Issues in Teaching English to Adolescents at Secondary Level Desmond Thomas (based on materials by Ann Walker)
Cognitive development of adolescents • Shift in thinking from concrete to abstract • Able to hypothesize • Able to think about the future • Able to evaluate alternatives (not just one ‘right answer’) • Able to set personal goals • Able to engage in introspective analysis
Results of cognitive development • Learners become more independent and can take on more responsibility • Learners begin to consider future careers • Look to peers and the media for advice • Begin to develop a social conscience • Develop a sense of values and ethical behaviour
Emotional development • Self-esteem and self-confidence: how much value adolescents attribute to themselves (a gender divide?) and how this affects their behaviour • Developing empathy: trying to put themselves in another person’s position. • Developing a cooperative spirit: trying to find ways to get on with different types of people
Some behaviour confuses when they … • Argue for arguments’ sake • Jump to conclusions • Behave in a self-centred way • Behave over-dramatically • Refuse to see an adult’s point of view http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLuEY6jN6gY KEVIN THE TEENAGER: “That’s so unfair!”
Implications for TESOL teachers • Emotional & cognitive development occur at different rates: need for sensitivity to individuals and their needs (self-esteem etc.) • Motivating learners • Challenging learners to keep pace with their intellectual development • Allowing self-expression and creativity • Allowing them to take risks
How do we choose suitable materials and activities that take these factors into consideration? Imagine teaching Kevin, for example. How do we …… • Cater for individual needs and interests? • Help build up fragile self-confidence & self-esteem? • Find topics and activities that motivate? • Challenge learners? • Allow self-expression? • Allow risk-taking?
Some solutions? • The “humanistic exercise” (Rinvolucri) • ‘Person-centred education’ (Rogers) • The ‘Learner-centred curriculum’ (Nunan) • Project work • Collaborative learning activities • ‘Caring & sharing’ activities (Moskovitz)
General implications for age-related ELT • Choice of materials should target specific age groups • Choice of activities should do the same • Tolerance of different learning styles at different ages as well as in individuals • Tolerance for ‘face-saving mechanisms’ (Griffiths 2008) But it’s not so easy to achieve in practice ….
Topic quiz: which would you use with teenagers/adults/young learners? • Sport • Applying for jobs • Smoking • Travel • Cartoons • Marriage & divorce • Crime • Technology
And which activities would you use? • Competitive games • Non-competitive games • Listening to songs in English • Quizzes • Problem-solving activities • Discussions and debates • Roleplay • Book & film reviews
Indicated reading • Griffiths, G. 2008, Lessons from Good Language Learners, Cambridge (Chapter 2: Age) • Lindstromberg, S. 2004, Language activities for teenagers, Cambridge • Nunan, D. 1988, The Learner-centred Curriculum, Cambridge • Puchta, H. 1993, Teaching Teenagers, Longman • Rogers, C. & Freiberg, H. 1994, Freedom to learn, New York: Merrill