When teaching classes of different ages you begin to realise the importance of being able to relate to what is going on in their worlds. You begin to look back at when you were that age and wonder what appealed to you, and will it still resonate with them today? This article will look at how best to relate to the age group you are teaching by keeping your lessons relevant and exciting.
Anyone who has taught Kindergarten knows how much energy the students have. It is a full lesson of go, go, go. As cute as the kids are, if your lesson is not jam-packed with active, high-energy games, you’re going to lose them. In order to keep the students active and entertained as well as get the target language across, you will need to be innovative.
This age group responds very well to songs, colourful images and movement. Make sure your activities include at least one of the three to keep them interested. Not only must the activity have movement, but so should you. Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself. Kindergartens react well to exaggerated facial expressions, big movements and loud sounds. For example teaching them about animals in the jungle is most effective when you make the sounds of the animals and role play to the students. They will not only love the acting but if the teacher is comfortable with acting like a kindergarten then they will feel more confident in the classroom and amongst the other students.
Keep the lesson active while including the target language in fun ways. Try not to include activities which require a lot of coordination or ball skills. This age group is still developing those skills and if they are asked to do something they lack confidence in the student will shy away and not want to participate.
With the correct balance of learning and fun these lessons will be a huge success, so clown around and enjoy being a child again.
The elementary students still have a ton of energy but tend to be more focused than the kindergartens. These students are now at school in structured classrooms with lessons, as opposed to the kindergarteners whose day is made up of playing indoors and outdoors. The elementary students are at a stage where they are slowly beginning to think for themselves and many of them think they know it all already.
At this age, a lot of role-playing is very effective, as the students like to see themselves as tiny adults. Playing games where they role-play adult occupations is fun and an easy way to include the target language. The lessons can now also include a competitive aspect as this age group does not shy away from competing with each other.
When planning a lesson for an elementary class, it is all about the balance between energy, brain work and friendly competition. Have a few high energy activities in the lesson but split the room into teams to add a competitive spirit. To balance the high energy parts have some puzzle and quiz activities where individuals can shine and show their skill. A great way to get students to produce the language to each other is to set up role-play situations or make-believe. For example, if you are teaching them about shopping vocabulary, then set up a small shop in the classroom. You can have each student play a role of the cashier, the shopper and shop assistant. This is great as not only are they having fun by assuming the adult role they are seeing how English works in the real world and this makes it relatable.
Although this age group may seem like they know it all and like to take on adult roles, never forget they are still children so keep all the activities light-hearted and fun. Even though these lessons take on a more competitive role than kindergarten, keep in mind the goal is for the students to enjoy class and have fun while learning English.
Don’t let the junior age group make you think it is easier teaching older students. It’s not. Teaching this age group has its challenges as does any. Being a teenager is not an easy task, and with so much change going on, their confidence is up and down. You will find that your juniors have begun to care about other people’s opinions and how they are seen by others, so make this lesson a comfortable place to be a teen.
The best way to make this lesson work is to make it relatable. The first lesson will always be awkward no matter what, as the students are getting to know you and their classmates. Use this first lesson to get to know them. Do this by doing a quiz, or a questionnaire to find out their favourite movies, music and things to do in their free time. Once you have this information, you are able to get to know their world, and they have had a chance to learn about each other often finding common interests. Now that you know what their interests are, use them to make your future lessons more relevant. If the lesson is structured around a topic they understand or have an interest you are able to avoid those shy awkward moments they so dread.
Not only can you make use of the students’ interests make use the popular media channels they interact with. For example set out an activity where they need to make a snap chat video in English related to the target language, or write up a good Instagram caption. This will encourage them to interact with English in their everyday lives and understand the situations certain language is used in. Keep it fun, as always, and never show judgement to something one of the students like or follow as this can be a huge step back to make them feel as comfortable as possible in the classroom.
Many new teachers are afraid of teaching adult classes as most of the time you will be teaching someone older and more experienced than you, but don’t let this bother you. Remember they have come to learn a skill from you and are feeling as insecure for being taught by someone younger. Due to this dynamic, make the classroom a neutral place.
You will need to have a different attitude to this class as they are not children you need to discipline. Have the classroom environment feel more like a meet up of friends, a place to learn from each other and help each other out. Try not repeat words of praise like you would with younger students as this may be condescending. Your attitude towards these students must be transparent, open and honest.
When getting to know them, find similarities between yourself and the students. Talk about music, sport or current affairs around the area which the students may know about or be able to relate to. This gives a sense that you’re from the same world. With lessons on everyday English use places that they know as examples. If your target language has to do with shopping maybe ask where they do most of their shopping, mention where you go and then use those locations in the activities. Some good activities could be word searches, job applications, mock telephone calls or ordering of goods online.
Across any age group, we want to remember to practice patience and keep learning fun. This may seem obvious but can be forgotten once you have been teaching for a while. Always try to ask yourself how you would like to experience learning a language and how you would like the teacher to treat you. Keep it light-hearted and fun for all ages, this is a class you want them to run back into, not away from.
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About the Author
Tatum Condon a 27-year-old South African girl with Irish family. Her dream growing up was to be a mechanical engineer for Formula One’s Team McLaren. Any sport which is in water, she does it. Even if the water is frozen, count her in. She is currently teaching and living in the land of smiles, Thailand, while sharing stories of my life adventures and experiences. She hopes you enjoy.