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Trial Lessons: What to Do / Not to Do and Why

After 12 years in business, Dave and I think we have hit upon the best way to do trial lessons.    


Before I outline what we do, I will say what we don’t do and why.     


All of what we DON’T do, we DID do for years.    BUT we changed to our current system 5 years ago and haven’t gone back.


  1. We don’t allow trial lesson students to join in in existing lessons, with Moms/ Dads watching because:
  • It disrupts the class.   My responsibility is first and foremost to my paying students.  When a trial lesson student joins in, the lesson is disrupted as you accommodate the new student.    And of course, if Mom brings younger siblings, your lesson can be VERY disrupted.  


  • without a level check, you have no idea of the child’s level and the child can try a lesson that is too easy or too difficult.  


  • And finally : WHATEVER class the trial student joins, the Mom will think it is TOO EASY or TOO DIFFICULT for their child (even if it is actually the perfect level).    And even if you explain that you have lots of lessons and of course, you have a lesson to fit their child, they often are not interested after seeing the 1 lesson.   


2.   We don’t allow children to join in lessons for 1 or 2 months for free or at a reduced rate because:


  • Again, it disrupts the lesson.


  • We want students to hit the ground running:   learning and leveling up.   If they are not even sure if they are in the lesson or not, how can they fully participate, doing weekly homework, wanting to challenge themselves?



3.  What we DO do is trial lesson lessons (either solely or with other trial lesson students of the same level) .    This is the way it works:


  • New students call and I get information from the Mom:   name, age, what experience with English they have had (as detailed as possible), and then I sign them up for a trial lesson.    


  • If a child is a beginner kindergarten student or a beginner elementary student and we have other beginners, then we will make a group kinder trial or a group elementary trial.    Up to 4 in 1 group.     We normally have 6 in a lesson, but for the trial, I like 4 max because:


  • it’s not just the student.  It is a family day out with Mom/ Dad/ siblings…. (I even had a 3 month old baby one time) so 4 times 3 or 4 is 12 to 16 in your room—that is enough


  • even though you have screened with the experience question, 1 child can really throw off the entire trial if they are not actually beginner and the other Moms think, oh this is too difficult because 1 child is answering everything and their child is answering nothing.   With 4 kids, I can usually control the situation, explaining that there are 2 different levels and that we would recommend 2 different classes: one for the beginners and one for the child who has studied before.


  • If a child has had experience with English, we do a level check and then a trial lesson with just that trial and parent:


  • In the level check I check the child’s speaking, reading and writing levels.


  • When I know the child’s level, then I can do a lesson for their level, showing what we would normally do in the lesson.



In the trial lesson, I will:

*   Greet the child/ parents warmly and direct them where to sit // put their bags.

*   Check names, ages….

*   Give them a list of lessons that they can join after the trial.    Include on the list how many spaces in the class are available (1 space left—-better join now)   Showing parents the list before the trial is super important.    Have the parents thinking straight away about what day/ time they want to join.   Many times, parents have already decided they want to join our school and when I give them the list, they say (before they trial has begun), Airi will join the Monday 4:00.   And if they don’t already know which class they want, then they can be thinking during the trial when is good.  


  • Do a mini lesson.


  • Explain what I am doing and why in Japanese as I do the trial lesson.   I want the Moms and Dads to know the reasoning behind why we do what we do—-basically the philosophies of your school.      Of course, I begin the trial lesson by saying—-in normal lessons, there is no Japanese, but for the sake of the parents, I will explain what we do and why in Japanese.


  • Finish, ask any questions and explain about joining.   You can join today.    This month’s fee is ____.   From next month will be _____.     


  • Give joiners bags, books, homework…..



A few notes:

This individual treatment does take time—-but the benefits are:

  • I meet every new student.


  • All Moms/ Dads know how we teach and why.   They help me by employing the same philosophies at home, making our students even stronger.


We don’t offer discounts for joining on the day.   I want students joining because they want to join, not because they feel pressured to make a decision.    I find 90 % of trial lesson students sign up anyway.     Most do sign up on the day, but a few will think about it and call in the next week. 



A few more notes:

  • if a Mom calls saying, I have 5 friends, can you do a group trial lesson for us, be wary.  In our experience, your trial lesson can be a day out for most the Moms in this type of group.   And they have no intention of signing up (1 big clue is the Moms chatting to each other paying no attention to the lesson).     I will say–yes, we can do a trial lesson, but not all together.   


  •  We do trials all year round.  And have students joining throughout the year.  The exception is the latter half of July and August.    Maybe it’s the heat (or could have been the cockroach that flew out of the air conditioning onto a trial lesson student)—-but we find that new students don’t join in the summer.    So we wait until school has started to do trials.   


How about at your school?


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