Reading with Adult Learners

If you teach privately or in a language school, you probably have adult English language learners. You must have encountered various adult learner attitudes towards courses: they either like to follow a course book or they do not even want to think about having one. One thing is for sure: they do want to use and enjoy the language and see the results of their hard work.

Adults are ideal readers – they usually read well in their first language, they have reliable and deep background knowledge, and they can express their opinions. There are several graded readers that adults will appreciate and enjoy without you having to convince them of the importance of reading. There are novels that you might not think of as appropriate for adult learners, but we all love to revisit childhood stories from time to time so try reading some of these.

There are titles that deal with more ‘grown-up’ topics, and your students might have already read them in translation.

The basic principles of Extensive Reading are the same for adult readers. They definitely need to be able to choose their own books, and pre-reading discussions are important to generate interest and activate background knowledge. Just like with young learners and teens, book discussions are necessary, and you really should focus on chatting about their reading experience.

Adult learners might find it hard to deal with unknown words. Adults can feel more uncomfortable when they meet new vocabulary, and they might want to translate more than teens. You can try reading a few pages or a chapter together, or try shared reading techniques. When it comes to a hard passage or unknown word, do not translate the word for them. Point out the context, explain word analysis to help them understand the meaning of the word, or just tell them to take a note of the word and get back to it later – if it still interests them at the end of the chapter.

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