Trial Lessons

After 20 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 wehave lots of lessons and of course, we 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 elementary 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 us by employing the same philosophies at home during homework time.


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. 


What do you do?


Dave and Amy


Write a comment

Comments: 4
  • #1

    Julian Whitney (Tuesday, 02 July 2019 12:26)

    Thank you for this detailed, and well-linked, description. We have very similar procedures here in Nara but have never written it down so well! One difference is that we don't mind our students using Japanese although we nearly always reply and continue the conversation in English. Personally, I think it's quite good for the students to chat away irrespective of which language. Parents find it amusingly puzzling to see a 'foreigner' chatting away with their children in some sort of hybrid! This might be because Nara still has a somewhat 'rural' mindset. I would be interested to hear your take on this. Thank you again, we really appreciate your kind dedication to the profession.

  • #2

    Amy (Wednesday, 03 July 2019 11:54)

    I think things depend on how long your lessons are also. Ours are only 1 hour a week, so we want as little Japanese as possible. It would be interesting to see everyone's lessons.

  • #3

    Ross (Monday, 15 July 2019 21:37)

    Thank you so much for sharing all this valuable info!

    I had a really hard time determining how to structure the trial lesson, but your post brought up a fantastic point that it is all about getting the parents to understand what it is you do and why. I just had my first trial lesson with some 7 year olds with a 3 year old in the classroom. At one point the 3 year old decided to sit at the front of the class and pretend he was part of the class too. The class didn't go as smoothly as a normal class would, but it was full of giggles, and the parents were able to see me teach and understand what I was trying to do.

    This post helped me a lot!

    Thanks a million!

  • #4

    Amy (Monday, 15 July 2019 22:05)

    Thank you Ross. I wrote this post a number of years ago--but we still do the same thing. It really does work. Good luck with your recruitment. Amy