Teaching adults vs Teaching children (part 1) by sandra luna

“They’re all students, aren’t they? So what’s the big deal? How come I can’t teach all of them the same way?”

Dear reader,

I’m sure the above questions will either make you frown or smile. Some will say “How can a teacher not see that adults and children are completely different?” while others will think “They’re not that different and anyway, they seem to like my lessons.”

I don’t really have an answer. However I can share my opinion with you. Yes, adults and kids are different and, yes, I do work with them in different ways. But how different and different how? Even because I’ve used things with adult groups you wouldn’t normally use and it worked.

There are, in my opinion, some key words to bear in mind and here they are:


Children don’t “have to” learn English. They’re not usually under pressure, their job or promotion does not depend on it. They learn for the sake of learning, because it’s either fun or parents are making them learn. Adults, on the other hand, often come to us with true horror stories. “I have to learn English in 4 months, or else…” “I need to take the IELTS in two weeks and score a band 7, or else…” “My boss/professor told me to look for an English course. He told me to do it, or else…”

So, clearly, they’re much more focused and eager to work, but on the other hand they’re much more concentrated on how you’re teaching them, on exactly why you’re doing this or that and this leads us to…


Children don’t usually think about how much they’re going to get out of a lesson. They’ll say they’ve enjoyed it or not but they won’t go away thinking “Well, can I use this tonight while I’m writing that email?” “Will I remember about that phrasal verb when I pick up the phone tomorrow?” And they sure have different expectations regarding your role in the class. Adults are more likely to be looking for a more traditional form of teaching with the teacher being “god knows it all” and expecting to be quiet, just listening, making their notes and being corrected right away whenever they make some mistake. Remember adults “need” it more than kids do, so topics have to be more than just interesting, they have to be relevant.

(to be continued)


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