6 Differences Between Teaching Adults and Young Learners
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Thinking about teaching English as a Foreign Language to adults and Young Learners? Not sure what to expect? You’re not alone – we’ve all been there.
Because we have some experience under our belt, we can tell you that one of the best things about being a TEFL teacher is the fact that you could find yourself in a range of different classrooms. Think about teaching kindergarten in Shanghai, teenagers in Buenos Aires, businessmen in Istanbul or even teaching English online. As TEFL teachers, we can’t always be picky about who we want to teach and we need to be flexible enough to be able to cope with whatever situation we may find ourselves in, be it adults or Young Learners.
So if you are a bit unsure about what it will be like teaching different age groups, here are 6 differences between teaching adults and Young Learners.
Adult learners are very independent, while Young Learners aren’t. It is possible – and even beneficial – to give adults more autonomy in their lessons. You can do this by letting adults work things out for themselves rather than giving them the answers, asking them to organise themselves into pairs or groups instead of allocating partners, and even giving input into the topics or activities of the lessons. With Young Learners, on the other hand, it is necessary to be in plan the lesson as you see fit, give clear instructions, monitor the learners closely and deal effectively with any issues of classroom management.
For example, when teaching adults you don’t need to think about bathroom breaks (they can worry about that themselves!) but with Young Learners you will need to ask them regularly if they need to go to the bathroom. With online learners, you can expect your adult learners to do more while you need to lead your Young Learners step-by-step in whatever you are doing.
Another difference between teaching adults and Young Learners is when it comes to learning. In terms of learning, Young Learners need to be given a wide variety of activities which relate to the different senses. Young Learners are sensory learners and respond well activities which incorporate TPR or similar teaching techniques. Their attention span is also short, so activities in a Young Learner classroom shouldn’t take too much time. With adults it is possible to spend more time on learning tasks so they can engage more deeply with the learning materials. This means you need fewer activities for your lessons but you can utilise your learning texts more.
As you can imagine, with Young Learners physical activities and games work well. If you are teaching a Young Learner 1-to-1 online, make sure you include songs, pictures, props and energy into your lessons to keep them engaged.
Read more: Top Tips for Teaching Young Learners
Believe it or not, adults are generally more nervous in the classroom than Young Learners. Young Learners seem to have no fear and are willing to try anything – as long as they perceive it to be fun. Young Learners will mirror the energy of the teacher, so you need to be as upbeat and enthusiastic as you can manage.
Adults may feel anxious because of the fact that they are not the age of the “typical” learner and so they will approach activities with a sense of apprehension if they do not feel comfortable. Because of this they will need more positive encouragement. This can be especially evident in an online teaching situation, when learners may not know other people in the class. There may be times of silence, but don’t let that worry you. Make sure you give your learners plenty of opportunities to get to know one another and feel comfortable with each other and they will soon lose any inhibitions they may have.
Having said that, adults are more likely to be more motivated than Young Learners. Adults are generally in the classroom because they choose to or because they need to learn English for work or study, which means their motivation levels are naturally high. Young Learners usually have no choice, which means that they may lose enthusiasm if they are not interested in what is happening in the classroom.
This highlights the importance of tailoring your lessons not only to the needs but also the interests of your learners. Find out from your learners what they are interested in and plan lessons around those topics. This also relates to homework, as it is more likely for learners to complete homework activities they are interested in.
Probably the most obvious difference is that of discipline. Teaching Young Learners is all about being able to deal with discipline calmly and effectively. If you’re lucky, you might have a teacher’s assistant or a co-teacher to help you if you are teaching Young Learners in a physical classroom. When teaching adults, disciplines should not be an issue because, well, they’re adults.
When teaching online, discipline can be very tricky. Again it shouldn’t be an issue with adults, and if it is, it’s usually best not to engage with the difficult behaviour and try to move on. The worst thing that can happen is the learner leaves the lesson, which may affect your teacher rating if you are working for a company, but at least you won’t have to deal with the student any longer! For Young Learners, if a learner is acting out in an online lesson, it may be necessary to speak to the parents privately about the situation.
Read more: Co-teaching in the EFL Classroom
Finally, the biggest difference between teaching adults and teaching Young Learners is what the students bring to the classroom. Young Learners bring enthusiasm, curiosity and energy, while adults bring life experience. While Young Learners are still learning about the world around them, adults have already had a lifetime of experiences and have their own ideas and opinions.
With both Young Learners and adults you can use this to your advantage. Your lessons with Young Learners (both online and face-to-face) will be so energetic and lively that the time will pass really quickly, and your lessons with adults will be interesting and engaging for you as well as your learners.
As you can see, though there are a number of differences between teaching English as a Foreign Language to adults or to Young Learners, the fundamental practices will remain the same. Encourage communication and authentic language use, utilise your students’ previous knowledge and, above all, maintain a fun atmosphere in the classroom and you will be successful no matter the age of your learners.
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LAST UPDATED: 27th August 2021
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Processing you think is unlawful
- If you tell us that you think we are processing your personal information unlawfully, but you do not want the information to be erased, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of that information.
- We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the processing is unlawful, and may also ask that you provide evidence to support this view.
Processing of personal information you think is inaccurate
- You can tell us if you think the personal information we are processing about you is factually inaccurate. You can require us to restrict how we use your personal information until we can verify the accuracy of the information. We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the information is inaccurate, and may also ask that you provide some supporting evidence of the alleged inaccuracy.
- If we find that the personal information we are processing about you is inaccurate, we will take appropriate steps to correct the information.
Personal information is no longer needed by Everything TEFL Ltd but needed by you in connection with a legal claim
- In most circumstances, we will securely delete or dispose of personal information when we no longer need it for our legitimate business purposes. Our approach to retention is outlined in our corporate retention schedules.
- However, if the personal information we no longer need would assist you in establishing, exercising or defending a legal claim, you can require us to keep the information for as long as necessary. We may ask you to provide an explanation and any available supporting evidence that a legal claim is ongoing or contemplated.
Right to erasure of personal data (“the right to be forgotten”)
In the following circumstances, you have the right to require that Everything TEFL Ltd securely deletes or destroys your personal information:
- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to Everything TEFL Ltd collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think Everything TEFL Ltd has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the Everything TEFL Ltd processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the Everything TEFL Ltd has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, Everything TEFL Ltd is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the Everything TEFL Ltd.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to Everything TEFL Ltd, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
Everything TEFL Ltd
28 – 32 Pembroke Street,
Republic of Ireland
Telephone: +353 (1) 554 6227
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.