Helping students reach their goals and providing value: These are two key areas I regularly consider in order to provide a successful lesson and course. Let me quickly define the two ideas:
Goals: Wherever the students want to go, I want to help them get there. The goals might be short-term and manageable, or they might be long-term and require several steps. Each lesson I provide should move students toward these targets in some way.
Value: I want students to realize the value of their lessons, as this means they are less likely to switch to another school or teacher. A fun lesson where students feel some progress helps, but additional services and opportunities for interaction also provide value.
As someone who has been setting up schools, running departments, managing Heads Up English, and providing high-quality lessons, here are some tools which I use on a daily basis. (Note that this isn't a complete list just yet, and I will definitely add more resources in the future. I recommend bookmarking this page for your convenience.)
For the students...
All new students receive an email outlining general some general policies for the course, encouraging words, etc. It helps set expectations from the beginning, and also to outline information about asking for help or cancelling a lesson.
For all of my students, I assign a short assessment test before our lessons begin. The test looks at grammar comprehension, writing skills, and speaking skills, which means I have some understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Of course, when students join a group lesson, the dynamic may be different, which means that some students who did poorly on the test could actually be more capable in a lesson, and vice versa. Because of the test, I am better able to avoid mixed-level lessons. What's more, it's also much easier to select appropriate materials and textbooks.
Pre-Lesson Grammar Worksheets
Time is limited in a lesson, and I want to use that time as productively as possible. This means I would prefer real, relevant, and meaningful activities that allow creativity instead of presenting new grammar and practicing through controlled activities.
These grammar worksheets are given to students before a lesson, usually via email or their personal student page (more about that later). Students read through the simplified explanation, check the examples provided, and also complete practice exercises to gain a feel for the grammar. As a result, a lot less time gets wasted in the lesson.
In addition, I regularly use these worksheets to self-study incidental grammar points. This means that students might make the mistakes in class, but I don't want to use class time to cover this aside. With these worksheets, students can then independently acquire the language and reduce or eliminate mistakes.
Following each lesson, students receive a short feedback report. In a private lesson, the report is student specific. In a group lesson, the report is class specific.
Important vocabulary, along with the word form, is listed on the report, as well as any important grammar, phrases, communication strategies, and so on. The report is emailed to students or placed on their personal page within a few days of the lesson, and this gives students a chance to review the content.
As a final note, I save each file by date and name, such as 2014.10.05KeikoTajima, which makes it easy to search back through previous lessons.
With many of my students, we periodically talk about their goals. This discussion allows me to help students identify what they want or need to achieve in the lessons, as well as to make their goals more measurable and tangible. If, for example, a student wants to watch movies without subtitles, we need to first go through several steps. Such a nebulous and long-term goal might discourage students because the journey seems so long and the path unclear.
Of course, the student and I also need to revisit the goals. This helps to reassess progress, remind the student of what needs to be achieve, and also revise the needed steps.
Better Language Teaching
It's easy to repeat the same handful of activities again and again. When you do this, there are benefits, such as less time to explain because students already know the task. However, it can also be quite boring. As such, I quite often select activities from the ebook for a fresh and engaging task.
I also print out various chapters for teachers who work with me, even very experienced teachers, as a means to refresh, refocus, and improve various aspects of their lesson. The teachers might need to improve how they structure the lesson for better focus, or make talk time more effective, or even have a better understanding of what an intermediate student can and can't do.
All of my websites are run through Bluehost, which is a web hosting service. It you run your own school or set up private lessons for independent revenue, then I highly recommend purchasing a website. The prices at Bluehost are very reasonable; setting up a site requires only a few mouse clicks; and the customer service has always been excellent.
For my students, I use a website to set up private lesson and group lesson pages. On here go pdfs and other classroom resources, self-study materials, audio and video files, etc. Students log in to their respective page, and can access the content, exchange messages with me, etc.
The website also serves as a place to advertise my services and lessons to potential students. Students might arrive at Heads Up English through advertising, because of another student's recommendation, or from one of my business cards. Without a website, it becomes much more difficult to introduce and brand my lessons to potential students.
I use this tool for advertising, using a combination of text and banner ads. Keywords are selected, and you pay each time someone clicks the advertisement. This is a useful tool to advertise your lessons.
This is a free tool from Google which lets you track the number of visitors to your site, which pages received the most attention, and a lot more. If you have a website, or are looking to start a website, for your students, then you will definitely want this tool.
If you have joined my Better Language Teaching or Elite Teaching newsletters, then this is the service from which you receive emails. This is likely the best email service available, and it allows me to reach thousands of teachers and students; reduce the likelihood that an email service will deliver my message to the spam folder; and track how many people received, opened, and clicked on the email.
This free data cloud service lets me upload and download files from any machine, be it my computer at home or at school, my tablet, etc. I quite often put files in here and then use these for my lessons. In addition, each of the teachers who work with me have set up a dropbox, which allows me to provide schedules, syllabi, and materials.
PayPal provides an easy means for students to pay for lessons. It's (mostly) easy to set up and use, and also provides protection to the seller and buyer. What's more, where some services require a minimum balance to transfer funds, you can transfer any amount of money to your bank account.
I use this service to sell and distribute my ebooks and digital resources, and also to manage follow-up sales, updates, and so on.
Note: I am either the creator or an affiliate for some of these resources and tools AND I have also been a daily user for each them for a minimum of one year. I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase on some links, but at no additional cost to you. Please don't spend any money on these resources if you don't believe they will improve your lessons.