I am currently teaching 24 students of different levels in a single company. Most are one-on-one, with a few classes (maximum 4 people). Their levels range from zero to upper intermediate.
For various reasons I have eschewed Headway-style all-in-one books, and preferred to create custom lessons for each student. At this point however, two questions arise:
1. How do I create a syllabus? I know you could write a book on this subject and I don't expect anyone to do it for me, but I haven't been able to find many internet resources on the subject. About.com has one which has been copied on other sites, but it seems a bit vague to me. I am thinking of looking in the major English course books, seeing how they structure their course, and tailoring their approach to my students' needs.
2. For my lowest-level students (they don't know the verb "to be"), is it legitimate to have them follow an all-in-one coursebook, perhaps supplementing this with activities/games? This would lighten my workload considerably. It's embarrassingly difficult to teach the nuts and bolts of English (for example, the course books I've seen break up teaching question formation into three non-consecutive lessons or so) and it's taking up much of my time. In my opinion they need the foundations before I can start tailoring the lessons to their specific needs and an "off-the-shelf" solution is very appealing.
Any tips or internet resources would be appreciated.
I have found it really helpful to work with themes. As your students are in the same company, there are probably common themes that would be relevant to them. You could create a list of possible themes (perhaps with student input), and you could either choose which of these to use with particular students, or they could choose which are most useful to them.
When you've chosen your themes, you can then look at relevant vocabulary, grammar and functions that would work in that unit. You can use the same theme with low beginners to upper advanced, but you can choose different grammatical features, vocabulary etc. to focus on.
Another nice thing about this approach is that you start to develop a good resource bank that you can use with new students, and you don't feel that you always have to create new materials.
You can find some resources online about the specifics of developing thematic units and syllabi.
I hope this is useful! Feel free to pm me if you want if you have trouble finding resources for developing theme units.