As a TEFL teacher, your students and their age group have a great impact on your teaching abroad experience. Whether you are doing this on a gap year or want to make it a full-time career, you will come across different kind of people who can be children, teens or adults. You may find it easy to teach a specific age group, say children, but it is not necessary that you will be teaching children only. TEFL abroad is a profession where you can expect people of your age or even elder sitting in front of you as your students. This is because language schools have a mix of students. You may be asked to mentor and train 10-year-olds even if you have no experience in teaching the kids. Or there can be those with an intention to learn business English or they simply want to improve their English language skills. It is really important that you clearly identify the intentions of your students in the first place that what is the reason that they are taking your class. Then it will become much easier to meet the needs of learners and to achieve the learning objectives associated with the course you are teaching.
Having a good sense of age group differences is the first step towards becoming a successful TEFL teacher. Each group has different reasons for being in the ESL class, they also have different learning styles and varying level of self-motivation. Such differences explain that why and how children and adults learn and if you remember these differences, you will be in a good position to decide what to include in the lesson plan and how to help the learners to become more productive.
Major Differences Between Children and Adult Leaner That You Should Know
- The level of self-motivation varies across different age groups
Why your students are attending your TEFL class and what are their reasons for being here? Once you figure out the answer to these questions, you will be able to become more effective at delivering quality lessons to your class.
Kids have no particular motivation to be in class and to learn a new language. Anyone who has taught a class of children knows the struggle to keep them attentive and to get them to pay attention to what is being taught to them. The only thing which stimulates their senses is curiosity and a lesson planned in a creative and interesting way can keep them motivated and engaged.
While adults have some specific goals which they want to achieve during their course tenure. Some of them might want to learn business English to find greater career opportunities while other may be attending the class to brush up their English language skills or some might be planning to move overseas for higher studies. Whatever the case is, one thing is sure in the case of adults that they are committed and motivated to learn in order to meet their goal in life. But that doesn’t mean that classroom management is not required for adults and you still need to monitor and guide them so that they may get maximum out of your course.
Check out some useful way to motivate ESL students in the class.
- Both adults and kids learn a new language differently
Every one of us has different language learning skills at different stages of our lives and understanding them is specifically important for you being a TEFL teacher. For instance, the language learning ability of children is quite strong as compared to their adult counterparts. They can easily grasp the lessons of vocabulary and pronunciation and it also sticks to their minds for the coming years. So, we can say that they all are more or less on the same page while learning a new English lesson.
However, this natural learning ability weakens as they get older. That is why, adult learners will have a different level of learning difficulties because, after adolescence, it becomes harder to get along with a second language. And if English language is a whole new territory for your adult ESL students and they have no previous exposure to it, then teaching and learning may become a daunting experience for both parties.
Tips for Teaching English to Adults
Teaching adult students comes with its own challenges and rewards. The people in your class will come from diverse backgrounds and different walks of life and will be having varying objectives and expectations. Such class will occur in a more structured and formal setting and the real challenge will be planning and adapting a lesson which perfectly matches their specific needs. Consider these tips while managing and mentoring a class of adults;
- Real-life applications and examples work best for adults: Keep in mind that your adult students have grown out of the age of curiosity which is a natural part of kids’ mental makeup. Which means that there must be some immediate purpose as well as real-life examples to boost their level of motivation. Some useful practices can be the use of newspapers, product descriptions, and job applications during class activities.
- Language proficiency is not an indicator of their intelligence: The intelligence level of a person cannot be determined on the bases of their knowledge about a specific language. If your adult students fail to do well at learning the language, it doesn’t mean that they are not established professionals in their respective careers. Once you understand this fact, the more it will be easy to create a friendly and welcoming learning environment.
- Understanding their learning styles is also crucial: Unlike children, not all the adult student can be taught using the same generic learning style. This is because learning style is not an inherent part of one’s personality and individuals usually develop it over time. Different adult students have their own long-developed learning styles and figuring them out is important to help them become more productive. Whether it is visual, auditory or anything else, try to use it to make learning a more personalized experience for them.
- Include age-appropriate activities in the lesson plan: No matter your students possess the basic knowledge of the subject matter or are absolute beginners, using songs and children story books will definitely not work. Try to keep the activities and lesson close to their lives and goals. For example, activities related to practicing interview questions or preparing an employment test can help to gain their attention.
- Detailed feedback is important to keep them motivated: kids have a limited understanding of what it means to ‘make progress’. They even become happy if the learning process is interesting. Adults, on the other hand, may need to be reminded regularly that they are doing well and all they need to do is to keep going. Therefore, it is specifically important to give them honest and encouraging feedback on their current performance. Praise them and suggest improvements individually. It will keep their motivation alive.
Tips for Teaching English to children
The key ingredient to effectively teach children is your ability to deliver the lesson in a fun and playful way. The attention span of kids is very limited, and you need to stay active all the time to capture their attention. This experience can be challenging for some but your energy and commitment to this profession can get you a long way. Here are some tips that you can follow while teaching English to kids.
- Careful selection of content: It is obvious that children would be least interested in reading articles about fashion or economy. Even they’ll never want to read at all! So, the content should be geared towards playful practices. You may include storytelling and games because kids are more likely to interact when exposed to these interesting activities.
- Be aware of their short attention span: kids energy level tends to drop very fast. If you are talking for too long or trying to keep them engage using the lengthy exercises, they will become agitated and start to create disturbance. You need to keep them busy with multiple on-going activities and for that, keep a set of some extra activity already prepared to be used when you initial one seems to fail.
- Teach by doing: This strategy will make learning English whole lot easier for kids. For that, singing songs and poems works best to help them pick-up and remember new vocabulary words. You can also try to teach a single concept through multiple ways using visuals, storytelling or singing to figure out what works best for your young learners.
- Over-correction is also dangerous: You need to be non-judgemental and try to keep your feedback as natural as possible. Because kids are not intended to learn in a structured way and if you try to over-correct them, their learning enthusiasm may die. Make them feel good about themselves in order to make their learning experience memorable.
If you want to learn more on how to overcome the challenges of teaching to young and adult leaner, you can get yourself enrolled in TEFL course offered by TEFL Madrid academy, one of the industry leader offering top-notch education in Spain.