No matter where you plan to teach English, the chances are that there will be a wide range of potential age groups to choose from in your chosen destination. So how do you know which one is best? Put simply, there is no best age group for teaching English as every teacher has their own preference. Many ESL teachers choose to only work with young children as they suit the high energy level and focus on fun that often accompanies this age group. Others prefer to teach adults as the calmer and more academic approach is more to their liking.
What are the different age levels you can teach ESL?
As we have already seen, English is commonly taught to people of all ages, from as young as 18 months, all the way up to the oldest members of society. This wide range of students is typically broken down into three main groups of learners:
- Kindergarten (under 5 years)
- Young Learners (6 to 16)
- Adults (17 and over)
The pros and cons of teaching ESL at kindergarten level
Teaching English to this age group can be a unique experience as your time will be split between teaching, babysitting, and parenting to some extent. English at this level will obviously need to be presented in a fun manner and be focused on basics such as reading and writing and developing motor skills through activities, while concepts such as sharing and being nice to others are common. The teacher will need to be fully aware of each individual’s language level, have plenty of patience, and be comfortable using non-verbal gestures and props for modeling each task.
- At this age attendance is usually no more than half a day, giving less work than in many other environments.
- There is no need to organize any tests at this low age level.
- The day will include nap time and snacks which reduces the workload and creates a more relaxed atmosphere.
- In this environment the teacher needs to be engaging and very patient.
- You will be required to sing songs and behave in an animated way.
- Some kindergartens can be little more than a babysitting service.
The pros and cons of teaching ESL to young learners
As outlined above, young learners is generally used in the ESL industry when referring to children between the ages of 6 and 18. However, many organizations further break this group down into 6 to 12 year olds and 13 to 16 year olds. Children at the lower end of this scale are good at learning concrete topics and less good at learning abstract ideas, so you need to adjust your lessons accordingly. Lack of motivation can often be an issue when teaching young learners as they usually haven’t chosen to learn English. Most young learners are only in class because their school or parents have decided they need to learn it, so keeping them interested by using engaging activities is a must.
- Students become more comfortable sharing ideas with the teacher and class.
- Lessons should be fun and energetic for both the students and the teacher.
- A close bond can often develop between the teacher and their students.
- Lesson planning for young learners can be time consuming.
- Schools typically expect mid and end-of-term tests.
- A full day of teaching young learners can be very tiring.
The pros and cons of teaching ESL to adults
When we talk about teaching English to adults, we could be talking about high school seniors, university students, or business professionals. Whatever the group, at this level you will normally find students to be serious about learning the language and focused on the lesson goals. Games will be less important and there should be no need for any reward systems or other incentives. However, it is worth remembering that just because they are adults it doesn’t mean that their understanding of the language is necessarily higher than younger learners. Teachers of adult learners generally require a deeper understanding of the English language than those teaching younger learners.
- Sought after positions such as in a university typically offer good pay and plenty of vacation time.
- Although lesson planning can be more time consuming than with young learners, teaching adults is usually less tiring.
- Schools and other institutions at this level generally offer a stable and enjoyable environment to work in.
- Lessons can often be very long, with up to two hours at a time considered normal.
- A solid understanding of English grammar is required as you will be teaching advanced concepts.
- Preparing and marking regular assessments and homework can be tedious.
What is the best age group to teach English to?
As previously mentioned, there is no best age group for teaching English as it all depends on your personal preferences. The most numerous and easy to find jobs are generally in the young learners category. If you choose this option you will need to have plenty of energy and come up with a lot of games and activities to keep them interested. Some teachers prefer the kindergarten option as it can be less demanding in terms of preparation and energy levels than older groups. However, this level has challenges of its own and is not for everyone. Finally, teaching adults appeals to many teachers as it requires less gameplay and animated behavior is typically not necessary. Just remember that the expected level of qualifications and experience are often higher with adult groups and you will need to know the language inside and out.