So, your students need to learn English and you need to teach them. It can be intimidating to walk into a beginner-level class on the first day, not knowing what to expect. However, it can be exciting to work with a group of beginner-level adults, to equip them with the vocabulary, cultural knowledge, and language to successfully interact and communicate with the world around them in English!
Today we’re going to be breaking down the 4 things that you need to know when working with adult learners, especially beginner-level learners! How you teach and what you use can make or break your classroom, so keep reading below to learn more about how you can teach your students well!
Focus on Application, Not Grammar
One of the most important things to keep in mind when teaching ESL, but especially when teaching adult beginner ESL, is to focus more on application than on the intricacies of the English language. Grammar, pronunciation, punctuation, etc. all have their time and place in the ESL classroom, but I would argue that the time and place is not in the beginning stages of language acquisition.
Figure out what your students need to know to survive or to meet their goals and focus on that! Whether that means teaching them how to read food labels, fill out a job application, or make doctor’s appointments over the phone, focus on what will make the biggest difference in their day-to-day life.
I know how hard it can be to figure out what to teach a brand new class of beginners, which is why I’m working on creating a super organized, helpful, and ready-to-use set of lesson plans specifically for your adult learners who are at the beginning of their language learning journey!
Check out our Workbooks page to learn more about this new lesson unit coming to Everyday ESL soon! So, You Need to Learn English… is a set of lesson plans with over 15 printable worksheets and resources to help you help your students!
Want to know when the unit launches? Sign up today for the Everyday ESL newsletter to stay in the loop, receive access to free lesson plans and worksheets in our resource library, and have an opportunity to purchase the unit with an exclusive discount code!
Remember They’re Adults
One of the biggest struggles new teachers face when teaching beginner-level adults is keeping in mind that your students are grown adults who are capable of reasoning, have experienced just as much (if not more) than you in life, and can fluently communicate with others, even if they can’t yet do so in English.
Respecting the fact that your students are adults is a surefire way to build strong and healthy relationships in the classroom. This rapport is one of my favorite parts of teaching ESL. Students who are respected are more motivated, engaged, and successful in the classroom.
Don’t forget to ask your students’ opinions on activities and resources, find ways to involve them in the lesson planning/decision making processes, and be open to creating a more student-led classroom.
Know Your Goal
While I personally prefer a more informal classroom, I’ve learned over the years how important goal-setting is in the classroom. Taking a few minutes before class to write out lesson objectives can help you create a more focused lesson plan. When everything works together in the classroom, both you and your students will benefit!
Another important part of goal-setting is involving your learners in knowing and planning out goals. At the beginning of class, try telling your students what your goals are for the lesson and how you’ll be reaching those goals. Write them on the board! Your students can help you stay on track, keep their questions relevant, or even let you know what other topics they’d like to explore!
If you have an extremely talkative class, setting goals and letting your students know what those goals are allows you to constantly refer back to them. If a student asks a question that’s off-topic and you don’t have the time to explore that topic in class that day, simply remind them of your goals and what you’re going to focus on. Write the question down and come back to it next class. Make it one of your goals!
Use Your Phone!
Teachers are notorious for “hating” technology. While I don’t think that’s necessarily true, teachers are known for taking students’ cell phones and banning the use of them in the classroom. While phones can be distracting, they can also be great resources!
Try embracing cellphones in the classroom. Give your students an opportunity to use them to look up the meaning of a word, find an image to base their story-writing off of, or even vote on something by having students text you their answer!
Not only that, but if you’re working with a smaller group of learners or one-on-one, your cell phone can help you keep students engaged and keep lessons moving. If your students aren’t understanding a grammatical concept, look up a translation. If your students don’t understand a vocabulary term, look up a picture. If you’ve run into a wall and don’t know where to go with the remainder of the lesson, look up some speaking prompts, a video, or share a few photos from your weekend!
Teaching adult language learners is such a rewarding experience and there are so many different opportunities to build relationships and improve language skills. While the 4 tips above are certainly not extensive, they’re a great place to start if you’re not familiar with teaching adults or are looking to improve your classroom experiences.
I Want to Hear From You!
What have you learned from working with adult language learners?
What’s your policy on cellphones in the classroom?