You’re a new ESL / EFL teacher. You have a one-to-one English lesson booked and it’s your first meeting with your student. Or perhaps you’re teaching a new English class or substituting for another teacher. You haven’t had a lot of time to prepare and you have no idea what to do first. You want to break the ice and get to know your student or class. You feel stressed and overwhelmed. Easy. Relax. I’ve prepared a solution for you, read on.

A Handy Booklet

In your emergency, improvisation toolkit, carry around a simple ‘All About You’ / ‘Things About Me’ booklet. This handy time-saver is filled with questions you can ask about a student’s background, their English learning, hobbies and interests, likes and dislikes and more. It will help you get through that first lesson or that emergency substitution session, and help you build a profile of your English learner/s.
You can take the idea, rename it, adapt it and prepare a questionnaire which your students can use to gather information about you too. In future lessons, discussions can be held about common interests, likes and dislikes or interesting personal facts.

Here’s one I prepared earlier

Perhaps you don’t have time to prepare such a booklet. I’ve prepared one for downloading which you can use. Once you have the general format of this informal questionnaire, you can change it according to your teaching needs.

Some of the benefits of this simple but essential booklet are:

  • You can gather a lot of information easily.
  • You will have all the contact information you need in one place.
  • You can use it to practise speaking, listening, reading and writing depending on how you wish to present and use it.
  • You can gain a basic idea of a student’s level of language skills which can be checked further in follow-up lessons.
  • You can pinpoint quickly difficulties a student may feel they have in English.
  • You can gather ideas for topics and talking points for future lessons based on likes / dislikes / hobbies and interests.
  • You can personalise the learning experience and provide meaningful content.
  • The student will feel you are interested in them. The more our students feel we paying them attention, the more invested they become in their lessons.
  • You can get an idea of how a student feels about school and studying.
  • You can start to understand where a student’s strengths and weaknesses lie in other subjects.

You can find more about this essential toolkit and other useful guidebooks in the Free Resources page or download it here.
I hope you find it useful!


Please ensure that any information collected is with the consent of the student or a parent. Before collecting any information, personal or diagnostic, communicate directly with students or if necessary parents to preempt confusion and misunderstanding.  They need to be informed that any information you collect is used for valid purposes only that have been clearly explained and information will not used in any way that is incompatible with those purposes. Also ensure the information is kept securely and only for as long as necessary and is to be used for the purposes they have been informed about.

2 thoughts on “Teachers: An Essential ‘I’ve No Time To Prepare’ Solution

  1. Thank you ma’am Lesley for the great work. This will go a long way to help some ESL/EFL teachers to perfect their output.

    1. Thank you for your compliments. I hope so. My aim is to get years of experience and studying out there to help teachers help their students. All the best!

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