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Issues in Teaching English to Adolescents at Secondary Level Desmond Thomas (based on materials by Ann Walker)

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1 Issues in Teaching English to Adolescents at Secondary Level Desmond Thomas (based on materials by Ann Walker)

2 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

3 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

4 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

5 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 KEVIN THE TEENAGER: “That’s so unfair!”

6 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

7 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?

8 Some solutions? 1.The “humanistic exercise” (Rinvolucri) 2.‘Person-centred education’ (Rogers) 3.The ‘Learner-centred curriculum’ (Nunan) 4.Project work 5.Collaborative learning activities 6.‘Caring & sharing’ activities (Moskovitz)

9 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 ….

10 Topic quiz: which would you use with teenagers/adults/young learners? Sport Applying for jobs Smoking Travel Cartoons Marriage & divorce Crime Technology

11 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

12 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


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