Teaching English to different age groups



I have personally never taught children in my life. So probably my view on teaching this age group is very incomplete. However, from what I have seen and heard, children love being entertained. Bringing a lot of variety to children’s classes is mandatory. Changing the tone of your voice as well as being playful and dramatic would also be good ideas. Boredom and stagnation are a killer of every class regardless of the age group you are teaching. I know teachers who love teaching children. The reason for it might be that they are like big children and so they communicate with ease with kids. I also know teachers who at some point in their careers tried to teach children and they hated it from the moment they were halfway through their first class! The experience was so physically and mentally draining for them it took a few days to recuperate from it. I think it might be a slight exaggeration but still, children can be exceptionally demanding as students. The pay is usually very good though!


Early teens


Early teens are neither children nor fully developed teens. They are somewhere in the middle and the hormones start to kick in. Teaching this age group requires resilience and patience. Teenagers have their autonomy and they like to test your boundaries. That is how they learn. For this reason, you should guard against patronizing them. It is a big thing in my opinion!


What’s more, teenagers, in general, have a short attention span so variety is important to keep them occupied. It means using different resources. Early teens learn to express themselves so encourage them to talk, write, speak, and create in English! They are very curious and they have a lot of hobbies. Encourage them to develop them in English!


Teenagers are quite perceptive and they can usually tell whether you are a sincere person or not. That’s why being genuine is crucial. Show them your appreciation. If you make a mistake, admit to it graciously!


At the end of the day, I would say it is all about fun for the early teens so make your classes fun and entertaining. Remember! It is not a lecture. They are not university students!


Late Teens/Young adults


Late teens are almost fully shaped adults. They know more than the early teens and their approach to life, in general, is slightly different. Late teens have strong opinions and they want to express them. They also know facts to back them up. They are inquisitive and sharp!


As always, be fun and entertaining. Use a wide range of resources in your classes. Be up to date with the latest trends in the entertainment industry. That is the best way to relate to them. Ask them what their favorite band is? The latest film they have seen! And so on and so forth!


Late teens are usually more focused on their future and so they are aware that English is important. Depending on the country, the grade from the national English exam at the end of secondary school might play an important role in meeting admission requirements for college or university.


I think late teens become young adults in the last year of secondary school and the first year of higher education. At that age, they make a lot of decisions about the direction their lives are going. Some start to work, either part-time or full-time. Independence is important to them more than ever!


Teaching them is a bit different. You should treat them like adults. It means you should expect them to do their homework, study hard. Sometimes learning English is not a walk in the park and so you can’t avoid teaching certain nuances of a language. Teaching pronunciation, for instance, is rarely easy because English pronunciation is extremely tricky and counter intuitive. It takes laborious analysis.


A lot of young adults study English in order to obtain a Cambridge certificate such as C1 Advanced or B2 First. More and more young adults go for C2 proficiency! I personally think it is great. What is incredible about teaching young adults is that they are driven and simultaneously don’t have that many responsibilities in their lives! You can do a lot with them!




Adults or working professionals with fully-fledged careers have their schedules packed. Learning English, and frequently other languages, is vital to their careers. They want to get a promotion or they are preparing for a job interview.


The number one problem for them is juggling their private lives, family lives, hobbies, and other things. They have little time and are often stressed. Therefore, they will rarely have time to do homework or revise. It means you only have that one or two hours a week to help them progress! I, unfortunately, noticed that adults often lack the motivation to learn English. One reason might be that company classes are paid for by the company and the employees feel sometimes forced by their bosses to attend. In other words, they attend classes because they have to!


What I also observed is that they want to talk about their lives. They might treat you like a shrink. You should take advantage of it and encourage them to speak. If they don’t want to speak about their lives, play a lot of games with them. Quite often they help their children with their homework every day and so don’t want English classes to resemble school in any way. They obviously understand that doing exercises and reading boring articles is important but they don’t want to do it as often as a teacher would like it.


I think for adult students it all boils down to treating English classes as a diversion amidst their hectic schedules.


Older people


Older people want to have fun in life. They are usually retired and so they have more time to enjoy themselves. They don’t want to sit at home and do nothing. They are still vibrant and retirement gives them a new lease on life. They, as opposed to other age groups, understand very well that time is finite.


Teaching English to older people usually means teaching communicating in English. It all depends on a student but, from my experience, I can say that older people are very practical and inquisitive. They want to be able to talk with ease in English. They want to be able to communicate abroad in different situations. Therefore, I think teaching speaking should be the number one priority.


Older people don’t have the patience to learn all these irregular verbs and tenses. We all understand that they are important but let’s face it. If your student of 65 is able to express himself/herself but they mispronounce a few words and confuse some verbs we should be happy. As long as they are understood and they understand when is being told it is a success! The other thing is that older people speak English on some level and we don’t have to teach them from scratch!


For me teaching older people means teaching and practicing clear communication in English with them.

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