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.
We all know the scenario – it’s nearly Christmas time. The children are distracted and over-excited, the teachers are tired and rather stressed with all the mock exams. What happens? Someone cracks out the same old Christmas worksheet which is used every year and all classes learn the keywords to describe a British Christmas – because it’s easy, because it’s what they are interested in right now, and because…… well, because that’s the way it’s always been done.
It doesn’t matter which festival you look at, when it comes to GCSE Modern Foreign Languages they are all in the syllabus as the students are encouraged to learn about the “standard” ones for their target language and then also to express themselves in talking about their own festivals. All too often though, this can be left until the end of the course or done as a vague afterthought which the students don’t even realise is important for the course (see the worksheet scenario above) and a learning opportunity is missed, or diluted. Here are five ideas to liven up the festival module.
1. Use realia. Yes, it can be a bit of a hassle, and you will always need to be careful of allergies, but talking about German Christmas biscuits (Plätzchen) or a French “Galette des Rois” is always more interesting if you can see one, or EAT one. Watch out for nuts though, as both commonly contain almonds. You could also use other festive items in a “feely bag” (a cloth bag which can’t be seen through) to set the scene and teach the vocabulary.
2.If you can’t use realia then you could always use some good pictures of the items, or look for a video (there are instruction videos for baking all kinds of treats on a popular video-sharing website!). This could then lead to a great practice of the imperative as the students can reproduce the instructions for making the recipe – or give instructions for how to make one of their own traditional treats.
3.Exploit the topic blatantly to practise grammar, while hiding the fact that you are doing so! “I went to the shops and I bought…” is a popular memory game where each person adds an item which was bought, and then has to remember all the items which went before. Make it more complicated by encouraging the use of adjectives. Discuss gender differences for the use of those adjectives and help the children to get some oral practice at the same time. You could extend the game further by listing different activities which will be done (or which must/could/should be done – squeeze in some modal verbs!) in order to prepare for the festive season.
4.Try to highlight the similarities and differences between the country in which you are teaching and the way that the festival is celebrated in the target language area. This kind of cultural input is what brings language-learning to life and makes it all more interesting. You could produce a “letter from a penfriend” to talk about their country and encourage students to write back to them for an independent writing task.
5.Use traditional tales, legends etc. You could use card sorting to order the traditional nativity story, to explain about St Nikolaus visiting German children on December 5, to tell the story of how the church bells bring the chocolate eggs to French children at Easter etc. Students could be encouraged to tell the story of one of their own festivals in a similar way.
Time pressure is always a challenge, especially in the GCSE course, but the ideas above could also be adapted to be used in an extra-curricular language club, or as a one-off lunchtime activity for those who have more than 20 minutes to eat.
In the meantime – Joyeux Noël, Frohe Weihnachten – and Merry Christmas!
School has started and many children are facing their first formal lessons in a second (or third) language. These early days are the best time to start those great study habits which will stand them in good stead in the years to come, and hopefully save you a lot of stress and tutor fees in the future!
1.A vocabulary book. Way back when I was at school (not quite as long ago as Queen Victoria!), we had vocabulary notebooks. These were brought out for every lesson and we carefully noted down the new words so we could learn them for our weekly vocab test. Schools and learning methods have moved on but I still recommend one of these as you can take it with you from year to year, it gathers all the useful words together by topic and the teacher will never deprive you of it while they mark your homework.
How to set one up? It’s fairly simple – buy a notebook (an A5 one will do and they are not expensive). Fold the page down the middle, lengthways, so that you have two columns. Write the title at the top and then the target language in the left column and your home language in the right column. Bingo. If you are tackling a short topic such as numbers, then one or two pages will do. If you think the topic may end up as a long one, for example food, then leave a spare page or two so you can add extra words later.
Important – when writing down your new words make sure you include the gender and the plural if it is a noun, details if it is irregular, the past participle if it is a verb and any other useful information. As one example, German has three different genders for nouns and you definitely don’t want to have to go back and re-learn them all in time for Year 11 exams! You could try highlighting them in a different colour for each gender.
2.A grammar folder. There will be lots of grammar concepts to learn in the new language. These will probably come in steady dribs and drabs over the next three to four years and believe me, it is a real pain having to flick through old exercise books from several years ago in order to find something.
How to set one up? Buy an A4 folder, in whatever colour you like, and a set of dividers. Each time you learn a new grammar concept e.g. the present tense, adjective endings, word order etc you write it up onto a sheet of paper. Use highlighter pens, underlining, diagrams or whatever seems appropriate. Then file it in your folder under an appropriate subject heading e.g. “Tenses”.
3.Sticky Notes. Whether you use them for your shopping list, or to leave messages for the family, sticky notes are a common sight in many homes. Whether you get plain yellow ones, coloured ones, funny shapes, or the ones which look like speech bubbles, they can be fantastic for vocabulary learning. The obvious idea is to label the items you are trying to learn e.g. “door”, “table”, “toaster” but you could also just write any other word that you need to learn and then stick them up around the home as a regular reminder. Move them around regularly so you don’t get too used to them – or write your target language on one note and your home language on another, then try to match them up. Invest. Invest in sticky notes, now!
4.Regular practice time. Trying to learn a new grammar idea, or a list of words is much better done in several short bursts each week rather than one mammoth session. It is much more likely to stick if you have practised more than once. You could try focused learning for 10 minutes, three times per week. Or do as some of our students do and put your list near the kettle (or on the back of the bathroom door) so you see it regularly.
5.Vocab tests. Whether or not your school does regular testing of vocab, it is a simple thing to write a list of the words you are learning (just your home language) and then slip it into a folder for later. When it comes to revision time you have a handy set of tests you can use to see how well you know the topic.
It may be a bit of an effort to help your child to set these habits at the beginning of their language learning time, but it will almost certainly save time later on and hopefully help to streamline the learning process for them.
Going on holiday with children? Going to a country where English is not the first language? Here are some tips from us to help make the holiday a bit easier, and to encourage your children to learn to enjoy learning about the country and its language too!
·Talk to your children about the language/s spoken at your destination. Help them to understand that not everybody speaks the same language.
·Learn some key phrases together. Words like “please” and “thank you” in the local language can bring a much better level of service, especially when uttered by the younger members of the party!
·Find out about the local food specialities and talk about what you might like to try. Sounding excited about it will help to encourage your child to try new things.
·If you have a real favourite food, see if you could take some with you. A few familiar snacks can go a long way to soothing tired and frustrated children. They can also be life-savers if the flight is delayed!
·While on your holiday, try to point out words and phrases that you know. Keeping an eye out for things such as “toilet”, “exit” or even “ice cream” can entertain the youngsters in a strange town and help them to see the point of learning a new language.
·Why not encourage your child to use the language themselves? The sense of pride when they successfully buy bread at the baker, ask for their own ice cream, or order the train tickets themselves (depending on age) is something that could stick with them for a long time.
·Think about the worst case scenario – what if your child gets lost? Consider giving them a contact card to keep in a pocket. It could include key information such as their name, the languages they speak, any medical conditions and your mobile number or accommodation details. A bit of time taken to get this information in the destination language could save a lot of time and hassle if your little one gets lost. You could do the same for adults too, just in case!