Group or individual lessons - the ultimate guide

Teaching groups vs individuals - for teachers; getting the most out of group lessons -for students; Personal experience - Elena Chikina

TEACHING GROUPS VS TEACHING INDIVIDUALS

Nobody can argue that every person is an individual and has their own goals, motivations, interests and desires. Teaching people involves finding out what these things are and how to incorporate them into your curriculum. However, when you have a class of 10 people, the idea of personalising your lessons to fit each and every one of them may be daunting. In this week’s newsletter we are going to take a look at the differences and similarities between teaching group and individual classes and different ways you can organise your work.

Let’s take a look at the main differences between group and individual classes:

  • Catering to specific needs is more difficult in groups. If the students have slightly different levels and backgrounds it may be hard to address their individual problems in the class setting.

  • Class management - getting everybody to work together, respect each other and be tolerant of each other’s differences.

  • Variety of activities - group work, pairwork, peer correction, teams, games and debates are all easily used in group classes and much less so in 1-1 lessons.

  • Pacing - people may need different time to understand and practice language items, which may lead to uneven pacing in class. You are more likely to accomplish more in less time when teaching individuals.

  • Learning styles - providing the right materials and tasks that will benefit all equally can be a challenge in group classes.

  • Learner’s autonomy - students may feel reluctant to ask questions and admit they don’t understand something in group classes for the fear of looking stupid.

  • Distractions - some may find it hard to concentrate when studying with others due to more background noise

It may seem that teaching groups has more problems than individuals, but various studies show that the majority of people will benefit more from studying with others. Here are some reasons why:

Motivation

Students motivate each other and group lessons often generate a sense of competition. It is advised to make sure that students approach this in a healthy way, do not encourage aggressive competition among your students.

Sharing

Group classes are usually full of people with different backgrounds and experiences and each member can make unique and valuable contribution into discussions, bring diversity and variety.

Learning

It is known that most students tend to learn a word or phrase better if they hear it from their groupmates rather than a teacher. Everyone’s unique input thus adds up and people learn much more than they would in an individual class.

Comprehension

A true test in knowing if a student understands a concept is if he or she is able to explain it to someone else. Studying with others gives an opportunity to better understand the topic by discussing it with someone else. Students also have an opportunity to ask each other questions to clarify things they didn’t understand.

Communication

People learn the language to be able to communicate and it is best practiced in a safe environment and with people of your own level. Individual lessons are limited to interactions with a teacher.

Community

Learning in groups gives people an opportunity to meet like-minded people who share same interest, goals and motivations. This alone can boost motivation and make people more enthusiastic about attending lessons.

How is teaching groups different from teaching individuals?

Every course starts with getting to know each other, breaking the ice and setting study goals. In this, group and individual lessons will not really differ much, but the teaching methods will.

Group lessons allow the teacher to use various types of activities such as pairwork, groupwork and teamwork, as mentioned above. However, it is also possible to bring some of these activities to an individual lesson if a teacher assumes the role of a partner.

Studying 1-1 makes lessons all about the student, their mistakes, goals and needs. When teaching a group it is important to keep in mind everyone’s interests and aims, and address them on rotation, or devote a portion of class to each of them. Maintaining the balance between what everybody’s and what each individual’s needs is of utmost importance when it comes to groups. A teacher can give individual homework and feedback to students, specific tasks to work in class or ask more advanced students help weaker ones.

Feedback and mistake correction is another issue that is important to mention. Take notes during the lesson and discuss most common mistakes as a class without drawing attention to who made them. Most frequent ones maybe used to plan further topics. This will take pressure off individual students and they will be less stressed about getting something wrong. Don’t forget about giving out praise in equal measure, but here do not be afraid point out each student’s success. The sense of pride and achievement are generally stronger if you can share them with others.

In conclusion, choosing how to study depends on the student. Group lessons will be to a greater advantage at lower levels, whereas exam preparation or working on specific goals is best done alone. And it is the teacher’s responsibility to make the most of what they have.


How to get the most out of group lessons

Group lessons can enhance learning in many ways, especially when it comes to building soft skills — interaction, peer learning, empathic listening etc.

We always say it’s a teacher who rules the classroom, but what about the students? How can a student make group lesson more efficient? Can they?

There are some points to consider before you join your next group lesson:

A) learn to listen to others

Listening is key when it comes to communication, it helps us build emotional connections and improves our empathy. Keep patient and give a person some space to open up — you will soon see how amazing they are!

B) sharing your feeling. it’s vital for those who want to train their public speaking skills and the ability to embrace the audience — you should start from telling about your day and news in front of a group, or sharing your ideas during the brainstorm exercises.

C) Develop your leadership skills.

A group project task is a great opportunity to take the situation under personal control and train your leadership and management skills, so don’t be shy and show your willingness to lead the project.

Overcoming your shyness is another important thing for effective group work.

From shy to fly

Here are some trusty tips to help you come out of your shell and show your shyness who’s boss:

  • Baby steps are the way to go. If you challenge yourself straight up to make 15 best mates in a week, you might be setting the bar a bit high. Your first goal might be to have a five-minute chat with someone you don’t know very well.Remember the excellent stuff about you. So what if you’re shy? You’ve got heaps of other strengths. If you’re feeling down about your shyness, don’t forget about all the other cool stuff you’ve got going on.

  • Why are you shy? If you figure out why you’re shy in the first place, it might help you to overcome it. For example, if it’s because you have a negative image of yourself, you might want to look at some tips for improving your self-esteem.

  • They’re not looking at you. When you feel shy, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the people you’re with are all looking at you and judging you. The truth is, they’re probably not thinking about you at all. For all you know, they could be planning whether to have mac ‘n’ cheese or soup for dinner. (Mac ‘n’ cheese wins every time.)

  • Shift your focus. If you find yourself stressing about what other people might be thinking about you, try to shift your focus to the other person. Ask them questions about themselves, and try to learn more about them. Think of some questions you can ask people and try to find out more when they respond.

  • Self-talk yourself up. Positive self-talk ain’t easy, but if you practise for a while and get better at it, it will work a charm in boosting your self-confidence. You’d be surprised how much of a difference a bit of self-love can make.

  • Don’t avoid social situations altogether, even if they make you nervous and uncomfortable. Each time you face them, you’ll become better equipped to deal with them in a way that you enjoy.

  • Practise your social skills. Communication skills come in handy in most aspects of life. Get skilled up by checking out some communication tips.

Read more here.


Personal experience

I’ve been learning different languages for about 10 years now, I’ve tried learning English, Portuguese and Italian, every learning experience brought me joy and new friends.

As I tried both group lessons and individual courses, I can share some of my thoughts about it, I hope it will help some of you to come up with ideas for your kind of learning and teaching style:

The positive side of group lessons

  • You can learn something interesting even if you’ve never thought of asking about it, and the thing is your groupmate can always raise a question that is out of your personal agenda at a lesson, which helps you think out of the box.

  • Group lessons teach you to work as a team, and it’s a fantastic skill that benefits you a lot out of a classroom.

  • a simple thing — group lessons are chipper than 1-1  

The negative side of group lessons

  • if there are extra active people in your group you may have 5-10 minutes only for your question or speaking practice, so I would say group lessons are for extraverts

  • there is a chance that not every group mate of yours is a really nice person  

  • you can be stuck on a topic because somebody (not you) didn’t get it

  • not enough time for home task feedback

The positive side of individual lessons

  • the whole lesson is focused on you and only you  

  • you can ask any stupid question not being afraid of judgment from your groupmates

  • individual lessons allow you more speaking time

  • individual lessons allow you to discuss every detail of your home task

The negative side of individual lessons

  • pricy

  • the program is not always clear - sometimes your teacher and you can go deep in a topic, deeper than you should.

I hope my experience will help you to improve your learning and teaching approach, thank you for reading this!


That’s all for now!
Stay amazing ♥️