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Teaching Adult English Language Learners Compared to Children in Korea

Updated on August 4, 2014

Which is better: teaching adults or teaching children?

For me, personally, I do think both adults and children are great to teach; but I'll also admit that both age groups can be difficult to teach sometimes. It isn't unusual for either new or experienced teachers saying they like teaching adults more than children. However, the reverse can also happen for teachers as well. So, I will go over some points I've noticed when teaching both groups.

Student Expectations

For adults:

*Usually more focused to learn.

*Motivation to improve their language skills.

For children:

*Wants to learn through fun activities and games.

*If low level, may not care so much for studying a language.

With adults, if they are working professionals, they usually have a higher motivation to learn English because maybe they have to deal with many business transactions with overseas clients in English. For children, however, while teachers do their best to make English an important subject to learn, they have to build the children's interest whenever introducing a new topic.

Student Behavior

For adults:

*Mostly well behaved.

*Normally doesn't interrupt.

For Children:

*Can go from very well behaved to very disorderly.

*May not be able to sit still during certain activities.

It would be hard to say that all adults do not give a teacher a hard time, but there will some adults who might be a little or very critical about the professionalism of the teacher. In a discussion style class, any new teacher shouldn't be surprised if one or a few high level students tend to dominate the discussion during class time. Also, the topics being taught may not be very practical with some students. Have a lesson about pets and animals with a group of engineers isn't really a useful topic for engineers needing to learn expressions related to their work.

Types of Classroom Activities

For adults:

*Discussion questions

*Interviewing activities




*Article reading

For children:




*Total Physical Response (TPR) activities

*Task-based learning activities

While it is more common to utilize games with young learners, if you are teaching a conversational English class, adults students do like to play games too. This is especially true for low to high beginner level students, which is great since it gives both students a more relaxed setting to practice their English without thinking about "English" so much.

When teaching a high level adult class, it may be a little silly and considered "unprofessional" by those students if you give them a word search puzzle as homework. Now, using word searches are not bad and can help reinforce vocabulary from previous lessons with beginner students. Using it with intermediate and advanced students who already have a decent understanding of vocabulary will think in their mind that a teacher is being lazy when assigning classroom activities and/or homework for a given lesson. High level students prefer to focus on improving their speaking skills and want to have a chance to use their English through various debates and discussion based lessons more.

Preferred Group to Teach

Which do you prefer to teach?

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Necessary Amount of Energy for Teaching

For adults:

*Minimal amount of energy

For children:

*Moderate to high amount of energy

Adults tend not to be as energetic and hyper as children are. So, a person teaching an adult class don't have to worry about moving and jumping around so much. Probably the most energy any teacher will need is more mental than physical. When a teacher instructs intermediate~advanced students, that same teacher must be prepared to explain and give examples of the lesson topic for a given class. While pretty basic advice for any class level, with high level students, sometimes a teacher may need to guess what types of questions certain students may ask and be able to explain in a way that students both understand and also satisfied with the answer they receive. Don't be surprised if one or two students try to ask additional questions regarding your explanations, which can be mentally draining for some teachers based on the duration of the discussion in class.

On the other hand, anyone teaching kindergarten and elementary school students may need to have a large amount of energy during certain activities. Obviously no one expects a teacher to run around and do jumping jacks every single day, but a teacher must still have the energy, both physically and mentally to engage students and deal with any issues that occurs during class time.

Work Hours

*For adults:

Most private language schools may have a teacher work a split shift schedule (classes in the morning and evening with the afternoon off.)

*For children:

Work shifts are either from morning to late afternoon (9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.) or from early afternoon to late in the evening (2:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.)


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