Teaching Young Learners

Young Learners? I Can’t Take it Anymore!

It’s no secret that teaching young learners comes across as an exhausting responsibility which eventually takes its toll on us as years go by. Come every September, we are introduced to our classes which will be bound to us for the foreseeable future. “Good grief! Another junior class? What else have they assigned me? Don’t tell me. Am I to be burdened with the infamous senior class? The one with the juvenile delinquencies? They drove my colleague mad last year. Oh, woe is me! I’m definitely not getting out of this intact.”

Text by: Katherine Reilly

Have you ever felt this way? As if the weight of the whole world rests upon your shoulders? The dreadful feeling that you alone are to handle such a predicament? Fear not my disgruntled colleagues! Everything is a matter of unwavering dedication. Even the most undisciplined of students can be motivated to follow our lead and contribute to the learning process if we adhere to meticulous preparation beforehand.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. The stress we endure when dealing with disruptive behavior in class is too hard to handle. Statistically speaking, almost half the educators who embark on their teaching careers quit within the first few years. A disappointing statistic which must not be attributed to the educators themselves, rather the preparation they have received to enter the job market. Therefore, it has become an absolute necessity to evolve in our field and adopt new teaching methods which will eventually ‘tame’ our young learners.

Attending training seminars and workshops provided by esteemed ELT organizers is the first step. Innovative perspectives on dealing with seemingly impossible challenges in class are shared with the ultimate goal of becoming enlightened and adopting the necessary skills to cope with everyday issues in class. It is also highly advisable to dedicate time to the preparation of stimulating material which will captivate young learners’ attention; thus, rendering their focus indisputable.

Speaking of which, researchers claim that the attention span of students has drastically diminished. This is intricately intertwined with the constant exposure to information. One such example is social media. Young learners’ minds are now accustomed to being exposed to more information than ever before. Once the main gist of content is perceived, they disregard it and move on to something else. TikTok videos are a prime example as they tend to be short and to the point. Our lessons must also be adjusted accordingly through a variation of stimuli, addressing their thirst for constant flow of information. Switching from one skill to another and exposing them to a multitude of perspectives is key. Do not simply rely on hearing a text. Have them role play it. Are they still restless? Turn it into a game. Even the most apathetic of students will display enthusiasm and take part; a way better alternative to having them disrupt the lesson with constant mischieving and disregard.

As for the dedication needed in order to organize your lessons accordingly? A colleague had once voiced her concern to me; which was rather boggling to say the least. “Preparing so much material in advance for every single class before our lessons is time consuming. Let’s be honest. It’s not my fault the students are restless or indifferent. I’ll just deliver my lesson and be on my way home. Besides, you keep telling us that ELT books are written with the intention of making our lives easier. Why not just follow the flow of exercises?”

As for my response?  “It doesn’t exactly work that way.” On the one hand, ELT books have made tremendous strides in offering the proper tools for educators to use in class. They are clearly laid out within the pages of our books and cater to the needs of all students. Nonetheless, what many educators fail to realize is that there is a specific number of exercises and activities that are to be implemented at key points during the lesson. Not only that, but ELT books offer a wide range of activities so as to offer the educator the flexibility of experimentation with one’s students. Not every activity is meant to be used and the factors depend on the specific needs of the class. Such examples include interests, the command of the language, special educational needs, even the latest trends. That is why we have a responsibility to be properly trained and informed of the latest trends in the field, both by the publishers we collaborate with, as well as experienced trainers of the field.

Is our job easy? Most certainly not. Nevertheless, the rewards we reap for making that extra effort will be reciprocated by our students who will acknowledge the endeavor we exert. At the end of the day all those happy faces and exercitation of love are worth it.