Teaching English to Adults

Teaching English to AdultsTeaching English to adults has a few differences from teaching teens or children.

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The biggest difference is that it is usually possible to use a wider range of texts and subject matter with adults than with younger learners.

But there are also other considerations. There are some misconceptions about teaching adults, too.

Teaching English to Adults: True or False?

Read the following facts and decide if you think they are true or false. The answers are below the questions.
  1. It is safe to use any subject matter when you are teaching adults.

  2. Adults can concentrate for longer than younger students can.

  3. Adults don't learn as fast as children do.

  4. Adults are more motivated to learn than children.

  5. You shouldn't play games with adults as they like to be serious.

What did you think?

Let's look at the answers:

  1. This is false.

    You need to be sensitive to the background of your students. 

    For example, if you are teaching refugees from a war zone, the subject of family may be very sensitive as they may have left loved ones behind.

    Also, unless you know your group well, it is unwise to use subject matter relating to topics such as religion or politics.

  2. This is sometimes true, but not always.

    It is certainly important, even when teaching adults, to vary the tasks during your class.

    Even adults are not usually able to concentrate fully for more than 30 minutes on one task without losing concentration.

  3. This is sometimes true, although everybody learns at a different speed, so it is important to be aware that some students may learn faster than others.

  4. Adults usually have more of a reason to learn English, so this can be true.

    But children, even if they are learning English because they "have to," can also be very motivated if they are enjoying their lessons.

  5. This is false.

    Everyone has a preferred style of learning and some people do prefer to learn by doing exercises, reading a book, and serious conversation.

    But it is always a good idea to inject a little fun into the lessons to make them less monotonous, and educational games are a good way to do this.

Other suggestions for teaching English to adults

  • Get to know your students.

    The better you know them, the better you will be able to provide interesting, useful activities.

  • Make the resources you use relevant to your students.

    For example, if the majority of them are looking for a job, use job advertisements, applications and interviews in a lesson.

  • Have your students tell you subjects they want to cover in the lessons.

    If students are involved with lesson planning, they are usually more motivated to learn.

  • Vary the location as well as the activities if you can.

    Lessons outside, in a coffee shop, or in a shopping mall or library can be useful and interesting for adult learners.
Teaching English to adults can be really rewarding and it can also be fun. It doesn't have to be boring at all.

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