How can you teach adult learners differently when they have already been taught the language?

     That is a good question. To approach an adult learner in the same manner as a young learner would be wrong. Unlike young learners, an adult learner will always come to the class with some knowledge of English. I think the first order of business should be to identify exactly what knowledge they do have. Did they acquire some English through formal instruction or life knowledge? Was their formal instruction recent, or from childhood. Second, it is imperative for the teacher to understand why the adult student is in this class. What is their motivation? Then do a preliminary assessment as to what are their needs and weaknesses.

For me, in dealing with adult learners, the key is respect. Respect their age, life experience and previous knowledge. Do not talk down to them. It is a very different relationship when the student is an adult versus a child. Possibly because I am an older adult myself, I would prefer to have a relationship which is that of a sharing peer rather than a teacher versus student.

There are many affective filters that are put up by an adult learner that are not of the same nature as a child. A teacher must respect the awkward feelings of an educated adult entering a low or low intermediate class… respect the sometimes embarrassment of an adult learner who was street educated in English for many years and might have some fossilized issues… respect an adult who was educated in an English that is different from the version you are teaching and is confused by the differences (for example an adult educated in RP studying American English). It is imperative to be sensitive to these issues which are not always directly related to the learning of the language.

For these reasons, I love to use TED talks. I can find talks that speak to the adult interests and motivations. When you cater your lessons around the student’s interests and motivations, their attention is taken off of how inadequate their English knowledge is, which was what brought them to your class, and redirect their focus on a subject of interest. This usually effectively results in the student relaxing and enjoying their time in class. Thus making it possible for the student to absorb the lesson and move forward in their capabilities.

Just remember…Respect…Be Understanding…Encourage and most of all…

Be Flexible!!


Teaching English Presentation Skills for the 21st Century…using TED talks

Presenting in English has become important in any field in the 21st Century. There was a time when standing at a podium and reading from a script was good enough. Then, came the invention of the PowerPoint slide show.  Presenters didn’t have to say much, just show slides for people to read. In today’s world that is not enough. To be an effective presenter, one must master all that media has to offer. With English evolving as an international language, it has become even more important for our students to be able to effectively present in English. Not only do they have to  master the language as a good speaker but present well made slide shows that include good graphics, video  as well as proper text which enhance their talk (not replace it).

In my conversation and listening classes I have my students work towards an ultimate goal of a major presentation. The theme of the presentation is based on the individual class interests. I have found that by constructing my lessons around achieving this goal:
1) the students will work toward improving the intelligibility in their speaking skills,
2) they learn the importance of using good graphics and other media in enhancing their presentation as well as how to use it effectively,
3) they learn to use the written language to effectively communicate their ideas in their presentations,
and 4) by conducting the mandatory question and answer period after their presentations, they learn and practice their conversational and listening skills.

I love using TED talks to achieve this ultimate goal with my students. We usually begin by defining the theme of the presentations. Then I have my students find TED talks on this theme. Sometimes, I will choose the talk when there is limited time. We review the talks and very often I will have my students actually use the transcripts and practice performing the talk. This helps them begin to identify how a good talk should be and gives them vocabulary and volumes of language to help them express themselves in their presentations.

Next, they learn how to choose and research their topic. They are required to turn in a written paper on the topic to go with their presentation. This ensures that they are well versed in their topic so they may conduct their Q&A properly. I have the students make mini-presentations of different aspects of their topics as a lead to the final complete presentation. With each mini-presentation, their skills are peer critiqued and discussed. We look at the media chosen and discuss if it was effective or extraneous. They are assessed for intelligibility in their speech by their peers.

I chose TED talks for my students to study because I have found that these are some of the most effective presentations. In these talks, my students begin to assess what makes a good speaker or not a good speaker. They can identify what made the speaker interesting and compelling to listen to. We can assess whether the media chosen to enhance the talk was effective or not. For this goal they are required to read:

TED talks – 10 Tips for Better Slide Shows

Harvard Business Review – How to Give Killer Presentations .
Using these TED talks they learn volumes of vocabulary and idioms. Most important, they can find talks in almost any subject or theme.

Additional Resources:

Talks by brilliant kids and teens – 14 talks – Guide to Improve your presentation skills

Who are we in the classroom?


A young teacher, Sensy Nena, posted this:

“Classrooms are places where students learn rather than being places where teachers teach. To what extent do you agree with the statement above?”

This was my response:

“Hmmm… I think it is important to understand the difference between “teaching” and “instructing”. Teaching is the sharing and enlightening of knowledge whereas instructing is merely giving information. In the classroom we are all learners and teachers. The students and the teachers are ‘teaching’. We share with them our knowledge and they teach us to be better teachers. Both students and teachers are ‘learners’. The students are learning from us and we learn something new every time from them. If we as teachers are not learning with our students then we are doing them and ourselves a disservice. It goes both ways.”

This got me thinking about when I was a very young teacher many years ago. My first educational class was an early school age class. This was back in the days when pre-school education was something that was still being experimented with. I thought I was there to ‘teach’ and the students were there to ‘learn’. Well, I quickly learned that was not true!

As a self -taught teacher, I found there was much I needed to learn about child development. This sent me to the local library to study every book I can get my hands on. What I learned was everything was not in the books! It was in my students. I had a lot of knowledge and experience to share with them and they soaked it up like a sponge… but it was my students that taught me more! I learned about their different cultures that they came from. I learned about all the different ways they learned. I learned about what gets them excited about learning and why. Through them I learned whole new ways of teaching and sharing. It was a very exciting year.

Over the years… almost forty… I have found with each new class, each new age group, there was always something exciting & new to learn from them and something new I could teach them. It didn’t matter if they were 3yrs old or 80yrs old, or if it was an art class, a robotic class, an academic class or an English class… there was always something wonderful and new to exchange. I just had to keep my eyes and heart open to find it.

Colleagues and students have remarked how much I seem to love teaching. I do because it has been a long journey and the adventure isn’t over yet. I continue to learn from my students and fellow teachers, young and old, which is what brings me to my motto, “We are teachers as well as students and our students are our teachers.”


Welcome to My World

Welcome to my world! I decided I needed a place to just write…write about teaching…write about my PLN… write about life. It seems I have a lot to say and there are many who want to hear it. This is where I have chosen to discuss, to share, my ideas and views on teaching, education and life in general. As I travel along this journey, I will be posting all sorts of stuff. So, welcome to my world and into my mind. I hope you enjoy the journey!