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How to Teach English to Non-English Older Learners in Their

Posted: Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:10 pm
by I.Batorina-Bougoin

I am a doctoral student in HEAL (High Education & Adult Learning) and an ESL teacher. I recently became interested in teaching seniors in their 60’s/70’s English language. I have been coordinating this social project for one month and a half. We have first results but I still feel a gap in teaching elderly people.

The search for education blogs for ESL instructors who teach senior citizens did not give me convenient results. If you know some special blogs or forums, pls, let me know. For the moment, I decided to start this topic as a new one.

A few words about the project I am working for. We have 2 groups of seniors in their 60’s/70’s. There are 12 senior learners in each group. They meet once a week to have a 2-hour English lesson. Each of them passed special tests before the beginning of the programme. Their results will help us to judge about the progress.

The main idea of our ESL programme for seniors is:

- to teach them how to solve communication problems in English using their proper vocabulary;

- to help them to develop their own problem-solving strategies that they will be able to use in their daily lives each time they have to speak English.

However, we have an additional hypothesis that such groupal education of senior citizens will help them to extenuate the deterioration skills.

If you teach the elderly people, pls, share your experience with me and, together, I believe, we can make this process better. Waiting for yr collaboration,

Thank you in advance!

Posted: Mon May 19, 2014 6:28 pm
by I.Batorina-Bougoin
It's a pity that nobody has answered me :evil: I'm still waiting for ...
& I continue talking about my experience concerning teaching English to older learners.

According to a research made by Socrates Grundtvig Education and Culture Center, there is not a specified methodology and pedagogic for 50+. Consequently, there is not a specific approach in language training that can ensure the learning in the most efficient way (see p. 15 retrieved from ... rt_doc.pdf ).

On the other hand, there are some particularities of teaching older learners. My colleagues and I discover these particularities step by step while our ESL program for older learners is going on. One of the difficulties is the encoding of special information.

The matter in question here is that elderly people with or without memory deficits have some problems concerning special relations, for example, the route learning performance (Caffo et al., 2012). So, if there is a need to teach our old learners how to explain the route, we, ESL teachers have to understand that our older learners might show difficulties in special orientation and in way-finding. Such difficulties have to be overcome in order to obtain positive results of our learning. And, it is up to us to figure out possible teaching strategies how to do.

At our language center we are trying the following: teach our older learners to explain the route, first of all, in teams. Both teams can see a picture of a part of a city on the wall (a 2D-plan). There are two captains, one for each team. These captains should point the way on the map (with the help of a pointer) while the members of each group in turn are giving directions and telling their captains where to go. They do it orally and also they show plaques with such words as ‘turn right’, ‘turn left’, ‘walk as far as the crossroads’, etc.

Then, the group ‘constructs a city on the floor’: they put pictures named as ‘the pharmacy’, or ‘the florist’s’, or others on the floor, name the streets, add road signs. Students explain the route in turn moving around the constructed city. ... JiXm9fbVew

Next step is to go outdoors and try to do it in a real city. We are going to do it soon.

Our hypothesis is that such training in class using a 2D-plan will help our older learners not only to perform an orientation task but also to overcome a difficulty of the encoding of special information that is a typical problem for elderly people.


Caffo, A., De Caro, M. F., Picucci, L., Notarnicola, A., Settanni, A., Livrea, P., Lanciona G. E., & Bosco, A. (2012). Reorientation deficits are associated with amnestic mild cognitive impairment. Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen, 27(5), 321-330. doi: 10.1177/1533317512452035

Teaching Grammar and Sentence Construction to Seniors

Posted: Tue May 20, 2014 10:51 am
by I.Batorina-Bougoin
Another particularity of teaching older learners concerns memory difficulties. Here, I would like to make a logical connection between older learners’ anxious to have worse recall (Hubenthal, 2004) and their self-confidence which is one of the pillars of lifelong learning (Socrates Grundtvig, n.d.).

Involving older learners in cube games that promote memory improvement is a sure way to stimulate their self-confidence. For older learners, success at game playing becomes an important step towards their success at language learning. It is easier to build sentences with the help of word cubes. Consequently, it helps older learners to work on their self-esteem and become aware of their strengths that is so important for both their well-being and language progress.

We chose to use a grammar cube game that is played with six-sided cubes, each side having one grammar word (Do, Did, Have, Had, etc.), or a construction (Going to, Cant’s help but, etc.), or a grammar symbol (V-verb, V2-simple past, V3-past participle, etc.), or a pronoun (I, he, we, etc.), or an adverb (usually, often, etc.). ... ew&index=7

All cubes are rolled onto the playing surface. Teacher pronounces sentences in older learner’s native language and asks them to make English sentences using the cubes. Participants build sentences changing declarative into interrogative, present tense into past, affirmative into negative, and so on. The game generates discussions of grammatical sentence structure that helps learners to understand English grammar better.


Hubenthal, W. (2004). Older Russian immigrants’ experiences in learning English: Motivation, methods, and barriers. Adult Basic Education, 14(2), 104-126.

Socrates Grundtvig (n.d.). Language course teaching methods for senior citizens. Retrieved from ... GQ&cad=rjt

Posted: Sat May 31, 2014 5:44 am
by I.Batorina-Bougoin

Conclusive Discussion: Teaching ESL to Seniors in Their 60â€

Posted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 12:50 pm
by I.Batorina-Bougoin
In Conclusion,

When we started our project for older learners in their 60s/70s three months ago we had the following main objectives that were finally obtained:

** to teach them how to solve communication problems in English using their proper vocabulary;

** to help them to develop their own problem-solving strategies that they will be able to use in their daily lives each time they have to speak English.

According to Osorio (2008), doing activities of a creative and artistic nature, older learners will be able to continue their personal development and, as a result, to improve their quality of life. Before proceeding further, I would like to show you final performances of two groups of older learners in their 60s/70s we worked with:

Group 2 Video ... JiXm9fbVew

Group 1 Video ... JiXm9fbVew

As you could see, our older learners decided to talk about their life experience and touched upon such issues as travelling, dancing, going out, and singing. They also mentioned that it was important for them to study together as a team, believe in their success, and get results in the end.

Teaching them, we tried to encourage our older learners keeping studying, explaining that they could communicate more than they thought simply by using gestures, acting, or singing. During our older learners’ final performance we saw how they managed to do it combining creative elements with their English speech.

Everything that happened on the stage was prepared without any help from the part of their instructor. Our older learners proved again that they were able to learn a foreign language as anybody else. As coordinator of this project, I was sure that older learners needed to have opportunities for continuing to be socially and mentally active. Despite their age they could offer a lot more to themselves and to others.

Now, we have to analyze their final qualitative and quantitative questionnaires in order to statistically check how well our older learners improved their English language skills and if our program helped them to extenuate the deterioration skills. But, what we could see on the stage stood for the fact that our learners in their 60s/70s used their spare time to extend their knowledge and to achieve some things that they could not do before; that was indispensable for their personal growth.

P.S. We decided to continue this social program for the elderly in our language school in September 2014


Osorio, A. R. (2008). The learning of the elderly and the profile of the adult educator. Convergence, 41(2-3), 155-173.

Posted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 5:45 am
by Lorikeet
As I have gotten older, I must admit the concept of "elderly" has increased as well. 60 to 70 isn't very elderly to me ;) Before I retired, I taught many students who were in their 70s and 80s. We had mixed classes that included adults of different ages from many different countries and many different backgrounds. The ones who had a lot of education learned differently than those who did not. Of course, some people will have memory problems and others may not. It would seem to me that the most important thing is engaging them in the material. If you do that, and if they are enjoying themselves, it's more likely they will do well. I hope you had a good time too! Older learners are often very appreciative.