Essential Strategies TESL Teachers Use for Adult Learners - UNITAR International University

6 Essential Strategies TESL Teachers Use for Adult Learners

Teaching is not an easy career, even with children who can be easier to manage in the classroom with sternness and clear direction. However, this cannot be said to be the same for adult learners. Teaching a language is a highly instructive process, and often, when teaching adults, this can come off as being too patronising. Here are some ways you can be instructional and engaging for adult learners without being condescending:


1.Making students feel known, appreciated, and comfortable in the classroom 

This is one of the less utilised English teaching strategies. It is important to make your students feel heard, appreciated, comfortable, and present. Only then they will feel like they’re in a safe environment and will not hesitate to participate in class and take risks. This can be achieved by getting to know your students more closely and appreciating the diversity of students – with the understanding that learning a new language only enriches them instead of erasing their culture. When students feel a connection on a personal level to what they are learning, it is easier to engage them, and they also learn more quickly.


2.Teaching English across different subjects 

One of the best tips for teaching English as a second language is to not teach English at all. Developing a language means that the new language should be applied in the students’ daily lives, particularly to adult learners. When teaching English to adults, remember to adapt the language classes to incorporate the students’ interests and daily lives – this can help them improve their language mastery when they are actually using the language to communicate their wants and needs.


3.Encouraging students to speak slowly 

As a TESL teacher, it needs to be understood that teaching ESL to adults is a vastly different experience from teaching children. Children are able to quickly pick up cadences and nuances of a language, but for adults, this becomes harder as they are used to the audibility of their own language. Besides, speaking slowly allows students to translate a statement, process their thinking in response, and translate it back to English before responding. 


4.Engaging students with lesson material in multiple ways 

For TESL teachers particularly, language lessons should incorporate multiple learning methods, incorporating reading, writing, speaking, and listening. These multiple modalities of learning will enhance the understanding of the language besides expediting the learning potential of the students.


5.Incorporating students’ native languages 

Translation can be a powerful tool for teaching English to adults. Giving students the study material ahead of time allows them to translate the lesson to their own tongue, thus helping to enhance the understanding of the topic – consequently helping them enhance their mastery of the English language.


6.How to present effectively in English 

One of the end goals in teaching ESL to adults is to have your students talk and present comfortably and confidently in English. Here are three top tips to share with your students when presenting in English:

  • Choose your words carefully – Choose words and phrases in English that you’re comfortable with.
  • Phase your words – When speaking, pause at the appropriate moment to gather your thoughts and also for effect. Pausing also helps you take a breath and say your next words more clearly.
  • Rehearse – Practice makes perfect


Do you have a passion for teaching English to adult learners? Sign up for our Bachelor of Education (Hons) programme today! For more information on other career options, you could pursue with a degree in education, read here.



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