Helene Combe

Through my journey as an English teacher and a language learner

Unusual teaching

Last Wednesday, I faced one of my new challenges (I called them my “Fall 2017 challenges” – I have three of them) and this one was the scariest of all: teaching elderly people.

What I mean by elderly actually, it’s retired people, between 49 (yes, she is retired. It’s like looking at an unicorn or something) and 74. They all have plenty of time, they still are young in mind, they want to travel and in order to do so, they want to learn English.

I arrived 30 minutes in advance, but some of them were already there, waiting for me. First question: “What kind of teacher are you?”  Me: What do you mean by that?

Second question:”Are you a high school teacher? Where did you train?”

They stopped asking questions when I explained my experience in England. They previously had a high school teacher, who focused on grammar. Obviously, I wasn’t about to be the same kind of teacher.

After the usual introduction, I dove in : our subject was Visiting abroadI didn’t reinvent the wheel at all, I followed the CELTA recipe. We (and by “we”, I mean 60% me, 40% them) spoke a lot, despite the huge level gap, which was comforting. I realized quickly how tricky that gap would be: some students are total beginner (they can barely say their names) and some are strong Upper Intermediate.

So, what worked:

-Pair work : they loved to talk to each other and to try on the new vocab written on the board.

-Written feedback at the end of the session: they were writing in their notebooks everything and felt free to ask for clarification.

-Pronunciation: when I pre taught some vocab, I also taught pronunciation. They liked it so much they were just repeating like parrots, even when that part was done. At the end of the session, they even asked for more!

What didn’t work:

-Huge group: they were a little less than 30, and managing the class was a huge part of my job. I took 2 Upper Intermediate to be my assistants at some points!

-Huge level gap: 3 were beginners with zero confidence, some were better than they thought, some were so motivated they couldn’t stop asking questions… To split is not negotiable. Starting next week, I will teach to two separate groups.

-The 2 hours format: even with a break, by the end, they were just tired. How can I blame them? I was tired too!

To work on:

-Reduce my Talking Time (TTT) and increase their Talking Time (STT)

It is now time for me to relax a little bit before actually starting to teach Business English next Monday 🙂




1 Comment

  1. You are such a great teacher and this is a brilliant blog post – I love it. Yay for the weekend!!

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