jueves, 21 de julio de 2016

Teaching adults? Practical insights to be considered
                     By María de la Lama Eggerstedt
If you are teaching adults you may probably find yourself in the situation in which despite all the effort you put into preparing a lesson, your methodology does not seem to match your students’ expectations.   What’s going on? Why is it that teaching adults may not be that easy after all?
When teaching an adult group of students the difficulties do not come from an apparently lack of training, but from the teacher’s unawareness of some practical insights about how adults learn.
To begin with, always bear in mind that adults love grammar! This doesn’t mean that they do not want to develop their oral skills. But whether we want it or not, they want “their grammar” since grammar for this group of students becomes their “security blanket”, something that they can have a good grasp on when struggling with the development of listening comprehension skills, speaking, pronunciation or other areas of the language. Somehow they have the idea that by studying grammatical structures they will control the language. However, we need to consider that the heavy emphasis that they place on grammar may be inherited from previous methodologies that used to focus on the analysis of a language but not on its use.
So, here are some ideas to put into practice to succeed teaching adults:
1.         Always teach grammar communicatively. That is, make your students put into real practice the new structure and vocabulary they have just learned. With this group of students never skip a genuine communicative activity.
2.         Constantly provide them with good and positive feedback, especially after a communicative active is done.
3.         Teach them how to learn by themselves. They are grown-ups who do things on their own.  Thus, make them think about which learning strategies work better for them and which ones are not that effective. Give them lots of learning strategies. Better yet, make them discover their own.
4.         If you really want to make a difference as a teacher, teach pronunciation. Especially, make your students aware of the phonological differences between English and Spanish.
5.         Develop their self-confidence when speaking English. Unlike children or teenagers, adults are sensitive to how they may sound when speaking English.
6.         In class, make the most effective use of time. Consider that most of your students come to class with an instrumental motivation and the last thing they want to do is their waste time on an ineffective lesson.
7.         Welcome mistakes! Adults know that by making mistakes they learn. More importantly, never say anything sarcastic, improper or discouraging. Believe me, they will never forget it!
8.         Make sure that your written tests or exams do not measure just grammar or vocabulary. Test their ability to interact in different situations. Dialog completions are good for this.
9.         Finally, for adults, learning a foreign language means acquiring relevant cultural information. Teach English in such a way that your students are not only learning a language, but also increasing their knowledge of the world. Who knows? Maybe one day in a social gathering they will say something like: I know that! I learned it in my English class”.
DE LA LAMA, MARIA, holds a Master´s Degree in Applied Linguistics and Bachelor´s Degree in Theoretical Linguistics from the University of California; MBA Universidad del Pacífico. Current Director at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacifico.