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Teaching Various Groups of Students: Young Learners vs. Adults

Teaching Various Groups of Students: Young Learners vs. Adults | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Not all Teaching English as a Foreign Language is equal. Different types of groups of learners include beginner vs. intermediate/advanced learners as well as monolingual classes vs multilingual classes. Another set of distinctive groups and perhaps the most contrary groups to be aware of are groups of young vs adult learners. In the following comparison, the many ways to ensure success with both types of groups will be discussed, as well as reasons the groups can be both challenging and rewarding.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Paige B. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Group success

There are many ways to ensure the success of a group in one’s classroom, and both young learners and adult learners have different strategies. Through the administration of this course, I have learned that there are certain methods of teaching that are most successful with young learners including the use of repetition. Through songs, rhythmic games, nursery rhymes, and flashcards, young learners practice pronunciation, memorization, and the combination of verbal and communication skills to maintain language retention. Additionally, it is known that young learners respond better to a higher pitch and pronounced voice, as well as direct references to the child itself or the activity being completed. Comparatively, teaching adult learners can be much more direct and include less singing and rhyming (though that isn’t to say it should be completely omitted!). Usually, adult learners approach a classroom with clearly set goals such as learning English to further their careers or occupations. Knowing this, a Needs Analysis

Also Read: 4 Essential Tools For Teaching ESL Online

Needs Analysis

A form of a written questionnaire for clients to complete including their past learning experiences, specific objectives, and priorities.

would prove useful for most adult learners, to learn more about their goals and specific priorities before lessons. Another teaching tool that has proven successful with adult learners is using materials that are relevant to the student’s lives such as newspapers, periodicals, magazines, etc. The relating of the classroom to the material to real-world instances and circumstances makes reading and writing more engaging to students. Though the two different groups may be at the same level of English acquisition, the approach to teaching them should differ slightly to ensure success.

Also Read: Teaching Monolingual Groups vs. Multilingual Groups

Anticipated Problems

No matter what age or level of learners you have in class, there are always difficulties and barriers in place. It is our job as teachers to prepare for these barriers, and work around them to ensure all students get the most out of class time. For example, with adult learners, it can be difficult to squeeze class time into their busy schedules or find it difficult to balance school with life. One solution to this problem would be to assign very quick, small homework tasks to your adult learners such as reading an English newspaper article or periodical; something that does not take long and can be worked into everyday life. Though this does solve the problem of a busy schedule, it allows for a little bit of ESL practice every day. One difficulty with teaching young learners is the shortened attention span of children. If not engaged consistently, children tend to get distracted easily and can find it hard to focus on one task. In this instance, the best solution is to not focus on one single task for too long. It is important to use a variety of different approaches to be conducting a lesson (ex. partner work, repetition and rhyming, individual work, games) to keep the children on their toes and ensure they do not get bored or distracted. Again, the two groups of learners are quite different in the way they learn, but with the correct approach to lessons, these barriers can be avoided.

Also Read: How Language Transfers Cultural Sensitivity

Benefits of working with both groups

Though the difficulties with both groups of learners have been pointed out, both can prove to be very rewarding for many reasons. With adult learners, it can be extremely rewarding to know that you are helping someone advance in their career or open up opportunities for them with another language. To know that through the act of teaching someone a new language, you have opened up their world just a little bit more is very rewarding for TESL teachers. Along the same lines, it can be equally as rewarding to teach children another language. As the common saying goes, children are very much like “sponges” and absorb new information very quickly, so the results can be very satisfying. Also, children have an innate curiosity which can make teaching new things an entertaining and gratifying task. Both groups of learners have their pros and cons, but it is universally agreed that teaching both types of groups can be very rewarding.

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It is evident through the comparison of young learner groups vs adult learners that both types of classes can bring their difficulties and methods for success, but both prove to be rewarding groups. There is no one clear answer to the question “How to teach children vs adult learners”, but there are specific strategies that have proven successful, and with some effort, all participants can be successful in learning English as a Foreign Language.

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