Teaching Tips Tuesday: Best Practices for Teaching English Outside of the Classroom Setting

An image of a house on a cube.

Teaching English abroad doesn’t have to be limited to job contracts in a classroom; there are many opportunities to make some extra income as an English tutor offering private lessons. For travelers looking to immerse themselves in the culture and language of another country, teaching English in a homestay is another unique opportunity to live with a host family in exchange for food and accommodation during your travels.

While our previous teaching tips have focused on motivating students in a classroom setting, below are some best practices for tutoring English in a homestay environment. These ideas turn a living room into a classroom or a dining table into a desk.

Whether tutoring one-on-one or an entire family at the same time – the following tips and bits of advice are ideal for teaching English in a home setting.

Preposition word cards for "Prepositions Hunt".

Preposition word cards for “Prepositions Hunt”.

Utilize the Living Space

Once you know the space in which you’ll be tutoring, find out if there are any areas off limits before facilitating an activity such as “Prepositions Hunt”.

How to play ‘Prepositions Hunt’:

  • This activity works especially well for prepositions describing place such as: in, on, under, over, in front and behind.
  • Write out the above words on pieces of paper or print this PDF of word cards to use.
  • Hide the word cards in, on, under, over, in front and behind objects around the house – or within one room of the home.
  • Allow your student(s) a certain amount of time to find some or all of the cards.
  • Practice the found prepositions after the activity has finished.


  • When using ‘Prepositions Hunt’ with more than one family member, try crafting it into a friendly competition to see who can find the most!
  • Any vocabulary word or short English phrase could be used instead of prepositions to make this activity into more of a general “hunt”.


  • Never underestimate the power of play in the learning environment.
  • Doing something like the ‘Prepositions Hunt’ works well for one student, siblings, or an entire family at once.
Colored pencils and markers for teaching materials.

Colored pencils and markers for teaching materials.

Be Resourceful

Similar to using the space within a homestay for dynamic lessons, understanding what resources are available for you to use in the house is also important as an English tutor.

Here are some questions to ask before your first lesson:

  • Will you have a whiteboard or a chalkboard available?
  • Do you have access to a computer and/or a printer?
  • What’s the Internet connection like?
  • Does the family have a stock of board games?
  • Is there an English dictionary or thesaurus collecting dust on a shelf?
  • Are crayons, markers or colored pencils hiding in drawers?


  • Once you know the materials you have to use, you’ll be able to better sculpt your lessons.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for certain items!

Books and thesauruses on a shelf.

Books and thesauruses on a shelf.

Befriend a Thesaurus

One of the best ways to help students increase fluency is to expand their vocabulary. And what better way to do this than synonym practice? Many Thesauruses such as the Oxford English Thesaurus for Schools give access to websites with very helpful lesson plan ideas and interactive games as well.

The advantage of teaching English in a homestay is being in constant contact with your students. Challenge the family to use newly learned words throughout the day or week.

Recommendation: Pack a Thesaurus!

Images on Rory's "Story Cubes".

Images on Rory’s “Story Cubes”.

Think of Games that can be Played One-on-One 

More often than not, you’ll be tutoring only one student at a time. It’s essential to think of games for two players (teacher included), or ones that can easily be modified for no more than two participants. Something like Rory’s “Story Cubes” works perfectly in one-on-one settings to practice verb tenses in particular. Story cubes help students think, communicate, and be creative with the English language.

Ways to use ‘Story Cubes’ to teach English:

  • Start by helping your student discover possible words for all pictures on the cubes.
  • Identify which verb tense you would like your student to practice.
  • Roll one cube and create an example sentence that incorporates the use of that image.
  • Continue with rolling two or three cubes (up to nine) to make longer stories with one, two or three sentences and so on.
  • Depending on the level of English your student has, stories can be simple or complex.
  • For a fun twist, take turns rolling one cube at a time to build a collaborative story together.

Other suitable games for one-on-one English instruction:



  • ‘Story Cubes’ can also be played with more than two players – get the entire family involved!
  • It would be a good idea to bring any of the games mentioned above with you, or easily create your own versions.
A simple lesson plan list for teaching English.

A simple lesson plan list for teaching English.

Structure Lesson Plans and Designate a Classroom Area

Certain challenges can present themselves when teaching in a homestay. It’s a comfortable environment, which is a good thing on the whole, but depending on which age you’ll be tutoring – this concept of comfort might pose some difficulties.

Perhaps the most efficient way to combat this is to designate a certain area of the home as the “classroom”. This could be the dining table, a comfy couch or even a favorite spot on the rug. In addition, structuring a lesson similar to how an English class would be taught is beneficial.

Typical components of an English lesson plan:

  • Warmer: Start with a short activity to get your student(s) excited and ready to learn.
  • Presentation: Outline learning objectives for the lesson and go over what will be introduced.
  • Practice: Help your students practice new vocabulary, grammar points, and/or expressions as outlined.
  • Production – Come up with one or two engaging ways (such as ‘Story Cubes’) to get your students to produce whatever skill or aspect of English is being instructed.
  • Review: End the lesson on a light note with a quick game for review.

Recommendation: Even if having a ‘classroom’ works best for your specific situation, don’t be afraid to venture outside of that space from time to time to boost excitement and keep the level of motivation high.

It’s common for teachers to offer learning incentives in the classroom. This method of encouragement works quite well while teaching outside of a school, too! Consider incorporating something like a sticker chart or a point system in your private lessons or with a family as well. And check out these other teaching tips we’ve shared for some extra inspiration! 

Would you like even more advice for teaching English in a homestay? Visit our Facebook group!

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