Six Tips for choosing a good tutor – for an adult.

Six Tips for choosing a good tutor – for an adult.

Whether you are choosing a language tutor for a child, for an adult or for a group, there are several considerations that you may want to bear in mind when it comes to finding the right person for you.  Here are some ideas for you if you are looking for someone to teach an adult:

1.     Consider carefully whether you would be better to have tuition at your home/office or at the tutor’s premises.  In some cases it can be more convenient to have the lesson at your work, presuming that you have a suitable room available.  You may prefer to meet the tutor in a public place for the first lesson, but this may not be the best option for longer term (background noise, additional costs, space…)

2.     Match your tutor to your needs.  If you are a beginner then you will have different needs to someone who would like to improve their business language.  Ask your tutor about their experience with teaching the type of language you need.

3.     If you would like to work towards a qualification then ask the tutor what they think is appropriate.  There is no need for an adult learner to take a GCSE or A Level – indeed, I would advise against it, unless you particularly like talking about how much your brother annoys you, or why you love geography!  Those qualifications are carefully aimed at teenage learners and so some of the topics are less relevant for adults. There are other certificates available which are internationally recognised, for example the certificates offered by the Goethe Institut for German or the Cambridge Certificates for English (EFL).

4.     Have reasonable expectations of what you will be paying.  Remember that the minimum wage for someone over 24 is just over £8 per hour.  With a good tutor you are not just paying for the one hour of the class, but also for the time they spend planning and marking homework.  It can take quite some time to plan a student-specific scheme of work to meet your requirements in the time available.  As a rough guide, prepare for the cost of the tutor to be similar to the cost of a 1:1 session with a physiotherapist or personal trainer at the gym.

5.     Think about how often you will take classes and how long each lesson will be.  If you have little time to commit and an irregular working pattern then you may not be able to learn as quickly as if you can dedicate time to your project two or three times each week.  Once a week is a good start for lessons, less than once a fortnight will give too much time to forget in between!  As a general rule, the quicker you want to learn, the more time you must make available.  So if you have just three months to learn then you would be wise to fit in as many teaching hours as possible.

6.     Personality.  Ensuring that you get on well with the tutor and can work well with them is a key element.  Sometimes two people just don’t get on well, without it being anyone’s fault – so be prepared to review the situation after two or three classes to make sure that both sides are happy.

 

Teri Fleetwood is the owner of Language Learners and has been providing French, German and English (EFL) lessons to adults and children for more than 12 years.   Language Learners operates mostly in the Woking and Guildford areas of Surrey.

7 Tips for choosing a good tutor – for a child.

7 Tips for choosing a good tutor – for a child.

Whether you are choosing a language tutor for a child, for an adult or for a group, there are several considerations that you may want to bear in mind when it comes to finding the right person for you.  Here are some ideas for you if you are looking for someone to tutor a child:

1.     If you need a tutor for someone under the age of 18 then do ask for their DBS check if you will be leaving your child alone with them.  The DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check is the certificate which shows if they have any criminal convictions of relevance to working with children. 

2.     Consider carefully whether you would be better to have lessons at your home or at the tutor’s premises.  Most professional tutors will be unwilling to be left alone with a child in the child’s own home.  At Language Learners we insist on an adult being present in the home for any child under the age of 14.

3.     Match your tutor to your needs.  If you would like your 8-year-old to have a little booster then you may be fine with a University student.  However, if your child has specific additional learning needs or is studying for an exam then it may be a good idea to pay extra for someone who has experience of those particular requirements.  

4.     The GCSE curriculum and exam methods have changed in the last three years – so University students DID NOT sit the same exam that your child will be taking.  If you need to be boosting grades then ask your tutor questions about how they have kept their knowledge up-to-date.

5.     Have reasonable expectations of what you will be paying.  Remember that the minimum wage for someone over 25 is £8.21 per hour at the time of writing.  With a good tutor you are not just paying for the one hour of the class, but also for the time they spend planning and marking homework.  It can take quite some time to plan a student-specific scheme of work to boost that particular student’s grades in the time available and I am sure it is the same for other subjects/tutors too.  As a rough guide, prepare for the cost of the tutor to be similar to the cost of a 1:1 session with a physiotherapist or personal trainer at the gym.

6.     If your tutor is just going over the same material that was covered in school, using the same books and worksheets, then it is time for another tutor.  They should be adding value by bringing different/more resources.  Not that you necessarily want lots of different explanations (that’s confusing) but a range of new exercises and challenges will really help to consolidate the information.

7.     Personality.  Ensuring that your child gets on well with the tutor and will work nicely for them is a key element.  Sometimes two people just don’t get on well, without it being anyone’s fault – so be prepared to review the situation after two or three classes to make sure that both sides are happy.

 

Teri Fleetwood is the owner of Language Learners and has been providing French and German tutoring to children from age 5 upwards for more than 12 years.  Her students consistently exceed expectations at GCSE and A Level through a careful mixture of topic and grammar work as well as a keen attention to exam technique.  Language Learners operates mostly in the Woking and Guildford areas of Surrey.

Exam Tips – The Writing Exam

Exam Tips – The Writing Exam

Until this year (2018) the writing element of the GCSE language exams was essentially a memory test in the guise of a Controlled Assessment.  Students had a certain number of hours to prepare their answers in class time. Then the teacher would look at the answer and give some guidance, after which the student would take the text home and attempt to learn it by heart.  Finally, they would then try to regurgitate the text in a fixed period of time, under the supervision of their own teacher.  Being polite about it, this did not actually teach many people much about how to use the language they were learning.  It often benefitted those who were good at learning a script rather than showing who understood the language they were being tested on.  There was also quite a lot of scope for “confusion” about how much guidance a teacher could give.

Given these considerations, it perhaps unsurprising that the Government has returned to a “final exam” style of assessment.  However, there are a couple of points which are causing some stress to students (and their teachers!). The first of these is the return of the translation test.  At Foundation Level this is a number of short sentences to be translated individually.  Higher Level Candidates have a short paragraph written in English, to be translated into the target language.  “Return?” I hear you say, questioningly.  Yes – the return.  I am certainly showing my age but I remember this section from my own GCSE language exams.  Translation is a key element of being able to use a language – after all, most learners at this level are essentially translating everything in their heads anyway before they dare to say it in the target language – so why be daunted?

In addition, students are asked to write a range of different types of language in the same time period (i.e. during the exam).  You may, for example, be asked to write an article for a school newspaper, or it may be a letter (formal or informal).  Make sure you know how to set out each different type of writing, and remember to include your town, the date, a greeting and a closing if it is a letter!

Enough then about the differences between this new curriculum and the old one – how to score maximum marks is what is of most interest to us. One key point is to answer the correct number of questions!  For some questions you will have a choice of which question to answer.  Don’t try to answer them all as you will run out of time, and some of your answers will be ignored.  Try to pick the question for which you have the most ideas that you can express in your target language, and be sure to cover each bullet point.

In order to score well you should also show a range of grammar knowledge and constructions.  GCSE examiners are very keen to give out points – it’s a bit like Tinkerbell and fairy dust! Sadly, if there is nothing there to see, then the dust won’t stick.  Higher Level candidates should try to include as many of the following list as possible:

– A range of tenses (past, present and future as a minimum, but for a higher mark then present, perfect, imperfect, future, conditional and pluperfect if possible);

– Complex grammatical structures – e.g. um…zu for German, après avoir +infinitive and avant de +infinitive for French;

– A range of people doing the verbs (to show you can use correct endings);

– Opinions (3 different ways of showing what you think);

– Modal verbs (can, should, must);

– Word order: especially for German but also with French (adjective order);

– Correct endings depending on gender (and “case” for German);

– Time phrases – not just “at 12 o’clock” or “tomorrow” but also “rarely”, “often”, “never”, “always”, etc.;

– A negative or preferably two;

– A question where possible.

 

Additional things for all candidates to think about:

– NEVER leave an answer blank.  An intelligent guess is more likely to gain marks than a blank (which is guaranteed not to score at all!);

– Pay careful attention to the use of tenses in the translation section.  Past, present or future DOES make a difference and you should be able to recognise which one is needed;

– Watch out for the little words that can make all the difference. Words like “not”, “already”, “never” etc. can change the whole meaning of a sentence and provide the key information for answering the question successfully, especially in the case of the translation passage.

 

Teri Fleetwood is an experienced language tutor with over 10 years experience of tutoring to the GCSE and A Level curriculum.  For more information please look at the rest of the posts in this blog and also check our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LanguageLearnersSurrey/  If you would like to discuss 1:1 or small group tuition, whether for exam preparation or pleasure, then do get in touch!  teri@language-learners.com

Exam Tips – The Listening Exam

Exam Tips – The Listening Exam

The second part of our blog series on the GCSE language exams looks at the listening paper.  Sometimes students can get quite concerned about this paper, or can be left wondering why they missed out on marks when they thought they had understood what was being said.  These tips will help you to prepare well, and also give you some idea of the little examiner “tricks” to look out for.

What can I do to prepare for my listening exam?

When it comes to the listening exam, there is one way to prepare which you can start now, which only needs to be done for 10 minutes or so at a time, but which should be done consistently to get the best results.

What could it be?

  • – Listening!

Specifically, listening to as much of your target language as possible, in as many different accents as possible, and as many different contexts as possible.  While the exam board is not going to present you with an impossible accent, getting practice with as many native accents as you can will prepare you better than if you have only ever heard your teacher speak.

What should I listen to?

Pretty much anything.  To get you started, here are some ideas that we have used with past and current students:

  • Try a music radio station using your chosen language. Make sure that it is one which plays music in your target language rather than just American music!
  • Alternatively, use the internet and look for “Extra!” in the relevant language – it’s a great little sitcom aimed at language learners and available in French, German, Spanish and English.
  • Use BBC Bitesize – this revision website has a range of activities together with the answers. You can choose Foundation or Higher Level.
  • You could try looking for TV shows online as well. There are many clips on popular video sharing websites.  Or you can see if your favourite show is also available in another language.
  • If you are reasonably confident, then you could try using the news. Deutsche Welle have the “news read slowly” in German and there are several sites offering something similar in French. Alternatively, Euronews can be good (although rather fast) as you can read the text at the same time.

What else can I do to prepare?

Try some exam papers, which can be found on the exam board website. As you are aware, this year there is a new curriculum and some new question styles, but the exam boards have put up some sample material which should be available if you look.  Your school teachers may want to use it too, so you can always look for past papers from other years – all practice is good practice and most of the topics have remained the same, despite the changes.

Do you have any tips for the actual exam?

Of course!  Here are some helpful pointers:

  • You will be given some time to read the questions before the test starts. Do use that time wisely and get some idea of the different types of question and what you have to do. It may sound odd, but the questions will give you a good idea of what each extract is about.
  • Remember each extract will be played twice, so you don’t have to get ALL the information the first time you hear it.
  • Also, make sure you have put some sort of answer for every question, even if you are not sure it is right. A blank answer is guaranteed to get zero points, but if you put something logical and sensible then you have a better chance.
  • Listen carefully for the “stretch” questions. You may think that you have a good idea of what the extract was about, but did you hear the words “not”, “often” or “rarely”?  Sometimes the different options for a question will all be mentioned in some way, but there will be other words like these which change the meaning of the answer.  Here is an example in English:

Q: What did Ben do at the weekend?

Extract from Ben: “I wanted to go to the cinema at the weekend but I didn’t have any money so we played football in the park instead”.

If you answer “went to the cinema” then you won’t get the point as this is what he WANTED to do, but couldn’t.  The correct answer is that he played football in the park.

 

If you found these tips helpful then please feel free to share them with your friends.  There will be more useful hints like these in the next few weeks as I cover the Reading and Writing papers.  If you are looking for information about the Speaking test then please look for my earlier blog post on the oral exam.

 

Teri Fleetwood is an experienced language tutor with over 10 years experience of tutoring to the GCSE and A Level curriculum.  For more information please look at the rest of the posts in this blog and also check our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LanguageLearnersSurrey/  If you would like to discuss 1:1 or small group tuition, whether for exam preparation or pleasure, then do get in touch!  teri@language-learners.com