources

For further reading on how to be an English tutor, please see these posts:

How to tutor a child

Teaching a child with a demanding parent

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