Teaching English Young Adults

Teaching English Young Adults

Teaching Language Skills to

Young Adults (With Special Focus on Speaking Skills)

(Teaching English Young Adults Photo - Yosakoi, photo also by Devanshe Chauhan)

by Devanshe Chauhan

Teaching English Young Adults

Pedagogy versus Andragogy:

Traditional Teaching methods versus New methods

Traditional teaching methods precluded original thinking, assigning the teacher full responsibility for making all decisions: ‘what will be learned, how it will be learned, when it will be learned and if it has been learned’ (Malcolm Knowles: The Adult Learner). The learner being merely a passive receiver. Very young children, no doubt learn in the above manner up to a certain point, but once learners are able to consciously make decisions, we should consider them as young adults. This changes the entire classroom dynamics of teaching – learning.

Andragogy, or Adult learning, proposes that effective learning takes place differently.

1. Adults need to know why they are learning something before they undertake the task of learning.

2. Adults want to experience learning as pleasurable.

3. Young adults especially are responsive to some external motivation, such as better jobs, higher salaries, admission in foreign universities etc.

4. Adults learn better if their learning is task-centered. i.e. Adults are motivated to learn when they perceive that their learning will help them perform tasks or deal with problems that they might confront in their life situations.



An example for the above is from a university extension course titled “Composition1”. In the 1950ies, the title was changed to “ Writing better Business Letters”; likewise, another course title was changed to “ Improving Your Professional Communications”. While students still memorized grammar and syntax rules, they performed better and were able to do an analysis of the grammatical structure through their work.

Teaching English Young Adults - Facilitators, not Teachers

Apparently, the role of a teacher and the teaching style changes accordingly. The aim is not merely ‘ to instruct and impart knowledge or skill’, but to direct, guide and facilitate.The Role of a Facilitator

 The facilitator helps each student diagnose the gap between their aspirations and their present level of performance and accept his or her own limitations. The facilitator endeavors to organize and make easily available the widest possible range of resources for learning. Example - multi-media, audio visual aids, study trips, equipment, writing and reading material, real life situations, psychological aids, which the students may wish to use for making learning a fulfilling and enjoyable task. The facilitator is available at all times as counselor, lecturer and advisor, and an expert, a person with experience in his/her field. The facilitator adapts instructions to learner’s needs and level and uses the learner’s drive and purposes as a moving force behind his/her learning. The facilitator helps the students organize themselves (project groups, independent study, pair work etc) to share the responsibility in the process of exploration and inquiry. Throughout the classroom interchange, the facilitator must remain alert to expressions indicative of the learner’s feelings of conflict, boredom, scorn, incomprehension, pain and the like and as such, endeavor to understand the reason and empathize with the point of view of the learner.  The facilitator helps students exploit their own experiences as resources for learning though role-play, discussion, case study.



Teaching English Young Adults - Teaching Language Communication Skills

Having said the above, Language teachers face the dual task of incorporating all of the above in the classroom, along with other ESL/EFL methods and techniques, to make the teaching - learning process more effective and help students reach a proficient level of competency in the subject.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty of Language teaching-learning process - any language, as we know, consists of two kinds of skills:a) The Receptive Skills Listening Reading

b) The Productive Skills Writing Speaking

ESL methodology unfortunately gives writing skills a step-motherly treatment and relegates writing tasks as homework, since teachers prefer to use classroom hours for speaking activities.Writing, in a way is more difficult, since it requires a greater degree of accuracy, but it gives the writer time to think. Whereas speaking, requires fluency and spontaneity.

Here I will deal with the latter of the two productive skills: Speaking

Teaching English Young Adults - Teaching Speaking Skills

Communication as a whole encompasses listening – thinking - speaking – reading – writing skills. Therefore, if a teacher wishes to introduce a communicative or speaking activity, in a learner-centered classroom, the teacher must:

 Create the need and desire in the students. If the students don’t see the point in doing something, they are far less likely to participate and the teacher might be check mated in achieving success in the activity.  Decide if the aim for the activity is fluency or accuracy.

Both ‘accuracy’ and ‘fluency’ are equally important, but usually an accuracy activity will come before the fluency activity. Example: The student will first practice the language / sentence structure pattern in a guided controlled activity and later experiment with the structure / vocabulary in activities like free role-play.o Accuracy based activities aim for correct language and are, as such, controlledo Activities that aim for fluency allow the students to experiment and be creative with the language. Here the concern is flow of communication.

Teaching English Young Adults - Speaking Activities:

1) Controlled Activities aim for accuracy: The teacher first provides a pattern or structure which must be practiced over and over again.a) Drilling: Choral or Individual repetition of a structure at least 3 times to improve pronunciation or to learn a language structure.

b) Pattern Practice: The teacher provided a base structure and the students construct similar structures based on the given cues. The pattern can be an easy one, as in example 1 or slightly more difficult (example 2), depending on the level of the students and the aim of the lesson. Example 1.(likes/ dislikes / subject-verb agreement) :  I like coffee but I don’t like tea He likes football but he doesn’t like tennis.Students make similar sentences using the given cues I… soccer… cricket Tom… reading… watching TV She… sushi… natto

Example 2. (the same as, similar to, different from)

 The wall and the carpet are the same colour.The wall is the same colour as the carpet. The sheets are blue and the pillowslip is light blue.The sheets are similar in colour to the pillowslip. One of his socks is red, but the other one is white.One of his socks is different from the other one The belt is brown but the shoes are black. The car is green and the seats are light green. My car is a Toyota and so is his. My car’s a Toyota but yours is a Nissan.

c) Question and response: Where the student answers questions to which there is only one correct answer.

d) Make a question: Is the reverse process, where the student makes a question for the given answer. Slightly more difficult for the learner, since the learner must listen to the stress.

Example:  Jack is reading a newspaper. What is Jack doing? Jack is reading a newspaper. Who is reading newspaper? Jack is reading a newspaper in the library. Where is Jack reading the newspaper? e) Games like Tongue Twisters for pronunciations practice.

2) Guided Activities are also accuracy based, but the student has more freedom. The output is controlled but the exact language isn’t.

a) Model dialogues Example:What kind of car of car is this? It's a sports car. How many people can get into it? Two. How much does it cost? Six Million Yen. Where can I buy one? At Speedy Car Sales.

Students can then create new dialogues using the above one as a model.

b) Guided Role Play.c) Make a sentence.

3) Creative communication is fluency based. The teacher gives the scenario and the students have free play with the language. The students can now experiment with the language and vocabulary they have learnt so far.a) Free Role Playb) Discussions / Opinionsc) Debates and Presentationsd) Problem Solving / Information gap. The students ask questions to piece together information to solve the problem or task.e) Interview and report.f) Picture Description.g) Tell a Story – based on a picture, a sequence of pictures or a given scenarioh) Give Instructions. Example – How to change the wheel of a car / How to make tea.i) News reportsj) Book or movie reviewsk) Listen to a story and re-tell.l) Games like: Twenty questions Telephone Conversation.

Teaching English Young Adults - Dealing with shy / reluctant students

In every group there will be extroverts and introverts. As teachers and facilitators, it is our task to bring out the hidden strengths and talents of the shy or slow learner.

Reasons why a student might not participate: Fear of making errors. Peer Intimidation. Lack of confidence. Lack of interest in the topic. Previous learning experience. Cultural reasons.

Teaching English Young Adults - Techniques to encourage interaction

Students are often reluctant to speak in front of the teacher or class, but you may find them more communicative with their fellow students. As such, you could try: Pair and group work Plenty of controlled and guided activities before launching on to creative activities. Make speaking activities purposeful. Example give a short presentation of your holiday / Describe your weekend / Give instructions on how to play your favourite sport. Give students time to think for certain activities.Guidelines for Creative Speaking Activities.

Teaching English Young Adults - Before the lesson

1. Decide the aim of the activity: What will students learn? Will the activity be useful? Will the students find it interesting and fun?2. Time management: How long will the activity take?3. Prepare the required material.4. Prepare clear instructions.5. Finally, be prepared for chaos and noise.

Teaching English Young Adults - During the activity

1. Initiate the activity by arousing their interest through visuals, a newspaper headline, an audio and try relating it to the students’ interests.2. Recap and review the language structures or vocabulary they might need.3. Give clear instructions.4. Let the aim of the activity be known.5. Give time to prepare, if needed – individually, in pairs or in groups. Rehearsing itself is a useful speaking practice.6. Monitor the activity without interrupting or distracting, but keep a check on time.7. Evaluate silently and take down some typical oft-repeated errors.8. If possible, record the activity for later feedback.9. If an activity runs out of steam or you feel it is too difficult, jump in and give them clues or change the direction of the activity by asking questions. You might even need to stop the activity if the students seem bored.

Teaching English Young Adults - After the Activity: Feedback

1. Focus on what they did well rather than what they did wrong.2. Praise all efforts.3. Repeated and common errors, whether in grammar, pronunciation or vocabulary usage should be pointed out.Deal with individual errors in private, but put down the common ones on the board and have students discuss and correct them. Self-correction is a learning process.

Teaching English Young Adults - Finally

A good teacher will tailor all activities to the level of the students. If the activity is too easy, make it more challenging by increasing the complexity of the language and adding elements of risk, or make it less challenging by simplifying the language and providing more guidance to reduce the risk of errors.

Teaching English Young Adults - Conclusion

Learning, as we know is an ever-continuous process of exploration. And in this new learner-centered model, both the teacher and learner are active participants sharing equal responsibility, working towards the same goal. This dynamic structure of classroom environment makes the dual partnership of teaching – learning an enjoyable and rewarding process.

Teaching English Young Adults Author

Devanshe Chauhan is an English teacher in Japan. Getting students to think in English, a great article.

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