CHILDREN AND ADULTS LEARN LANGUAGES DIFFERENTLY
Children’s natural ability to acquire new languages is strong before adolescence. Pronunciation comes easier, and vocabulary sticks during this time. Sure, a classroom of 6-year-olds may be a handful, but in terms of English instruction, everyone will be more or less on the same page.
Adults, on the other hand, will have more varying levels and difficulties. Around puberty, the natural ability to pick up a second language drops, and continues to do so as we get older. As adults, we must deliberately and consciously learn a language if we want proficiency or fluency. If you’re teaching adults who are absolute beginners and have no previous experience or exposure to English, this can be a big challenge for them.
CHILDREN AND ADULTS HAVE DIFFERENT MOTIVATIONS
Why are your students learning English? The sooner you pinpoint this answer, the more solid your lessons will be.
Small children don’t have a driving motivation to learn languages. Their attention is fueled by curiosity and imagination. Keep this in mind, and plan your lessons to appeal to their senses. Adults, on the other hand, will have very specific reasons for learning English. They might be preparing for university abroad, or are just trying to gain a new skill for their career at home. Your job will become more strategic, and you’ll need to closely monitor their progress to help them reach their specific goals.
The key ingredient in great ESL teaching to children is to deliver on fun. Their attention spans are short, and they’re driven by the here-and-now. While it takes a lot of energy to teach this bunch, if you’re creative and enthusiastic, you might be perfect for the job. Here are some things to keep in mind when teaching children.
1. KEEP THE MOMENTUM MOVING
Classes with children don’t run on autopilot. You need to be steering the wheel around each turn. One common pitfall is turning your back to the entire class to write something on the board. Sure, it’s only for a few seconds, but just a few seconds is all it takes to loose the class. If a group of 6-year-olds doesn’t have something to do, don’t expect them to sit quietly like angels and wait until you’re ready. That’s why it’s important to always have your materials prepared before class and have backup lessons at hand for times when Plan A takes a nosedive.
2. DON’T OVER-CORRECT
Young children learn English just as they learned their native language: through experience and interaction. They aren’t consciously studying structure and grammar rules, so keep your corrections natural. If they make a mistake, just repeat back the correct sentence. For example, if your student says, “He goed to the park,” you could respond, “Yes, he goes to the park.”
3. MOVEMENT AND ACTIVITY IS KEY
Not only is movement and activity a part of childhood, but it actually helps the learning process and keeps students involved in your lessons. In your classroom, try games like “Simon Says”, or pass around a ball and have each student answer a question when they catch it. Start your class with some yoga stretches, and end with a game of charades.
4. USE SONGS
Think back to your high school language classes. I’m sure we all remember the words to at least one catchy song, even if we still can’t give directions or order food to save our lives! Music is powerful, and fun songs will keep your students engaged and help them pick-up new vocabulary.
5. REMEMBER CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT
It’s a big part of teaching dozens of small kids. But it’s doable. Using a consistent “quiet signal” is an effective way to manage a big group. A good signal is clapping three times, and having students repeat the rhythm back and fall silent after they’ve finished. No matter what happens, never shout over them. Raising your voice to get their attention can make them used to talking over you, so stay calm.
Article taken from http://www.gooverseas.com/blog/teaching-english-abroad-children-vs-adults. For more posts like this visit http://www.gooverseas.com