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Adapting Lesson Plans To Student Ages
One of the main problems with most lesson planning materials is adapting them to the specific needs of the classroom. In several articles, we will list the typical problems that commonly make activities unusable for a particular teacher’s class, and how to work around the problem by modifying the way the activity is presented. We identify principles for adapting activities so that almost any lesson plan can be used, regardless of your student’s profile.
Part II. Student age problem.
Here are solutions and principles for adapting activities to different problems of student age:
1) Age-mixed groups of young pupils and teenagers.
The problem is that older children complete the task faster and feel uncomfortable when paired with a younger student.
Solution: Pair younger students to do the activity while more competent older students work independently. This reduces the impact of younger students on slowing down the activity and increases their ability to perform because two heads are better than one. This also adds to the safety of the younger student and can actually increase individual student production as both tend to ask questions and respond to answers. This is especially true for information-sharing activities such as surveys, role-playing and problem-solving.
Principle: Make younger students more capable by connecting them and improving their pure abilities.
2) The material corresponds to the target language, but is not suitable for the given age group.
Imagine you are teaching prepositions to an adult, but you have a picture of a bedroom with toys strewn everywhere and several children playing. It’s delivered in an infantile style – not the way adults would normally warm up to learning material!
Solution: Present the material in a way that is relevant to the adult world. In this case, tell them they are the parents of the children in the picture. This automatically makes the material acceptable because it is a realistic adult situation.
Principle: Make the material relevant to students by giving them an age-appropriate view of it.
3) Young students who easily lose attention and cannot concentrate on any activity.
“I can’t get them to sit for more than five minutes” is a quote I’ve heard from many teachers I’ve trained, and it usually applies to students under 10 years old. This is really a problem if the activity requires students to be confined to a certain area of the classroom for 10 to 20 minutes! An example of this would be an information gaps exercise (where students or teams of students are separated and have to ask questions to elicit information from each other).
Solution: I have found that I can have 5 year olds stay in one place if I use a ‘den’ made of tables and chairs. You don’t even need an excuse for setting up the class this way. They will be happy to stay in their area and do the task considering the fact that “they” are over there and “we” are over here!
Principle: Use unusual classroom management techniques to make the physical environment stimulating enough to make the student want to stay where they are.
4) The activity is too complex to explain to students because they are too young.
I had a group of 10-year-old students who needed to practice the simple present for likes, dislikes and everyday activities in a ‘free scene’ environment (with minimal teacher intervention). I found some material for adults that required them to share information from role-play cards and then use some sort of preference scale to find their ideal romantic partner. It was time-consuming and difficult to explain, and the group was multilingual, so there was no chance to switch to the mother tongue. So how to explain?
Solution: No! They say a simple picture is worth a thousand words, so don’t get caught up in explaining. I first asked them how old they were and then told them to imagine that they were actually 20 years older. They liked this. It allowed them to identify with role cards. Then I did the activity as if I were a student. I took 2 students to the front of the class as an example, got their information by asking questions and then compared them on the board using a preference scale. I chose my favorite of the two and said I would be her boyfriend. The penny has dropped.
Principle: Do not explain complex activities to young students. Do them as if you were the student and let the students “see” what you expect from them.
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