Kids vs adult learners for online English teachers

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Michael.O, Online English teacher at Acadsoc.

Michael.O, Online English teacher at Acadsoc.

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Any teacher will say there’s a big difference between teaching kids and adult learners. To some, they might claim they’re better off with kids because kids’ expectations are not so magnified and too serious as when they teach adults. Others, though, tend to prefer teaching adults because communication is much easier, and there’s a sense of ease in knowing that they’re teaching mature learners.

Either way, teaching to kids and adults requires tailoring your lessons, your teaching styles and classroom management to their needs. Here we look at some of the main differences you’ll encounter in teaching both types of learners.

Self-motivation and Self-planning are much apparent among adult learners than kids.

Adult learners are more naturally inclined to look for motivation independently. This is called intrinsic motivation. Kids, however, tend to rely on extrinsic motivation, or ‘rewards’. Unlike with adults, kids tend to feel more motivated if something tangible is at stake.

Lesson contents are more varied for adult learners than for kids.

Simulating real-life conversations in the classroom works with kids, but only in simple terms. They usually thrive on simple concepts, so lessons should be plain and simple for them. Adult learners tend to demand more in lesson contents. They should be more varied and should very well suit their interests, their professions, with fairly complex ideas that will push them more. For instance, an adult learner whose job requires him to learn English for business purposes should have lessons tailored to his needs.

Adults view fun differently than kids do.

While in general, fun means that both teacher and student enjoy a pleasurable interaction when it comes to teaching/learning English, the idea of fun will differ between a kid and an adult. What may be fun for a kid can be singing songs or playing games? While adults still enjoy playing games from time to time, not a lot of them may actually want to do it. Adults are generally less inclined to play games, and would rather learn English in more ‘serious’ ways. Crossword puzzles or any mind games are some of the activities you can do with adult learners, but it shouldn’t always be the case.

Adults’ learning expectations are clearer and more direct than with kids.

Ask any kid what they want or expect in your class, and the first thing they’ll say is “Fun.” Naturally, kids want everything to be fun, even in class, for instance, music. But adults would naturally respond in terms of how their skills will grow and improve if they’re learning English with you. Adults are more mindful of their own achievable goals than kids are. The important thing to remember is to try to cater to your students’ expectations, but maintain a transparent and practical view of their expectations.

Adults participate more readily than kids do.

It’s much easier to solicit opinion and ideas from adults than it is with kids. With kids, you will have to be very careful with your language and use simple questions to draw out simple responses. How they respond also depends on how you’re engaging enough for them. Sometimes, they tend to go quietly. Adults, on the other hand, feel behooved to participate because there’s the underlying understanding that they’re more mature and capable of fleshing out their ideas and opinion.

If you’re a teacher, you must have come across some familiar experience with kids and adult learners. While it’s quite challenging to address the different needs of these types of students, it also becomes more rewarding once you’ve gained enough insight on how to deal with kids and adult learners learning English.

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