Teaching Adults vs Young Learners
Doing a CELTA course is excellent preparation for getting in to teaching. They allow you to take your own classes from between six and sixteen people and you teach perhaps a minimum of fourteen hours. In teaching terms this is quite a lot – the downside is that most of the people you are teaching are also much older than your run-of-the-mill primary school.
I taught people between the ages of eighteen and up during my time in Prague and it didn’t cross my mind that teaching similar material to children would be much different. How naive could I be….. it is striking in contrast. Adults want to sit down, learn the grammar, talk a little to their friends with the odd reminder not to speak their native tongue and practise what they have learnt. Often it is good to have two or three jovial types who will lighten up the general mood too. Children on the other hand want to draw on walls, wrestle with each other and repeat some incomprehensible word that they have just that minute invented. Deciding whether you want to teach adults or young learners is something worth thinking through properly from the get go.
When I started working at York and observing classes it suddenly dawned on me of the necessity to keep their fledgling minds occupied at all times. And although it is not always that hard to achieve, you also need to make it fun for them whilst they are learning. If you are able to have fun with it too, even better!
The Game of the Week
Obviously you need to make it relevant to what you are working on and some games do have their limits either depending on the class or how you can adapt it.
My favourite game at the moment is a team game played amongst eight to twelve children. You start by dividing the class in to two teams. I suppose it is a kind of relay race involving several different components. Speaking, writing, listening and grammar use are the basics you are trying to incorporate. To start with you have to place some of the vocabulary in to a balloon. Children love balloons. This is one of those great universal facts. So in total there are two students standing up. One with a balloon and one with a sticky ball.
The first child pops the balloon – they are not allowed to use their hands or feet to pop it. They have to find the vocabulary word as is explodes and tell it to the next student who is waiting. This student then has to throw a sticky ball on to the correct flashcard on the board that corresponds to the vocab word and say it as they do so. For example if the vocab is ‘rubber bands’ there is a flashcard with some lovely colourful rubber bands on it. Once they have hit that the first student sitting down can start.
The first child sitting down then has to say the entire grammar sentence or question that involves that vocabulary. If the word is ‘rubber bands’, the grammar question for that is “How many rubber bands do you have?”. Each child who is surplus to the game has to say the question until the last student says it and runs to the board to write the entire question – correctly – in to a box on the board. If they go over the edge of the box, minus points. It has to be legible. If I can’t read it then they have to write it again! This combines speaking, listening, writing and the grammar. And as children love popping balloons it is also a little bit fun. The mess can be quite bad but it’s okay because you can ask/tell the students to do it. Once the game has completed rotation everyone changes one place to the left or right until everyone has had a go. Sometimes one or two of the meeker children don’t want to pop the balloon but I gurantee there will be five people wanting to take their place.
It’s hard to combine all the elements you need to but there are literally thousands of games you can play out there. It can be a challenge to gage what your students like the most and what the respond best to. Sometimes classes can find the more simple games boring or they might like writing and puzzle games more than throwing games. Finding a mix for everyone to be happy can be tricky but it’s okay with a little perseverance. Students are also more prone to getting bored with some games quickly, so this game for example will probably run its course soon. It has been a hit in my classes recently however and with a little preparation it never fails to be fun for the students, for the teaching assistant and for myself.