Part 3 — Helping Older Students Learning a Second Language

Older L2 learners will still need clear instructions and will also need opportunities to ask about language areas which they find difficult or in which further practice is needed. Again, as with younger learners, routine is important and helps them to become familiar with what is going on. Instructions should be given step by step, orally or written down as a reminder. Check whether the students have understood by asking them to tell you what they are going to do. Try not to give too much detail at once, and emphasize key words. Make sure that the atmosphere in the classroom is positive and encouraging so that students do not feel ashamed to ask questions or admit ignorance.

The following ideas will help:

  • Use a wide range of visual materials to give information—examples are pictures, charts and maps, tourist brochures, cuttings from magazines and newspapers, different types of books, the Internet.
  • Teach appropriate study skills such as note taking and summarizing, creating a piece of writing, producing reports.
  • When asking questions, start with factual ones including those requiring yes/no answers.

Progress to more complicated or abstract ones later.

  • Use pair work and group work in which each student has a role–this helps to diminish anxiety and gives the students practice in using problem-solving English.
  • When introducing a new topic, find out what the children already know–extend this to include unique elements from the life experience of the EFL students.
  • Use plenty of hands-on activities such as science experiments and the construction of relief maps.
  • Use questionnaires and interviews to give speaking practice and also help to provide a basis for later written work.Teach new vocabulary from pictures or real objects. Then use substitution exercises, where students take out certain words in a pattern sentence and replace them with new vocabulary.
  • Have students keep a daily diary based on models provided by the teacher.
  • Encourage students to create a bilingual dictionary. They could use words and/or pictures for this.
  • Use videos as for younger learners.


The link above is to the full article from which these pages came from. The article was published in the March 2006 issue of Educare, a ministry of WEC International. Permission has been given to use these materials. This information is written to teachers, but it has some very good suggestions that parents can do to help their child if they need to be learning English because they are in an English speaking school.

Permission to copy, but not for commercial use.