ESL Classroom Troubleshooting: ✅ TEFL Challenges for Students of Various Ages
When starting a teaching career, it is necessary to be aware of the different difficulties groups of learners one will encounter. This includes young learners, beginners, multilingual, adults, and many more. Each group has a different class attitude and learning ability. While there are hundreds of different teaching activities and styles, not all of them will work with each group. It is important to distinguish the most useful from differing classes.
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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Kellyann E. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
When speaking of adult students, they are typically more motivated, eager to learn, and have many life experiences to relate to their learning upon arriving at class. While it can be intimidating teaching a room full of adults, they are usually very attentive and receptive to what the teacher is talking about. However, adults also have difficulties that need to be thought out as well. Some of these difficulties include confidence with the language, nerves, and using the native language directly for learning a new language. Adult learners often enter a new class with a lot of language knowledge already because they have had the opportunity to take it throughout the years. This also means that each learner has experienced failure and success.
Adults can have lower confidence in their abilities because after experiencing failure a certain number of times, they tend to think they can't learn the language. It is also more nerve-wracking for adults to participate in front of the class because they are more worried about making a mistake in front of others than the younger learners. When thinking of what learning mode the students use, the teacher needs to consider the class's difficulties. If it were some of the above difficulties, it would be helpful to not do an activity that puts individual students on the spot and instead pair students together. If one were to put individual students on the spot (adult students with the same difficulties listed above), the teacher would have a non-responsive class with lower motivation. This is because the students are too worried about saying something wrong in front of the teacher and other students, so they just decide not to participate.
By pairing the adult learners up, it creates an atmosphere where everyone is talking and practicing while not being worried about overhearing others making mistakes and themselves. Adult learners are also typically more tired than young learners because they usually attend class after a long workday or week. This can be combated by keeping activities dynamic and not dragging out each activity.
Contrary to adult learners, some young learners could be anywhere between preschoolers and 18 years of age. However, there are three different categories of young learners depending on their age. Preschoolers to 7 years old are the youngest group of learners. These are the students that a teacher needs to be ready to switch up activities quickly and efficiently to maintain students' attentiveness. Often the youngest learners have the lowest level of language but are also quick learners but lose attention the quickest. Therefore, it is efficient for the teacher to use visuals the most during this age group. This group will not retain any long words that were just written down.
The second group of young learners is the 8 to 12-year old. At these ages, the teacher does not need to use visual-only aids, but these are still helpful to explain new vocabulary. This is also the prime time students learn grammar, structure, and overall pronunciation because they are more receptive than their younger counterparts but still motivated to learn the language. This is when teachers can start to introduce worksheets best during their classes because now the students have a small grasp of the language's basics.
However, it is still important to be aware of the actual level the class can demonstrate in the language and maintain their attention throughout the class with games and activities. The final group of learners, which can also be considered one of the groups that a teacher has to do the most troubleshooting with, is 13 to 18-year old. Once students hit these ages, they are not as motivated because it is typically not an option that the students attend these classes. This is unlike adult learners, who choose to attend class. This age group is also one of the most self-conscious because they are aware of their mistakes and do not want to be embarrassed in front of others. A way to combat the motivation is by doing dynamic activities, like what a teacher should do with the adults.
However, these can still be very fun and active games to ensure attentiveness in the classroom. These student's learning model has differed since they will now have more trouble grasping the language since they are scared to make mistakes. A teacher can change this by doing group and pair work. By doing this, a teacher encourages the students to teach their peers and learn from their peers (which builds rapport among the class and motivation to learn).By building class rapport, the students become more comfortable participating in the class, which encourages learning the new language.
There are many techniques a teacher can use to troubleshoot in the classroom, and the above ones are just a few. The ideas will differ with each classroom, but it is always important for a teacher to stay attentive to their class and spot the difficulties as quickly as possible. By doing this, the teacher will build trust in their class, and the students will also be more inclined to pay attention and learn. That is why troubleshooting is such an important part of being an educator.
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