Tips for Teaching English to Adult Learners

Teaching adults is entirely different from teaching children or teenagers. And the experience may be much more challenging and difficult. But it can also be immensely satisfying and much more rewarding! So, how can you go from teaching young learners to teaching adults? Here’s what you need to know.

✔️ Mistakes & Weak Spots 

People often say that children learn languages more easily than adults. But why is that? Well, it is true that most children are not afraid of making mistakes, right? On the other hand, most grown-ups are terrified of them. All English teachers have met adults who hesitate to speak spontaneously and who don't use new vocabulary because they are too afraid of mispronouncing words in a way that may embarrass them or make them sound silly. 

So, what can you do? Correct their mistakes in a way that doesn’t feel patronising and help your adult students to overcome their fears. Help them realise that learning a foreign language is like learning to ride a bike: they will certainly get the hang of it after a while! 

✏️ tip: Once you start getting to know your students and their fears, expectations and weak spots in English, you’ll also understand how you can help them find the best pace of progress for them. Just follow the golden rule of business communication: ‘know your audience’. All difficulties adult learners experience in an EFL/ESL class can be overcome through a sense of empowerment and a few adjustments to the methodology and strategies you use. 

✔️ Class Attendance & Homework

There are students who arrive late to class or are absent due to work-related problems, family or parental obligations or chores that must be done... Let's face it. When teaching adult students, you have to teach some time management strategies too! 

Well, most adults have more than enough on their plate and the last thing they need is an extra duty or deadline. And that's why guiding your students and teaching some prioritization techniques is essential. Motivate them to learn how to avoid procrastinating, choose a realistic pace of progress and set an effective study and revision routine.

You should also bear in mind that having adult students in your classroom is one thing, sending them out to do homework is something entirely different. Unless your English learners are extremely motivated, they will keep finding excuses to avoid doing all those boring grammar exercises or difficult writing tasks at home. 

What can you do? Say no to tedious, repetitive work and give them more interesting things to do. Now, we’re not saying you should have your students play games. But you can give them engaging projects and activities. The concept that children can have fun in an English class but adults can’t is absolute nonsense!

OK, we get it… If you have ever done an online search for fun homework ideas for children, you have certainly found a ton of materials. We know it’s much harder to find similar resources for adults. So, if you’re wondering where to find some smart ideas, we are here to help. Look no further than our Teachers' Club: Seasonal Activities.

✏️ tip: It may be tempting to think that you don’t need to set rules. You are teaching English to adults, so they are mature and they know that they can’t skip classes or avoid turning in their homework for no reason, right? Hmm… Actually, you do have to get off on the right foot and set boundaries and expectations, so your adult students know from the very first what is acceptable and what isn’t.

✔️ Teaching Resources & Materials

It goes without saying that adult students benefit from courses that have been designed for false beginners and focus on a variety of real-life situations. All topics should also be relevant to the needs and interests of adult learners. Station series can help you to proceed smoothly and gradually to more difficult and complex tasks.

You should also focus on improving your adult learners’ listening and speaking skills in a fast and efficient way. Live Chat series aims at building listening and speaking confidence and that’s why it could be the perfect series for you if you want to develop your students’ fluency in English. 

✏️ tip: What else can you do? Well, when teaching English to adults, you have the chance to interact with students at different stages of development and from all walks of life. So, get to know your English students and make teaching relevant to their jobs and hobbies. For example, you could consider focusing on some Business Workshops, which give adult learners the chance to work on the business vocabulary they need and gain a better understanding of the English language in their field of business.

So, seriously, what are you waiting for? OK, teaching English to adults may be a difficult job. And there is no magic bullet. But we are sure that if you follow our advice and use our much-needed materials, you’ll rise to the challenge. And who knows? Maybe you will fall in love with teaching adults! 


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