Older = wiser = wider vocab??

It seems not just the population but also the chimps in Japan are suffering from rapid ageing, something else in which we also lead the world. (First time I’ve said ‘we’ meaning people in Japan there!)

As the baby boomers and their pet apes reach retirement time with time and money on their hands, it makes for a growing market for English lessons too. Will take some special content and methodology though. My oldest student in Japan was in her 80s and I’ve had 10 or so students over 60 here and in the UK, so here are my ‘expert’ tips for the greying braincells segment of the Eikaiwa* student population:

  • Lots of traditional British culture topics, especially Lady Di- but not the scandalous truth!!
  • Keep the level very low and safe, and endlessly recycle
  • Leave presentations of new language for homework or the very end of the class so they can work it out in their own time, then practice it in the next class
  • Give them lots of homework (they have plenty of time!) but make sure the instructions are very clear and some of it is fun
  • Don’t bother with learner training (also known as “sucking eggs”)- just adapt your stuff to how they already learn. For example, they will never learn how to ignore or guess unknown vocab, keep the texts you use simple and pre-teach everything.
  • Let them talk about their week, their families and their hospital visits, and show their photos.
  • Make sure there are several older people in the class, but also some young whippersnappers too.

* Eikaiwa means “English conversation”, and is the normal Japanese expression for the language school industry- maybe another reason why they have false hopes on how easy it will be to learn at your school and don’t apply themselves (often not even bringing a pen!)

This entry was posted in Learner motivation, Problem students, Teaching English in Japan, Teaching low levels, Teaching older students, TEFL, TESOL. Bookmark the permalink.

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