Teaching advanced language learners is very different from teaching any other level.
Every teacher should have exposure to all different levels, but just like beginners, advanced students require a distinct kind of effort. We’ve devised some tips that every teacher should know about reaching (and keeping) advanced learners.
Reaching Advanced Learners
Tap into What They Know
Because students are approaching fluency in English, they have several years under their belts of studying the language. This is a great resource for the teacher because you can tap into what they already know and expand upon it. For example, higher level learners generally have a good grasp of difficult tenses and grammar points. You can tap into this by challenging their expertise. Offer them opportunities to show off their knowledge by involving them in activities that offer a well-rounded, all four skills approach. One way is to require them do interviews of people outside of the class on a particular topic and then present that to the class. Another idea is having each of them be the teacher for a day, and allowing them to choose what and how they would like to introduce or review. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your class for ideas on how they would like to learn. Get their input and then run with your creativity. Think of ways that you can draw out skills they already have and then focus on strengthening the skill.
Challenge Them in New Ways
Advanced learners know their grammar and often are hungry for a deeper understanding of the nuances of the language. There are lots of ways that you can challenge your advanced classes. One area where advanced learners need to be challenged is in developing their vocabulary and more natural ways of speaking. This is where learning a lot of phrasal verbs and expressions comes into play, and can be quite advantageous. You’ll want to find new ways of incorporating new vocabulary and seeing language in action. Notable ways to do this are by reading or watching movies. You can find lots of great resources, and may even want to consider giving them some good young adult fiction to read and decipher or have them watch animated kids’ movies. Debates and in-depth guided classroom discussions can also be wonderfully adventurous and challenging.
Approach High-Level Grammar
You can dive into more in-depth grammar and tense practice, and induce a truly interested and heartened response. As the teacher, you need to have an extremely firm grasp of anything that you review or introduce, because the students will have very complex questions. Reviewing or introducing topics like passive voice, reported speech, or higher level tenses can sometimes be intimidating to native speakers. Be sure that you are secure in your grammar knowledge when you go into an advanced level class. They will come up with amazing questions, and though it may not sound like fun, you may find yourself in some fascinating discussions about language usage and origin. Engaging advanced learners on that kind of level is really important to keep up their interest level and motivation. It is also a perfect time to dissect the language they have been so intimately involved with for so long. Take them on those grammatical rides, and dig in deep.
Teach to Their Interests and Needs
This philosophy applies to each and every class that you teach. You have to teach to the students’ interests as well as to their needs. Advanced level learners have very distinct priorities and many of them may have sizable goals they are working toward with their language skills. This takes getting to know your students by creating ways for them to share their interests and goals through classroom activities and interactions. Advanced students may be studying for any number of tests like the TOEFL or Citizenship tests. They may also have aims like getting into a college program or getting a better job. These are abundant topics that you can incorporate into your lessons. Their personal interests will vary, but it is a must to keep those at the center of your mind when creating activities and generating ideas. It will garner greater involvement and motivation from the students.
Avoid the Plateau
The language learning plateau can happen at different stages and levels for students, but it is very common among advanced learners. It is a stretch of time where they feel their language acquisition has come to a standstill and that there is little progression being made. By challenging learners, maintaining an open dialogue and constantly engaging them with fresh practice you will aid learners in avoiding the plateau. Some ways to do this are encouraging them to take risks, creating ways for them to get out of their safety zone and showing them that there is always more they can learn and improve.
Teaching advanced learners is an adventurous learning experience for all teachers.
Every teacher can employ these tactics to hook advanced learners and keep them coming back for more! Taking part in influencing advanced learners’ fluency is definitely an amazing and enriching experience.