What's the Difference between Teaching Kids and Adults?

CELTA course in London
23 Dec 2017

What’s the Difference between Teaching Kids and Adults?

What’s the Difference between Teaching Kids and Adults?

If you’re thinking of taking one of our London CELTA courses, you probably have all sorts of questions about teaching English.

One of the most common challenges that we can face as teachers, is adapting our classes to different kinds of groups. Take for example different age groups. Even if they have similar ability and knowledge, teaching a group of kids is normally very different to teaching a group of adult learners – let’s take a look how:

Independent Learning

Typically, you are going to find that adult learners will show a higher level of autonomy. Younger students will often need a more focused approach to their teaching, with a solid framework underpinning the lesson.

You will need to essentially dominate the classroom of the younger learner, making sure that you both set the learning objectives and ensure they are adhered to (even if you don’t spell these out to the class). With adults, it is easier to simply outline the objectives of that lesson, give them the tools to get there and leave them to it.

Shorter tasks for younger learners

The younger the students in your class, the more they will benefit from more bite-sized tasks. Ideally, the lesson should not be centred on a single activity, but on a number of activities – perhaps as short as 3-7 minutes long – so that they are always engaged, and have no time to get distracted.

Adults are on the other hand are much better equipped to concentrate on a single task for a prolonged period. This makes it easier to do a deep dive into a relatively narrow area of language and spread it over a whole lesson or perhaps even more. They’ll be able to get on with a task or project in pairs or groups, and then report back to the class on their experience or to demonstrate what they have produced. This can be a great way to put all the skills into practice.

Positive reinforcement for nerves

Perhaps surprisingly, it is often the adult learners who can show the biggest signs of anxiety. So long as they enjoy the lesson and broadly understand what is going on, most children will be happy to put their hands up and get involved.

Adult learners, however, are often more concerned and self-conscious – especially about making mistakes. With this being the case, while positive reinforcement can be extremely helpful when dealing with students of all ages, it can be especially beneficial for adult learners, who may need a helping hand in losing their shyness. This is great for encouraging participation and improving confidence.

Enthusiasm and Motivation

Now this can differ wildly between classes. But in general, it’s fair to make the assumption that when you are teaching an English class to a group of older learners, they have all made the decision to be there. With the younger students that may not be the case at all! It’s easy to extrapolate from that then, that the adult learners will be more motivated, as they have chosen to come to class. But really it depends on the individual. While it may be true that younger groups may generally require more energy on the part of the teacher to keep all learners engaged and enthusiastic about learning, older learners will also be grateful for dynamic classes that keep them on their toes.

If you’re interested in teaching English as a foreign language and our London CELTA courses, find out more and contact us today!