As a teacher of English as a foreign language (or TEFL teacher), you will have a lot on your mind. When planning lessons, you need to consider the educational background of your learners, their nationalities, their first languages, their interests – and their ages. You might be wondering: what’s the difference between teaching teenagers vs Young Learners?
As an adult yourself, you will be familiar with the learning process of adults. While you may well end up teaching English to adults, there is also a high chance you’ll find yourself teaching English to teens and Young Learners.
So what’s the difference between teaching English to teenagers versus Young Learners?
The obvious answer is their age (duh!) but how does age affect learning a foreign language? Let’s look at a few characteristics of adolescents and children and discuss some ideas for teaching both age groups.
Characteristics of adolescent learners
- Teenagers have more life experience than Young Learners. Though of course not as much as adults, teens have experienced a fair amount more than children.
- Teenagers can concentrate for longer.
- Teenagers can experience peer pressure in the classroom. This can lead to low self-confidence and shyness.
- Teenagers are at an awkward stage emotionally and physically. This can affect their confidence and attitude towards their classmates.
- Teenagers are not afraid to question or challenge the teacher, especially if they are bored with an activity or topic.
- Teenages need to be challenged and stimulated.
- Teenagers can work independently.
How to teach teenagers
Be relevant. Make sure your lesson activities are appealing to their interests. No matter how old you are, it’s probably been a while since you were a teenager – so do your research!
Be light-hearted. Teens love to be entertained.
Be strict. Teenagers can walk all over teachers who are too easy-going. Rather start off strict and you can relax the rules when they get to know you. Don’t forget that you’re the teacher.
Give them time to get involved in their activities. Give them space to think things through.
Be careful with your words. Teenagers are very sensitive. Be positive and encouraging at all times.
Lesson ideas for teaching English to teenagers:
Characteristics of Young Learners
- They have short attention spans.
- They need a variety of activities to be able to focus and concentrate.
- Young Learners need help with physical tasks, especially relating to fine motor skills like cutting and sticking.
- Young Learners need more cognitive assistance when it comes to completing a task.
- Young Learners are easily pleased and entertained.
How to teach Young Learners
Plan a variety of activities for your lessons. One lesson can include storytime, singing a song, colouring in and a puppet show. Keep these activities short and sweet.
Be gentle. There is no need to raise your voice with children in a classroom. Children respond better to even-tempered, good-natured teachers.
Be patient. Understand that everything will take a bit longer with Young Learners.
Read more: Top Tips For Teaching Young Learners
Lesson ideas for teaching Young Learners:
- Brain breaks for Young Learners
- Stirrers and settlers for Young Learners
- EFL activities for Young Learners
- How to engage Young Learners online
Tips for teaching teenagers AND Young Learners
There are a few points in common when teaching English to teenagers versus Young Learners. After all, there might only be a few years’ difference between the two.
For both these age groups (and even for adults), it’s important to be authentic. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Yes you may need to put on some funny voices for your Young Learners, but let them get to know you as a person. Students of all ages respond well to teachers they have a good rapport with.
Don’t take yourself – or your lessons – too seriously. Language learning can be challenging, so a bit of well-timed and appropriate humour can go a long way in diffusing any tension in the classroom.
Don’t get us wrong, teaching any age group has its challenges – and its rewards. As you become more experienced you’ll get to know the best methods for teaching your learners. And don’t forget – we’re always here to help if you have any questions!