Many teachers wonder how to teach private classes using EFL course books to help provide lessons with an overall structure. However, as most course books are intended for use in a group, these will usually need to be adapted in order to meet the needs and interests of your student as an individual more effectively.


How can we adapt published EFL materials for use in our private classes? This can apply to just about any educational material. This article on UFOs is being used as the example in the following suggestions.


The topics and activities that are used in many course books are designed to take into account a very wide range of possible interests (many of which will not necessarily appeal to your student). Therefore, it is a good idea to choose materials that can be adapted to be more personally relevant to their job, their culture, or other interests. This makes the activity more meaningful, which is also more motivating and memorable.

How to Teach Private Classes Using Personalisation:

To make the activity more personal, you could:

  • Ask your student if they or their friends have had any mysterious experiences.
  • Talk about UFOs or unexplained disappearances in their local history.
  • Discuss how their personal views are similar to or different from those of the reading.


There may be a tendency to move quite quickly through exercises, as you may feel that your student will become bored if they spend too long on one exercise once it has been completed. However, your student can benefit greatly from ‘recycling’ the same material in different ways. This compensates for not having peer interactions that take place in a group class. Therefore, adding activities which ‘recycle’ the same language will allow time for this new language to be processed.

How to Teaching Private Classes Using Recycling:

Further exploiting the text, re-using the material in order to increase the student’s exposure to the new language. For further practice, you could ask some open-ended questions, such as: “How many people believe in UFOs?” “Why do you think people believe in UFOs?” Or you could allocate a few minutes of quiet reading time when both you and your student can prepare additional questions about the text, either verbally or in writing. Alternatively, you could decide to focus on note-taking skills by asking your student to make a flowchart diagram of the events in the story. Maybe for a student who needs fluency practice, you could try one of these speaking activities:

  • Role-play a conversation between the author of the article and a friend.
  • Role-play an interview between the author of the article and a UFO-sceptic or a UFO-believer.
  • Role-play an interview between Gareth Thomas and the news reporter who wrote the article.

Take advantage of the freedom that is offered in private lessons to create unique, personalised lessons in which you can really get the most out of your student and your student can maximise their time with you. A version of this article originally appeared in Shane English School Taiwan’s Teachers’ News, Volume 13, Issue 6. The original was written by Daniel Mendoza. Do you have anything tips you want to add about how to teach private classes? Leave us a comment below.

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