Advice for Teaching Adults EFL

When I first started private teaching, I did not prepare for lessons beforehand. I simply showed up to the lesson to “shoot the shit” with my students. We talked about current events, every day life and experiences. While discussing, I taught them new expressions, corrected their grammar, and helped with pronunciation. This was in 2006–2007.

I started teaching privately again. I think my current lessons are much better than the “general conversation” ones I used to do. Now my lessons pass smoothly and the students seem very satisfied.

Get Students’ Expectations

Are they studying for TOEIC? For work? For school? For travel? As a hobby? If you know your students’ goals, it’s a lot easier to guide them in the right direction. Be explicit about what you will/won’t teach. In my experience, students who are studying English as a hobby are harder to teach. They’re usually not as motivated as students with a specific purpose. Though it’s not always like this, it’s something to consider. A motivated student with a goal is easier to teach.

Make Contract

Though not necessary, this can simplify the details, e.g., payment, time, place, cancellation deadlines. I prefer direct deposit to my bank account by the end of the month. No penalty for cancellation if lesson is cancelled a day in advance. Clarity is something both the teacher and the students can benefit from.

Visuals for Weaker Students

Bring props, e.g., magazines with lots of pictures, and practice describing what you see. Level up and discuss more abstract topics.

Select Materials in Advance

Get your students’ email addresses! Assign homework like simple writing assignments for weaker students. Send news articles or short essays to the advanced students. Tell them to prepare for a comprehension check and discussion next time. I always try to assign at least one reading task for homework then follow up the next lesson. For reading assignments I very rarely use hard copies, i.e., handouts. Email is the way to go.

Diversify Tasks

Only conversation is not good. I’ve had positive feedback from students with writing assignments. This is the best way to teach grammar and improve your students’ sentence structure. Having the right grammar often gives them more confidence to speak. A reading assignments for homework that gets discussed the following lesson uses three of the four skills (reading, listening, and speaking). You could also dictate the questions, have them write the answers then read them aloud. This uses all four skills (reading, listening, writing, and speaking).

Establish Routine

Having a routine gives structure to your lessons, and a familiar environment can facilitate the learning process for your students. Proceeding randomly is not the way to go. With most of my students, I always show them my lesson plan before we start. My 60 min. lesson plan usually looks something like this:

  • catch up & small talk [5 min.]
  • quickly review last week’s main points (if necessary) [1–2 min.]
  • check writing assignment [10 min.]
  • review, Q&A, and discussion of reading assignment [15 min.]
  • new topic; teach and practice new language [20 min.]
  • assign and explain homework [5 min.]
  • wrap up & talk about upcoming plans [5 min.]

If you have any advice you’d like to add for teaching EFL to adults, please comment.


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