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The Difference Between Teaching Adults and Children

The Difference Between Teaching Adults and Children | ITTT | TEFL Blog

When thinking of teaching, adults generally don’t come to mind. Teachers are associated with children, and people might often associate their childhood with teachers and schooling, either good or bad. There are quite obvious differences between adults and children that make for different teaching environments and experiences.

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

Choice of Activities

An obvious example is the use of singing or chanting, which even after children reach a certain age shouldn’t be used. The use of music and songs, however, can still be utilized, by emphasizing lyrics and the use of tenses, as adults, as teenagers are unlikely to enjoy singing in front of others. Just as the use of physical movement may not exactly be welcomed, activities that involve students getting up from their chairs and doing something physical, like charades or “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes” can be considered tiresome or embarrassing and should be avoided.

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Games are an activity that can be appreciated by all ages. When adapted to fit the topic, especially in a business setting, it can be engaging for adults just as much as children, though teachers may face initial unwillingness similar to older young learners, or teenagers. Choosing the most engaging games and adapting them to be business-centric can help, as well as creating a friendly and light atmosphere in which everyone feels comfortable enough to play and engage.

Motivation and Will in Childhood

Something teachers can encounter when teaching children is unwillingness to participate and even learning, as they do not have a choice in their schooling, and though this can be the case when teaching adults, their motivation for learning English can be more pressing, there’s a more professional tone and focus on results when hired by a business or individual client. Unlike children, adults may not be able to attend every class or finish every assignment due to real-life responsibilities and commitments, and how the teacher responds and deals with such things can vary, from giving opportunities to make up for previous work to failing them outright.

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Everyone Should be Heared

Mature and serious topics can be broached more so with adults, though it’s important to remember that everyone has opinions and not everyone is comfortable sharing those, especially as different countries can have different sensitive subjects and norms. When teaching a group of adults, they all can have different countries of origin and native languages, whereas when teaching a classroom of children, it’s even likely that they’re all from the same area, having commonalities and a shared culture.

Discipline in Adulthood

It’s important teachers don’t forget that adults can need disciple and guidelines just like children do, though perhaps not to the same extent. Keeping an orderly class and making sure that the lesson planned for the day is followed requires an authoritative presence that can seem hard to maintain among people your age and especially among those older or in a position of power.

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To say conclusively that teaching children or adults are better than the other isn’t the goal here, however as a teacher you’re teaching one or the other, and weighing the benefits and differences of each can help one decide which they might prefer to teach.

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