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 Adapting materials for different age groups

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HAMADA
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PostSubject: Adapting materials for different age groups    Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:37 pm

Adapting materials for different age groups



Submitted by Jo Budden on 11 May, 2011 - 17:21


Introduction
In the last
teaching tip we looked at how to adapt materials for mixed ability
groups. This is the most common type of adaptation that teachers have to
do. However, there are times when you may have to adapt materials
because of the age of your students. In order to look at this topic I
will divide it into the two possible scenarios:

Using materials aimed at older students with younger students

In the world of young learners we often find that students’ linguistic
ability is way beyond the typical course book that is designed for their
age. Therefore some adaptation is often necessary. To give an example, I
am currently teaching a group of 11-15 year olds on a First Certificate
(upper-intermediate) level course. We are using a course book designed
for older teenagers and adults so adaptation is an important part of
lesson planning. The main thing to bear in mind when adapting tasks is
to think about how you can make the task more real for the student. Last
week we were writing formal letters, something which none of the
students had ever done in their lifetime and therefore they needed a lot
of support. After looking at several models of formal letters we turned
to the task in the book which was a letter to complain about the
service received from a tour operator on a recent holiday. This was
obviously something they would be very unlikely to do even in their own
language. However, I knew that some of the students had recently gone to
a concert and had been disappointed by the performance. So, using those
students, we adapted the task together. I asked the students what had
been disappointing about the show and we made a list. These points
became the content of the task. The functional language of complaining
was the same but the task became more alive as it was more personal and
closer to the students’ own experiences.

Speaking activities
may often need adapting too. The job interview could become the
interview to get onto a summer course or to help out at a scout camp.

Questions to consider when preparing your lessons:


  • Will the students know anything about the topic?
  • If not, how can I introduce the topic?
  • Will the students be interested in the topic?
  • If not, how can I make it more interesting and bring it to life?
  • What support will the students need to tackle the task?


Using materials aimed at younger students with older students

If you find yourself using material that is aimed at younger students
with older students you have to be careful. Teenagers especially can
find it insulting to be presented with childish material when they
believe they are ready for something more grown up. If you can’t find
more appropriate material then use what you have as a starting point.

Games and fun activities that work well with young learners often work
equally well with older teenagers or adults. If you explain the reason
for the game or activity and make it clear what the students are
practising by playing it, then most students tend to respond positively.
Older students will quickly suss you out if you’re just killing time
and there’s no real point to the activity. I recently played word
formation bingo with a group of adults and was amazed that they got
really excited and competitive and were all trying to win so they could
become ‘Bingo King’ or ‘Bingo Queen’ for the next round. After a hard
day at work I think they enjoyed the chance to revert to their childhood
for twenty minutes!

Questions to consider when preparing your lessons:


  • Is the activity appropriate for the age group?
  • If not, how will I bridge the gap?
  • What’s the point of the activity?
  • What will students be learning?
  • Should I explain to the students why we’re doing the activity?

The main thing to bear in mind with any adaptation of materials is how
you can personalise the task and make it more relevant to the learner.
If you are clear about why you are using certain material and what your
objectives are then students should feel happy with the activity as
they’ll be able to see the point of it. Take time to chat to your
students and find out what they do in their free time and what they are
interested in. By doing this you will be able to find more material
based on topics they’re interested in.
By Jo Budden
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