• Rebecca Gulka

Private Lessons or Group Classes?

­Many parents debate over whether private, one on one lessons or small group classes are better for their children. There are visions of students getting looked over in a class of 20 or 25, of never getting a turn to speak, or teachers who don’t notice that someone needs help. These are valid concerns!

Every child is different, but I almost always recommend small group lessons. Here’s why.

· Pressure and energy. In a one on one lesson, your child will need to be doing all of the responding and answering. There is no down time while another child takes a turn or offers and idea. This is a lot of work! Particularly while working in a language one might not be as comfortable in, there is a lot of pressure to initiate and invent language. This pressure can cause more stress than progress. By contrast, in a small group, students get some down time when they don’t have to come up with the answer, while still being immersed in the language and the topic.

· Building on ideas. In a one on one lesson, your child will need to come up with all of the answers and ideas and responses by themselves. That’s hard, particularly if it’s not in their dominant language. Their ideas might be limited, or they might come up with the correct answers long after the class has ended. If they don’t get the right answer, they’ll feel put on the spot and maybe embarrassed.

However, in a small group, students can build on each other’s ideas. They can help each other when they get stuck without feeling like they need the teacher to give them an answer, and one student’s answer might provoke and idea in another.

· Homework community. In a one-on-one lesson, the homework must also be done alone. On one or two nights, students will read or write a paragraph or fill out a worksheet alone, for only the teacher to read and grade. It’s lonely, difficult, and sometimes, students can feel like it’s a waste of time.

In a small class, and with the use of an online classroom like Schoology, we can create a homework community. Students can interact with each other through discussion forums, and get practice with the language more times between classes. They are writing to each other, to communicate, and getting responses back, which feels like an authentic and natural communication instead of an academic exercise.

At Teaching With Class, the class sizes are very small – 6-8 students at a time on zoom. The discussion forums may have mixed classes to increase the number of responses and posts to read and interact with, but the class time allows for students to take turns and talk to each other while still having plenty of talk time themselves. And with only a few students in the room, the teacher can’t lose track of any one – they’ll all get the attention they need. It is a perfect balance.