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    • Join Date: Jan 2007
    • Posts: 1

    Tension in an adult esl class


    I teach an adult esl class.

    Part of the class appreciates a lesson, the other part doesn't.

    I try to make the learning process fun, but some of the adult students feel that they are being treated like babies because I use colorful, simple formats to tackle concepts.

    On the other hand, some students have complained that some of the reading material is too difficult for them.

    There is less interaction among students than I'd like because they don't seem to see the point -- but they'd be happy to read a short script dialogue or do plug in analogies.

    The complainers want more grammar but don't do any writing assignments to really assess where they are in the process. Getting students to regularly do homework is impossible, and homework is supposed to lead into group activities. So, the class remains more teacher directed.

    Any suggestions? I want everyone to feel that they are benefitting from my class, AND I want to feel proud of my efforts.


    Last edited by DeniseMcCormack; 04-Apr-2007 at 13:07.

  1. Casiopea's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2003
    • Posts: 12,970

    Re: Tension in an adult esl class

    Welcome, Denise.

    ESL can be tough. Here's what 18 years in ESL and EFL have taught me:
    • Listen to your audience. If they say they feel as if they're being treated like babies, don't take it personally. You're a good teacher. What they're trying to tell you is the current method isn't meeting their needs, because it doesn't address their learning styles. They need to be challenge is what the 'complainers' are saying.
    • If the materials are babyish for them, make two sets, one for each group or make one set that marries the two methods. Find a way to meet their learning needs.
    • When students don't seem to see the point that's a good indication to add in activities that review what you're doing or have done. When I teach adults, even at the university or MBA level, I start the class with a list of what we are going to do that day, how it relates to what we have done already and how it will prepare us for what we are going to do the next lesson and so on down the road. That in itself let's students know what the point is of their being there with you.
    • Wow! If students are happy doing certain tasks, pat yourself on the back. You may want to consider finding new ways to modify those activities to accommodate other aspects of your lesson. What is it about those activities that the students like? Could it be the chance to use language? Are there other activities that provide students with like opportunities? Meet your students' needs and they will come around, and quickly.
    • For example, if students complain that they want more grammar but won't do the writing assignments, why not have them write out their own dialogues? They like dialogues, right? Helping them with their writing that way works for them and for you.
    • Homework is a problem, not just for you, for me and every other teacher too. If students aren't doing the homework and you need them to do it in order to prep for the next class, you're going to have to do one of two things to solve the problem. One is hard, the other quite easy. The hard way: hope the students do the homework. The easy way: Stop making homework an issue. Go over the homework at the start of the lesson or before the activity. Teach the vocab and concepts then and there in class. Make it your warm-up activity. Fold homework into your lesson. They'll be happier, you'll be happier, and in the end, you'll be saving time and worry.
    • You need not direct the homework activity. Turn it into a discovery activity. Let the students work for it - use games like, who wants to win 1,000,000 dollars? and so on. There are PPTs online, the templates of which you can download and play right in your classroom. We learn much easier and retain information more readily when we are having fun. That's not to say you should be edutaining it. On the contrary, you should be managing your classroom in a way that meets your audience's needs.
    • A long time ago, when I first started teaching, I had this idea that I knew more about what the students needed than they did. Haha, was I ever wrong. Years later, a met a teacher in North America who told me the secret to teaching was knowing what your students expected from you. He said, start ever term with that question and base your lesson plans on their needs - what they expect to get out of the lessons. It worked, of course, and I've been using that system ever since.
    Find out what your students expect from you and from the course. Start there. You will see changes.

    All the best to you.

    • Join Date: Sep 2005
    • Posts: 260

    Re: Tension in an adult esl class

    Tough question Denise!

    Without actually seeing the class - though they sound Chinese to me! - it is very hard to advise, but I will try all the same as my students are adults too.

    Cut back on the simple and colourful. Adults can cope with fairly complex ideas if you can keep the language simple enough for them to get the message.

    Use humour, and don't be afraid to use reasonably adult humour.

    If you have time out of hours, organise social activities. Take them all for a beer. It works wonders for class cohesion.

    Chat to them. Not in an organised way, but in a free-flow person-to-person way. I find that if I say to a class 'lets discuss blah blah' they go silent, but if you pick up on a conversation between students you can often expand it into a group or class discussion.

    Find out what they want, and then only half believe it. Students nearly always say 'we want conversation', and then the refuse to speak when you ask them. The way around this is as above - hijack their conversations.

    Group them, and target classwork at the groups.

    When they say it is too difficult, remind them that if it was easy they wouldn't be learning.

    Getting students to write is like getting blood from a stone, because so many teachers fail to teach them to write so the poor students don't know where to start! I teach them a step-by-step writing process to get them going, and it seems to do the trick. The 'Interactions' range of books is good for this.

    Do collaborative writing exercises on the board. Write a sentence and ask them to add to it, write a story in which each student contributes one sentence, that sort of thing.

    I hope some of these suggestions help!

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