Best Practices for Tutors
Dear Blabu Tutors, we highly value your teaching experience and effort that you put into every call with Blabu students. From your feedback, we can tell that many of you already have great strategies and teaching tricks that you put in place automatically. Please, keep doing that. For those of you who might struggle sometimes or would be interested in new ideas or a little bit of structure, we have put together basic tutor guidelines that we hope you find useful.
Practicalities before the call
- sit alone in a quiet room with a good Internet connection
- use headphones
- always accept the call, make sure you have your volume up so you can hear the ringtone, you have 2 minutes to accept the call
- if you have any problems with Blabu, refresh the page, log out and log in again
- if possible, make a print screen and more information about the problem and send it to me
Fear is our main enemy
One topic keeps coming back and it is FEAR. Fear of speaking English, fear of speaking with a native speaker and fear of making mistakes. According to research, fear of speaking a foreign language is actually bigger than fear of flying!
We are working on helping the student to overcome it just enough to make a call but the second and key part is on you guys, especially in the first call of the user.
Please, watch out for any signs of nervosity and actively calm the students down. Greet them with a smile and start the first conversation gently, do not bombard the student with questions.
“Oh my God, my English is so bad”
Pay close attention to expressions like “oh my God, my English is so bad”, “I am sorry” after every mistake or any variety of these. Assure the student that he/she is doing good, cheer them up during the call, try to create a growth mindset and diffuse the fear of mistakes, e.g.” Mistake is your best friend, you cannot learn otherwise:” Make them feel good about trying.
I believe that all of you are more than familiar with this problem and handle it face to face smoothly but it seems like it multiplies in an online environment, therefore there is never too much of assuring or cheering up, please, try to remember it for your next calls:).
Start of the call = first impression
In the user’s first call, you are creating the first impression of our platform and practically deciding whether student comes back or not. Therefore, the first call and the beginning especially should be handled with care.
Make sure you sit straight up and look into the camera
Wave your hand at the student and smile.
Give a short introduction of yourself (your name & where are you from / where you live)
Ask your students whether they have a specific topic they’d like to talk about
Calm down and encourage the student
After a brief introduction, encourage the student and appreciate that they showed up for themselves today.
I am very happy to see you today working on your language skills.
I am happy that you took this time for yourself today and I will help you to get better in the best way I can.
It is great that you decided improve your languages skills with me today.
Reassure the student if you notice they struggle to express themselves or are unsure about their language abilities. It is not unusual that students apologize after every second word unable to shift focus from avoiding mistakes to the growth mindset. This is unfortunate by product of many educational systems (central and eastern Europe especially) that conditioned people to fear failure.
I hope you will make as many mistakes as possible today, so we can sky rocket your learning.
Mistake is our best friend.
Try to think about a baby. If it kept apologizing after every time it fell, it would never learn to walk.
Set the feedback rules during the first 3 min of the call. Ask the student if they wish to be corrected immediately or they prefer a short feedback at the end or half of the call. It is highly individual, some people thrive on constant feedback, for some, over correction can completely block their ability to speak.
In any case, try to note down the problematic expressions and provide the feedback in any way agreed. Also, it can be useful to try to use the incorrect structure or a word in the correct way while interacting with the student without pointing out that it was an error. Try to repeat new words or grammar pieces throughout the conversation.
Ideally, write corrections into the chat for students to review later.
Find the „why“
From our perspective, language learning works much better and faster when people have inner motivation to do so. Once a tutor finds out what motivates a person to learn, they can adjust and make the learning much more efficient. (exemples: scholarship for studies abroad based on language abilities, job opportunity, foreign partner, interest in particular country or culture etc.)
Nevertheless, inner motivation is hard to find in just 15 minutes if student does not explicitly express it. What is easier to find is passion or hobby this person enjoys talking about.
Try to dig a little and discover what your students love or love doing and make them talk about that. Once you find that one thing that makes them shine, try to ask as many open questions as possible, if you are familiar with the topic, try adding some valuable information or tricks. Try to be as supportive and empathetic as possible. Make the student feel safe, slow down your speech if you see that student struggles. Cheer them up for trying.
Provide feedback, ask questions
Based on what you agreed, correct your student’s mistakes.
Explain any words that your student is unfamiliar with
Be positive and open-minded
If the discussion comes to a halt, ask new questions or change topics
Sometimes students lack an extensive vocabulary and they will respond with one-word-answers. Ask they the following questions: “why it is so,” “can you explain why …,” etc.
Wrap up the conversation
We are working on a feature that will notify you in the future but for now try to watch out for the time running out.
Wrap up the discussion
Do not forget about providing feedback
Let the student know that they can activate notification for the next time you are online
If the call went well, ask the student to give you good rating and mention Blabu to friends
Say goodbye by waving your hand
Sent corrections by chat after the call if necessary
General Do's and Dont's
Make sure your camera and microphone works well
If possible, use headphones with mic - improves the sound and overall quality of the call
If your Internet connection is unpredictable, move your computer or device somewhere else where the connection is reliable.
Make sure you are sitting alone in a quiet room with good internet connection and good acoustics
Choose a chair where you can sit up straight, confidently, and with your shoulders squared. Do not slouch.
A distracting background is worse than you may think: Make sure that your video background looks tidy and professional
Listen carefully to your student
Never mock the student or show that you are irritated by their mistakes.
Never force the student to talk about topics he/she is clearly uncomfortable with (same goes for you, of course!, please see our code of conduct!)
Never leave the student without feedback and recommendation of what to work on and if possible some further resources.
Think of yourself as a guide to the English language. You do not need to work through a textbook, or to prepare exercises or homework. You only need to have conversations and answer any questions that might come up while providing corrections for the student. In the process you will be modelling correct, naturally spoken English and giving the students a chance to experience an authentic language exchange. Think of the video calls as talking to your family or friends.
Call structure check list
- first impression
- calm the student down, appreciate and encourage
- reassure - Mistakes is your best friend
- feedback rules
- find inner motivation/passions and interests
- be supportive and empathetic, avoid no go´s
- provide feedback
- thank the student for the call
- ask for a good review/tell them to get notified next time you are online
What to do when student does not speak at all or very much struggles?
you have tried to find hobbies or passions and it did not work
situation is getting awkward, students is visibly uncomfortable
Ask the student if they understand you:
Reassure them - “Hey, no worries, it is completely normal. You showed up today and that is enough. Try to take a deep breath and focus on me, ok?”
You can read to the student.
Have a short emergency text ready - simple children fairytale book, short article about travelling, lyrics of a popular song etc. Verify while reading that student follows, try to ask simple questions about what you just read to them.
Make the student read something
Share your emergency text with the student through Blabu and make them read aloud and correct them.
Have some links to pictures ready
For example: screenshots of popular sitcoms, situational pictures, postcards, magazines. Ask the students to describe the pictures; make up stories about what they see.
Make them laugh
Our personal favorite is Simon´s cat, surprisingly simple and funny material that student can describe, tell stories about or comment on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbgXZtYeyoY
Use very simple structures and expressions.
Try writing to the student using the chat.
How are you today?
How long do you learn English?
What is your favorite book?
Do you have a family?
Do you have a pet?
Do you like travelling?
If a student starts reacting, switch to strategies YES, if not, it is not your fault, we know you did your best and some students will need to work a little more on their language base to be able to face native speaker☺.