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English language teaching to adults.
Is teaching English to adults easier than teaching to younger students? Is it harder to enthuse elementary adult students in the class room? can you use the same methods to motivate younger students?
I think it would be quite tricky to communicate and teach adult learners at a beginner level without sounding patronising. However, I may well be off the mark some what as I am yet to teach my own class!
I am preparing for my CELTA phone interview and was wondering what peoples thoughts were on teaching English to adults? Are there certain methods and rules? Do you come across students who find your methods offensive? Are there any experienced teachers who have found the difference of style between teaching to younger and older age groups difficult to distinguish?
Re: English language teaching to adults.
Is teaching English to adults easier than teaching to younger students?
That depends on you as a person and as a teacher. Some people find they relate better to children, others to adults. Personally, I find children far more difficult - I have to put a lot more effort into preparing interesting activities for them.
Is it harder to enthuse elementary adult students in the class room?
Once again, it depends on your personality. I find that I can have fun with adults at an elementary level. If I have fun with young learners, I risk chaos. But that's a personal answer.
can you use the same methods to motivate younger students?
No. But that's a VERY general answer.
I think it would be quite tricky to communicate and teach adult learners at a beginner level without sounding patronising.
I have done some apparently very childish things with adults, and they have thoroughly enjoyed them. Yet again, it's a matter of personality. So long as you believe in what you are doing, have enthusiasm, and can convey that enthusiasm, most adults can sense this. However, if you play a game just because you have been taught on your CELTA that you must keep learners active, this may well not succeed. Try to be sensitive to your learners' reactions. If they appear uncomfortable, switch to something else.
Re: English language teaching to adults.
I don't think either is easier or more difficult, just different. Of course, children don't have any concept of why they need to learn English, so classroom management and motivation can be very frustrating, because sometimes you feel like you're spending more time trying to get them to do something than they actually spend doing it. This becomes better the higher the level becomes, partly because you tend to have the more dedicated students, but mainly because you can actually converse with them properly rather than relying largely on teaching assistants for classroom management.
The other issue that's massively different between the two is how you fill the time. One of the key points on the CELTA will be how to get through the material as efficiently as possible in order to get to the bit where they're producing the target language and get plenty of practice with it. So you finish your CELTA, and then get put in a classroom full of kids, where you're given a single phrase and 6 pieces of vocab, and you need to fill 2 hours with it. But the good thing about kids, is that they will say the same thing over and over in different contexts and not get bored. With adults, you can give them a piece of language to practice, and they'll say it once to each other, then sit back thinking they've done it. So introducing ways for them to say the same thing over and over without getting bored becomes a challenge. Some of my most successful lessons have been things like shop role plays, where they tend to really get into the buying and selling and can be talking continuously for 20 minutes. The best thing you can bring to an adult class is a bit of fake money.
The other area of difference is vocab. With younger kids, you're generally teaching physical objects. You might have the occasion thing like emotions or weather, particularly at higher levels and with older students, but it's usually a case of being able to show a picture and say a word, which is very easy. With adults, there are a lot more concepts, which can be more of a challenge to get across when something can't be summed up in a single picture. This is where the art of concept checking questions comes in, and they can be more difficult to come up with than you think.
Incidentally, I think that a lot of teachers think that teaching kids is easier, and take it less seriously. Because once you've got a few lessons under your belt, you can knock out a lesson plan in 15 minutes, and it becomes easy to forget about all of the stages of language acquisition. But with adults, because a poor lesson will have you looking stupid in front of the class, there's more pressure to put effort into your planning. Which is also why many schools are reluctant to allow newly qualified teachers loose on adult classes, because adults can tell when someone isn't very good, and kids can't.
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