Private tutoring is a great way to make extra money teaching English, even without an official certification. During my time as a language assistant, I taught private lessons every day after work to kids and adults.
Parents understandably prefer home tutoring, where the teacher travels and gives lessons at home to the child. Teaching from home opens up an entire world of possibilities for lessons: the classroom has everything that’s most essential and most personalized to your student! Lean in to this location, especially when tutoring general ESL to young learners.
The key to fun and engaging at-home lessons with kids is authentic play and interaction. Here are some of my best activities for tutoring one to three children at their home.
My Favorite Things
This is always part of my first lesson. Ask the child to show you three of their favorite things, and then pose questions about the objects. Not only can you learn more about the personality and interest of your student, but you can also use the question and answer session to gauge their level and get a better understanding of their strengths and needs.
Another great activity early on in your relationship, the house tour is a classic activity. This activity is great for practicing rooms of the house and household nouns, some of the first things children learn in school. Depending on the family and the child, you can do this one-on-one with the child and together with the parents. Some parents prefer to give you the tour themselves when you first arrive; this is an opportunity to bond and build trust in each other by taking the tour together. Usually this tour happens in a mix of English and the native language, which can also ease a nervous student into first-time English lessons. More outgoing children sometimes enjoy showing off their existing knowledge to you and their parents.
Obviously, the daily space is perfect for teaching daily routines! There are so many activities to do with daily routines: have the student describe and show their daily routine in actions and words, associate routines with the room they take place in, have them write down their routine then do it themselves and test how well they remembered their own routine.
Clothing is a frequent and early theme for kids learning English in school, but very rarely do they get to connect all the language they’re learning at school with their own wardrobe. One of my favorite activities is to ask students to design an outfit for every season. They pull shoes and garments from their own collection and then present.
With teenage fashion-obsessed students, I’ve extended this activity into creating social media posts and mood boards, fashion magazine spreads, and fashion interview role plays.
You can also have a lot of fun asking students to create the craziest look possible. If you let them style you and wear the look, that will be even better.
The kitchen is often overlooked as a room for English education in the home, but it’s one of the best for teaching everything from food names and cooking verbs to numbers and instructions. Making food together is one of the best activities you can do. Cooking is a total sensory experience, which makes it extremely engaging.
I like to start with a recipe of my own. I recommend baking recipes since they’re usually safer for kids (no open flame, no boiling), and, therefore, easier for kids of different ages to be actively involved in. You should avoid recipes that require you to do any culinary heavy lifting, since while you’re cooking you also need to be guiding and teaching. Kids enjoy measuring and pouring wet and dry ingredients, and even young children know how to stir. Baking also gives you time while it’s in the oven to clean up together before eating. I recommend always tasting last since it is hard to get them away from eating once they’ve started. It is also nice to invite the parents to share the snack with you.
I like to make a simple American dessert (brownies, anyone?) together first, and then, after a few more lessons about cooking, have students prepare a recipe of their own for us to make together. You can extend this activity by making it a cooking show role play and, depending on the student’s age, acting as sous-chef, letting them boss you around (in English, of course) and practice informal commands.
Workout and Dance Routines
Most children love to move and love to see adults moving, too. Workout and dance routines are a perfect way to get kids moving and using English. Start with key vocabulary: turn, spin, jump, run, etc., and once they’re consistently connecting the word to the movement (I recommend charades for that part), do a personal trainer or choreographer role play.
First, you’re the trainer. If you have a baseball cap and clipboard, that’s even better. Interview your client and find out what kinds of activities they like and their fitness goals. Then write a workout for them. You can stick with the basic verbs or add numbers, e.g., jump 7 times. Choose a workout song and go full on with the “coaching.” The key is repetition and hamming it up as the coach. Show them the moves in a walk-through, then a practice run, then a final performance.
Then switch roles and get ready to sweat. I highly recommend using some sort of marker, e.g., a hat, a whistle, to help the student really get into that coach mindset. The clipboard is also an excellent prop. Every single time I’ve done this activity, the power trip that comes with a clipboard makes students not just willing but hyped to write down a routine then consult with it throughout the training session.
Of course we don’t all have the joints of an eight-year-old. That’s why I include the interview portion. Just like in real life, you have to accommodate different fitness and mobility levels. You can also do this activity with low-impact movements drawn from tai chi, yoga, and dance.
I hope these ideas have inspired you to really utilize the at-home space and bring some fresh activities to your at-home lessons with kids!
For more tips about being a freelance English teacher (to kids and adults) check out my blog post: How to Be a Freelance English Teacher.