Question about privates

I recently got this email about teaching privates. I’m answering it here in case other teachers have similar interests.

Dear Jim –

I have recently come accross your website and think it’s fantastic.

I need some advice.

I have taken an ESL course from Trinity / Windsor but have not had classroom experience outside the course. The course was great in giving us a basic set of skills, but I would like some advice on how to give a private student value for money.

I am taking on some private students but would love some clues on how to tackle estcablishing a curriculum for a student – are there skill indicator tests for grammar and the like ; should i use one particular set of text books (and do i need to buy the student, teacher and exercise books as many come in these sets and the cost can be astronomical) as a basis – any particular recommendations?; any other ideas.

Any help greatly appreaciated.


Your first question was about curriculum. Honestly, designing a long term course is very difficult and I’m guessing your Trinity didn’t cover anything beyond 6 hours; I know my CELTA didn’t.

So I don’t suggest trying to come up with your own curriculum. Find a book that works for both you and the student. If you want to ask questions about that specific book, try my message board (if you don’t see a forum for whatever book you’re using send me an email and I’ll add whatever you need).

The best skill indicator test I know of is talking to the student. This shoud allow you to find out what the student wants to learn, what situations the student will be using English in, what kind of grammar mistakes the student makes, and what level of vocabulary the student posesses. Make sure to ask the student what books s/he has studied from in the past so you don’t try to use a book the student has already completed!

When it comes to who pays for the book, I would say that this is a question of personal preference. There may be a precedent wherever you are, but I don’t know of one here in Korea. If the student is paying above average for your services, strongly consider paying for the book. Otherwise go with your gut. My wife normally makes students pay for their own book (but not for the teacher’s manual). I never ask students to buy the book (unless I’m teaching a class; no way am I buying 10 books!).

Hope that helps.

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