ESL can be tough. Here's what 18 years in ESL and EFL have taught me:
Find out what your students expect from you and from the course. Start there. You will see changes.
- 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.
All the best to you.