Teaching Adults differs from teaching younger learners. They have different needs, experiences, and goals to consider. Let’s look at ten activities for Teaching Adult learners, starting with sharing real-life experiences, discussing daily routines, practicing movie lines, doing interviews, surveys, describing pictures, doing one-minute speeches, and expanding sentences.
Students need to practice asking questions about the past. These are important because it helps them learn about other people’s lives, share experiences and gain knowledge of past events.
Elicit question words from students and write them on the board. (Who, what, where, when, why, how, how long, how many/much, how often, do/did, and is/are, was/were.)
Explain that you will tell them a short story about your previous week. Learners have to ask you questions to get more details about your story.
“I went on a date last weekend.” It helps if you pick something they find funny or are curious about, but it doesn’t need to be.
Each student should ask you a question or two until you are satisfied that they got most of the details.
Answer each question. Then, pick a student to retell what you did last weekend with the details. They usually don’t remember everything, so get the others to add to it.
Now, place students into pairs. One student shares a story of their past week and their partner interviews them and asks follow-up questions. They can take notes if they want.
Teaching adult English learners to ask follow-up questions is one of the most important skills they can learn. Once they are done let them introduce their partner’s experience.
This is a great activity as it can be done every week to review what has happened in your students’ lives.
Find large magazine photos of people at work (a housekeeper, nurse, homemaker, farmer, mechanic, cashier, teacher, waitress, etc.) – enough for one per learner.
Next, write a simple daily timeline –
7:00 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m.,
5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m., 10:30 p.m. Midnight
Model the activity for the class by selecting a photo and describing the daily routine of your “Photo Friend”.
Next, let each learner also pick a “photo friend”, then give them time to write an action their friend does during that time.
Then, place the students in pairs and let them describe the imagery daily life of their “photo friend”.
Once they are done, select random learners to share their friends’ schedules with the class.
I like to get pairs to do rock-paper-scissors and the loser has to present. This makes it fair, and fun.
Adults want to sound like famous actors when speaking English. To help them quickly improve their pronunciation, help them mirror scenes from popular media.
Pick a short, high-interest, level-appropriate scene from a movie or TV show and write down a few key lines of dialogue.
Ask students to read the selected lines and assist them with intonation, stress and meaning before playing the scene.
Then play the scene once. Ask them to listen to the lines. Ask additional questions about the setting, situation, and emotions of the characters.
Play the tape a second time, stopping after each model line to discuss the pronunciation, stress and intonation.
Now, ask students to say the selected lines like the actors. Let them practice the scene with a partner to act it out. Once they are ready, let them do it in front of the class.
A good idea is to record them on their phones, that way that can compare themselves to the actors.
We have the technology. It would be dumb not to use phones to record voice or video as a learning tool for students to monitor their progress.
For higher-level learners, select lines that demonstrate how intonation expresses a speaker’s mood, attitude and urgency.
Write some topics or situations on the board. Ask students to write eight items that are related to the topic or are required for the situation.
For example, if the item is a handbag: What are eight things a woman needs in her handbag? Answer: Her wallet, driver’s license, lipstick, hand cream, candy, money, and wet tissues.
Or if it is a situation like going for a job interview: Wear a suit, take a resume, arrive early, take a notepad, smile, greet politely, answer questions confidently, do research on the company.
Now, write a few ideas on the board and place the students into groups. They have to discuss and think of the eight essential things that are needed for the following situations or items:
- Packing a suitcase for a 3-day trip.
- Going on a date.
- Going to the beach.
- Doing a presentation.
Once they are done let each group give feedback and compare.
This is a great activity for students to have fun and be creative. It could be done either in pairs, or a one-to-one lesson.
Students choose a famous person they want to interview. It can be anybody of their choice, and the person doesn’t necessarily have to be alive.
I tell students to choose someone they admire or know a lot about because then they’ll have more material to talk about.
Give each student a list of ten to fifteen verbs. Instead of asking the normal interview questions, they have to use these verbs to create questions for their partner.
Decide – When did you decide….
Hate – What do you hate…
Prefer – What do you prefer between….
This is to challenge learners to use different vocabulary in an engaging way.
Surveys are when students have a list of questions that they have to ask one another. They walk around the class and ask one question per partner. This is especially a good exercise when students are new to each other. In this way, they interact with different students and get to know each other.
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I also have a free word document with 250 conversation starters and Questions Board game that you get for FREE when you join the Etacude email list.
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Google search for a picture with many people doing different things. Find a large picture of a specific setting (a city, park, kitchen, school, office, hospital, store, etc) and several people engaged in a variety of activities. Show the picture to the entire class and ask each student to say something different about what is happening in the picture.
Get the students to talk about the people, activities or make comments about the setting.
After you have modeled the activity, place students into small groups and hand each group a different picture and blank paper. They have to write down as many things they can say about their picture as possible.
If they are unsure, give them a specific number like a minimum of twenty things.
Once they are finished, each group has to present the picture to the class and take turns to share their sentences.
A follow-up activity could be to create a roleplay based on the picture.
First, teach your students how to do an introduction, body, conclusion, and a call to action when making a speech.
Then, model how to make a one-minute presentation about a topic. I ask my students to give me a simple topic, for example, ‘Apples’.
Next, ask students to give random topics for a speech. Keep it simple.
They then have to speak for one minute about that topic. By limiting it to one minute takes the pressure off from the students to talk a lot. The lack of time also means that they have to talk quickly, which increases their fluency.
Have them do their speeches in groups if there are too many students.
There are two alternative activities you can do when it comes to giving speeches:
- Expert activity: Each student picks something they are very good at and teaches the class how to become good at it. It could be anything like fishing, playing a computer game, studying – anything. Because they are talking about strength, they gain confidence by teaching others and also share something about themselves.
- Retell the story: A second activity is to get students to talk about a topic for two minutes, then their partner has to retell or repeat the story in 90 seconds and the third student in one minute. This helps them improve their fluency.
Find a level-appropriate text in a newspaper or online. Make sure that it includes a lot of information.
Write a questions sheet based on the text with five to ten questions and pre-teach any key vocabulary.
Before handing out the questions sheet, read the text aloud at a natural pace for learners to get the main idea.
Next, hand out the question paper.
Read the text aloud a second time while learners listen and write down the answers.
You may allow learners to interrupt with clarifying questions such as, “Could you please repeat that?”, “How do you spell that?”, and “Did you say _____ or _____?”
Read the text aloud a third time for learners to check their answers.
Note: Short articles about sports statistics give them the opportunity to practice listening to both cardinal (1, 2, 3) and ordinal (first, second, third) numbers.
Write a simple sentence on the board.
Then, one by one, ask each student to add a word, phrase, or clause to the sentence so it gradually expands and becomes more complex.
For example, Eric is a teacher.
My brother Eric is a teacher.
My younger brother Eric is a teacher.
My younger brother Eric is a teacher in South Korea.
My younger brother Eric is a teacher in South Korea, who loves sweets.
My younger brother Eric is a Science teacher in South Korea, who loves sweets, but lost his teeth.
My younger brother Eric is a Science teacher in South Korea, who loves sweets, but lost his teeth in a terrible bowling accident.
Now that you’ve modeled the activity, place the students in groups to create their own sentences. You can give them starter sentences or they can create their own and afterwards share it with the class.