Teaching Children vs Teenagers vs Adults

ESL Teaching Different Ages Guide

Age plays a big role in how people learn second language. By looking at several different distinguishing factors we can develop our own ESL teaching styles based on three different age groups.

The first group of second language learners is children. Children’s traits in the classroom as you can imagine are shorter attention spans for learning material. It is important to constantly be changing activities, maybe every five or ten minutes, in the classroom in a fun and experience-based manner. Lessons involving acting, games, songs and dances are great motivational tools. Consistent repetition of a short sentence structure expressed with a variety of themed vocabulary is very effective. Unlike adults, children can't control their behavior and are unaware of their mistakes. This makes it easier for them to experiment with second languages. This experimentation is sometimes believed to be the reason why children learn so much faster than adults.

The second group to investigate is teenagers. Teenagers are able to sit still for longer periods than children and don't need as much activity changing. At this point in their lives their patience level is maturing. In addition teenagers are becoming aware of what is acceptable and unacceptable classroom behaviors. They are also becoming aware that there are clearly defined rules for language and are starting to be more concerned about making mistakes. Teenagers are more flexible in their learning styles and like to learn both conceptually and experimentally.

Lastly, teaching adults English has its advantages and disadvantages too. Adults are able to sit and concentrate for a longer period of time which enables them to understand more challenging language concepts. Adults, generally, are able to control their behavior in the classroom and have a clear idea of social expectations for behavior.  Because of their life experience there is more real life content you can cover with adults than with teenagers. Although conversation classes at times may prove to be difficult because adults are less willing to make mistakes when they are speaking or experiment with the language.

While ESL teaching strategies vary by age, it is something that can be mastered with some years of experience. It is suggested to teach a variety of ages and see which age group you like best as a teacher. There are plenty of esl jobs out there for a variety of age groups. Find the best match for you by simply experiementing with each.