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Whether you are an experienced tutor or about to undertake your very first lesson, you want to make a positive first impression, get the student underway on their learning journey, and lets face it – schedule follow-on lessons.

The purpose of this blog post is to give you pointers and things to think about to get the most out of the first lesson.


1. Preparation, preparation, preparation

Find out as much as you can about the student and their problem before the first lesson. Confirm the subject and topics they need help with, the level, exam board and syllabus. Remember to ask them to bring all relevant course materials such as textbooks to the first tutoring lesson so that you can work out together exactly how much course content you need to cover.

Remember to agree a firm date, time and location. It doesn’t hurt to call them the day before and confirm that the lesson is still going ahead.

2.    Create the right environment

Arrange for a quiet place for your lesson, somewhere with no distractions like television. You need to be able to sit alongside the student. Remember to bring all of the teaching materials you need – also bring extra stationery, just in case the student forgets to bring some of their own.

3.    Put the student at ease

Start off by introducing yourself. Tell them about your background and explain why you love your subject. Be professional and friendly, and remember to remind them that you are there to help them and that literally no question they may ask is stupid or silly.

Get them to tell you something about themselves, maybe their families or things that they like and enjoy outside of school. If they are interested in football for example, you may be able to weave this into maths lessons, so keep your ears open.

4.    Establish what’s the problem

Is your student excellent at humanities but daunted by mathematics or the sciences? Are they quick at solving mathematical problems but not so great at expressing themselves? Let them tell you what their problems are. Listen carefully, remembering to ask ‘why’ as this will help you get to the root cause of their problem.

Remember that there are educational tools and methods out there that may be able to help you. For example, if the student has difficulty with memorising large chunks of information then why not introduce them to mind maps. These are great as they are a visual tool which can used to synthesise large bodies of information. They rely on the use of keywords, drawings and even photographs to improve your student’s ability to recall key concepts.

If concentration is an issue, then do not plough on with the lesson, as they are likely to lose interest. Why not consider using teaching styles such as Spaced Learning, which involves interspersing 10-minute learning sessions (in which the tutor presents students with new information) with 10-minute physical activities such as a short run or playing a game. I know that it may sound off the wall, but Spaced Learning is getting extremely positive reviews from teachers, parents and students alike.

5.    Getting through to the student

Students process information in different ways. Some learners are reflective; they need time to mentally digest new information; others are active – they like to learn by doing things. For instance, they might prefer to drive by actually getting in a car and starting the motor, rather than spend time leafing through instruction manuals first; reflective learners will prefer the complete opposite.

Understanding how your student learns can be a really useful way to find the best way to tutor them. You can work with them to workout their learning style. Why not ask the student to complete the Sunburst questionnaire, as it doesn’t take long and will allow you to understand quickly what will work best for the student.

6.    Prepare a Study Plan

Once you have established the problem areas, you can draft a detailed plan of what you want to cover, and how much time you need to cover each topic / sub-topic. Provide a copy to the student so they, too, know the pace at which they need to learn key concepts. This helps manage expectations and remind them that Rome isn’t built in a day.

7.    Make it interesting and fun

Nobody wants tutoring to be dull and boring. 

If you are teaching a humanities-based subject like history, why not enlighten them with interesting information that they may never have known about historical figures. Sharing facts and interesting anecdotes may help make key historical figures and events real. 

8.    Give them homework

It never is too early to encourage students to prepare for the next session!

From the very first class, assign your student work that covers both previously learned material and introduces them to the next topic. Whenever you can, try to make the homework as practical and engaging as you can. Try not to rely completely on text book-and-pen exercises why not try interviews, film reviews and internet searches?

9. Schedule the next lesson 

If the lesson went well, and the student is happy then you should be looking to book follow on lessons. These will be easier to remember if you keep the day, time and location the same.

It’s not uncommon to bill the student in advance of lessons, so finally remember to let them know how much the lessons will cost and provide them with your bank details, so they can pay you direct.

I hope that you have found this blog post useful. If so, please feel free to add your comments and tips on how to make the first lesson with a student go like clockwork via the comments box below.

Other blog posts in our series ‘For Tutors’ can be found at:

Structuring your lessons

8 ways to become a better tutor

12 teaching strategies for more effective tutoring

Developing critical thinking in your students

The importance of teaching values

How to market yourself

Your tax as a self employed tutor

How to set up your website

The best way to tutor University students

Helping a reluctant student

Using learning maps

The importance of teaching values





One Response to “Tips for Tutors: how to ensure that the first lesson goes really well”

  1. Joe

    Awesome article – very helpful posts in-deed. The only thing I would suggest to add coincides with point 2 and 3 above. This really relates to the mindset you have before, during, and after the tutoring session. If you know chemistry, you’re probably familiar with the concept of ‘rate limiting step’ in chemical reactions. What would be the rate limiting step for a tutor that has prepared? In combination with the physical environment, your internal environment – how you see the outcome of the tutoring session – is essential to the success of the lesson. Most tutors slip up because they fail to see themselves tutoring to the best of their abilities before the lesson begins. Try this at least 10 minutes before the session, stop reading your notes and see yourself teaching the lesson. See the positive outcome, believe that you’ll have a positive outcome, and be sure to hype yourself up by saying simple things like ‘I’m going to kill this tutoring session’ or ‘this will be my best tutoring session yet’. This one simple thing will set the grounds for a great lesson. The law of attraction does work. When it works for you, get your students to do the same thing when they tackle every test or assignments and watch their marks jump!

    Reply (3) (3)


  1.  Tips for Tutors: the importance of teaching values | Tutorhub Blog
  2.  Tips for Tutors: How to Market Yourself | Tutorhub Blog
  3.  Tips for tutors: How to Set Up Your Website | Tutorhub Blog
  4.  Tips for tutors: 12 teaching strategies for more effective tutoring | Tutorhub Blog
  5.  Tips for tutors: structuring your lessons | Tutorhub Blog
  6.  Tips for tutors: the best ways to tutor University students | Tutorhub Blog
  7.  Tips for tutors: helping a reluctant student | Tutorhub Blog
  8.  Tips for tutors: Using Learning Maps | Tutorhub Blog
  9.  Tips for tutors: developing critical thinking in your students | Tutorhub Blog
  10.  Tips for tutors: 12 teaching strategies for effective learning | Tutorhub Blog
  11.  Tax allowances for tutors | Tutorhub Blog
  12.  Your tax as a self-employed tutor: time to sort it out | Tutorhub Blog
  13.  Top Tips: Eight ways to become a better tutor | Tutorhub Blog
  14.  The ‘Tips for Tutors’ series | Tutorhub Blog

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