In some of the other articles we’ve talked about how to assess your student’s level in your first session or what to expect during a first session, but we haven’t been clear about what you, as a Fluentify English tutor should actually DO during this first session. As you know, these sessions are crucial because you not only want to understand who your student is and what they need, but you also want to convince them that you can truly help them improve, which is much easier said than done in 30 minutes. So, check out our tips below for how to make the most out of your first session with a new student.
TIP: Before starting your intro, tell the student to let you know when he/she doesn’t understand or if you start speaking too quickly. This let’s them know it’s OK if they don’t catch every word and also that you’re going to help them out as you go along.
While this may go without saying for most, doing introductions at the beginning of a session with a new student is extremely important. Why? Well, for a few reasons- (1) Let the student warm up their English, (2) Assess their level, (3) Check their comprehension, (4) Forge a relationship. We’ve learned that the best way to approach the introductions is to do yours first- tell the student a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, and how you ended up teaching English on Fluentify/ what you like most about it. This gives the student a chance to think out their own intro and in the meantime you can check their comprehension (which is usually pretty clear- you’re either getting head nods or blank/terrified stares).
Then, once the student starts their intro you can start assessing fluency, accuracy, and pronunciation. You are going to be processing a lot of things at once but don’t forget to actually LISTEN to the student. This will allow you to pick up some personal things about the student that will be helpful in forging your relationship with him/her, which becomes really important in whether or not that student will continue working with you after this session.
DOUBLE TIP: SMILE and be friendly. When asking students why they like their favorite tutors compared to others, they always mention how kind and enthusiastic the tutor is- don’t underestimate this factor.
2. Student’s English History
Next, find out about how the student has been studying English up until now. Only high school classes? An erasmus/ study abroad experience? Private lessons? This will help you understand the method by which the student has learned so far, if it’s working, and how the student likes to learn. For example, often when you ask this question a student will say
“I took classes in high school but since then I haven’t really had the chance to use my English so even though I can read English very well I can’t speak it at all.”
This already gives you a lot of information- (1) Student probably has a really strong grammar / vocabulary base, (2) Student feels confident with reading comprehension, and (3) the student has already alluded to his/her goal about being able to SPEAK English more fluently.
TIP: When asking about your student’s English learning experience, you can also ask them what kind of things they thought were most useful during this process and what kinds of activities they absolutely didn’t like. This can give you an idea about your student’s learning style.
3. Clarification of Goals
This part is HUGE. If we don’t know what our student’s goals are, we can’t really help them get there, right? This part is also tricky because not all students have very clear goals (i.e. I need to participate in a conference call next week -VS- I want to improve my speaking). This is where your counseling/ coaching skills come into play. When a student has a goal that is a little more vague, try to get as much information as possible. For example, for a student who wants to improve their speaking you might ask…
- Why do you want to improve your speaking?
- When do you find yourself speaking in English? (setting)
- How often do you need to speak in English?
- What kind of things do you usually have to discuss? (context)
- What do you find most difficult when you need to speak in English?
“Okay Lucia. So what I’m understanding is that you want to improve your conversational English skills as well as some business English terms because at your publishing company you often have to communicate with American and British partners by email, which you feel pretty confident with, but you also have phone calls and video call meetings at least twice a month where you tend to struggle a little with comprehension but also with expressing your opinion or sharing your ideas. Sometimes you have trouble deciding if the phrases you want to say are too informal or if maybe you’re using the wrong verb tense. Does that sound right?”
While ‘speaking’ is the most common goal on Fluentify, you can use this same method to approach a student who wants to work on comprehension, reading, or writing as well. After asking a student the above questions hopefully you’ll have a better idea which you should then REPEAT BACK to the student so that he/she can correct you if you haven’t understood something well.
If the student says yes, great! If not, they’ll automatically clarify their goals for you a little more. Use all this information when making your student’s English plan.
4. The Plan
This is when you tell the student what you’re going to do together to help him/her reach that goal. Obviously you’re not expected to have a course plan prepared, but tell the student how you usually structure sessions and how what you do together is going to get the student closer to his/her goal with each session. During this part you should discuss
(1) What the sessions will or may look like (we will review homework and then review a short grammar topic and put it into practice/ we will read an article before the session and then discuss it during the session/ etc.)
(2) What YOU will give the student (constant feedback, feedback after each session, homework activities appropriate for level/ goal)
(3) How many sessions a week the student should be doing and over what period of time (i.e., I think we should start with 2-3 sessions a week for the first four weeks and then we can see where you are/ how you feel and maybe bump it down to once a week. )
(4) What you expect from the student (you should really make an effort to do homework activities, you should do addition practice on your own such as watching a tv series, etc.)
This seems like a lot of information but this can all be summed up into 2-3 minutes of explanation. During this part it is important to be clear as well as confident because you want to show your student that you are sure that by working together and following this plan he/she is going to see major improvements (which is true!).
TIP: Remind the student that sessions are based specifically on their needs. This means that they can come to a session and tell you, “I need to draft this email to send to my boss tomorrow,” or “Today I’d like to talk about dinosaurs,” and you have no problem helping them with that specific task or having a general conversation about that topic.
DOUBLE TIP: At the end of each of these sections, always make sure to ask the student if they have any questions or if anything you’ve explained is unclear. Clarity and support are key during the first session.
5. Tech Notes
Remind them that they have to go to their Notifications > click on [your name] has left you feedback > click on the big green button that says ‘SHOW FEEDBACK’ (or ‘VALUTAZIONE’ if their profile is in Italian) and they will see everything there.
I always like to spend 1-2 minutes giving students some basic info about the platform and how it works, especially for students who are brand new to the platform. This can include explaining what the chat is, how it works, and how everything from the chat can be accessed via the messages outside of sessions. It can also be a time-saving tip to let students know that there might be connection issues in the future and that usually refreshing Chrome or closing and reopening it solves most of these issues. Finally, it’s really important that you explain to them where they can find the feedback form you will submit after the session.
6. Student Interests (time permitting)
The first session can fly by, but if you have 5-7 minutes at the end of this session, give the student the chance to talk about his/her hobbies and interests. This is easy for them and it will also help you when picking appropriate/fun/interesting activities to give the student.
TIP: Write these down and put them in the notes on your student’s card. A student who gets to talk about things they love while learning English is a happy student 🙂
7. Summary and Next Steps
Always leave 1-2 minutes at the end of the session to briefly summarize what you’ve discussed and what you have in store for the student. Give the student an idea of where you think his/her English level is and how you will take it to the next level. Remind the student that you will be submitting his/her feedback form later in the day and to send you a message if he/she has any questions. Finally- pump the student up! End on an enthusiastic and positive note so that the student feels ready to go and remind him/her to book his/her sessions for the next week.
TIP: Always make sure you calendar is up to date so that students can plan their sessions ahead of time- this will help them with structure, which encourages consistency, which means more sessions for you!
Don’t forget to actually follow through and fill out that feedback form. Check out this article for tips on giving killer feedback.
What do you guys think? Did we forget any important parts of a first session with a new student? Comment below!