What kind of students attend adult ESL Classes?
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There is no typical adult ESL student. Generally every class will have a wide range of backgrounds, skills and interests. Some of the more important student differences are identified below along with some suggestions as to how these factors may affect how you group your students and teach your classes.
LITERACY -- One of the most important differences among adult students is whether or not they read in their native language. A special section of this manual is devoted to the teaching of the non-literate adult. (See Section IV)
AGE -- Adult education classes generally attract students of widely ranging ages.
The wide range of ages suggests that you may need to use a wide variety of activities in the classroom in order to reach all of your students. It also suggests that you can often be most effective by grouping students and doing many activities in the small groups. Age is one natural way to group people.
- Often students in their late teens will be taking the classes in order to get into GED or vocational classes.
- Young adults may be taking classes because they need to speak and write English to get a good job.
- Middle aged adults frequently take classes to improve English skills for promotion in their jobs or to change careers.
- Older retired individuals may be taking the classes now that they finally have time.
Motivation -- The motivation of your students may fall into a broad spectrum distribution.
As an instructor, you need to explore what your students really want. Regardless of the motivation adult students come with, genuine concern for the student, an enjoyable class and a sense of progress will increase motivation once the students are there.
- You will have students who are very eager to learn English so they can move on to other classes or so they can advance in their employment
- You may also have students who are required (by their employer, by some social assistance program, etc.) to attend your classes but who do not really care about English at all. Some may be motivated to learn every possible detail about every aspect of English. Others may only want as much language as is necessary to do a particular job.
Native Language Background -- Because immigration laws and refugee patterns shift frequently, the native language backgrounds of your students may be as varied as their ages or as homogeneous as a regular English class. The native language backgrounds of the students can affect your teaching about as much as any other single factor. Some languages are more similar to English than others. These similarities can be in vocabulary, grammatical structure, or sound. The languages might also share our alphabet. Teaching people with these language backgrounds is easier than teaching those with language backgrounds less similar to English. Even though it may be more difficult to teach people English when their native language is extremely different form English, it is not impossible. Many of these students become very fluent in English.
Native Culture -- One of the most surprising things for many teachers is the influence that the native culture has in the classroom. Students come with their native cultural view of
- What a teacher should say and do.
- What should happen in any kind of classroom.
- How a language should be taught.
For example, in many oriental cultures, the teacher is a highly respected individual and there is a great social difference between pupils and teacher. In other cultures there is less distance between students and teachers, and students expect to have more interpersonal relationships with the teachers. Dealing with culture may mean that you have to modify some of your behavior so as not to offend your students and gain their respect as their teacher. It may also mean that you will have to explain to some of them the differences in cultural expectations and encourage them to move towards the norms of the society in which they are currently living.