Home / What’s The Difference Between Teaching Teenagers Vs Young Learners?
young boy on laptop

Every TEFL teacher has their favourite type of lesson, and teaching children/ teenagers is a trendy choice for many across the globe. Teaching children can be fun, rewarding and entertaining at the same time! Each type of lesson requires a different approach and skill, so it’s essential for you to know what’s what when it comes to teaching young learners.

If you decide to go down the route of becoming a young learner specialist, then this is the place for you to learn more! Consider many things: do you want to teach young children or teenagers? What are the differences between the two? How does this affect you as the teacher?

How can I teach children?
  • One of the most typical ways to teach classes to young learners and teenagers is to teach in-person classes at a language school. This involves the students attending extracurricular classes after their regular school day. They typically attend two classes a week for around an hour. The classes are usually smaller, between 6 and 12 students and will have a more communicative focus.
  • In some countries, obtaining work in a public school as an English teacher is possible. Here you would be teaching the students their daily scheduled English lessons as part of the curriculum. These classes are usually much more significant, with up to 30 students in one classroom. 
  • Let’s not forget the world of online TEFL teaching also includes teaching young learners! Many parents like the convenience of having their children study online from the house! It also gives students better access to qualified and fluent English teachers, especially if they live in smaller towns where this might not be possible. 

You can also find work with local language schools that offer online lessons to children. This might be combined with face-to-face lessons. Typically this teaching is done from September to June, with classes finishing in the summer.

  • There are many summer school opportunities for teaching young learners and teenagers also. These are more popular in Europe and are often residential. Teachers’ responsibilities might include residential ones (such as wake-up calls and organising sports activities) or be limited to delivering lessons. Schools in the UK are often well-paid for this type of work, or you might want to travel simultaneously and head to Italy, Romania or another European destination!

What are the key differences between young learners and teenagers?


One key factor is the motivation for learning. There are similarities as well as differences here! Both types of students will likely be learning English because their parents wish for them to do so. However, there will be a mixture of students who feel forced to learn, genuinely enjoy learning English, and want to attend class.

The differences?

Teenagers are more likely to have a lot more academic pressure with lots of homework and essential exams coming up. Many countries have weekly tests in school and put a lot of importance on these tests. Teenagers can often feel stressed and lack enthusiasm for attending English classes which, to them, is another academic pressure. Younger children are more likely to enjoy observing classes and feel enthusiastic about learning if the classes are fun and engaging!

On the other hand, teenagers are more likely to understand the value of learning English for their studies and future work opportunities. Young children won’t understand this yet but will look to know for fun!

students in ESL classroom


Teenagers are much more independent learners, having studied for several years. They can be expected to know how to get on with a task and how to complete homework. They know how to write, how to read and, in theory, how to behave in the classroom.

 On the other hand, young learners are often still acquiring their language and initial learning skills. If you teach very young learners, they might not yet be able to hold a pencil correctly or write letters. This is something to remember, mainly if their native language uses an entirely different alphabet – this is an additional challenge for them!

For young children, you are teaching them language and how to behave in the classroom, wait until after the lesson to go to the toilet, deal with being separated from their parents and learn how to write and colour! 

Young children need much more support in developmental matters, so the teacher takes on more than just the role of language teaching. This can be very rewarding, but it is something to consider. The younger the age of your learners, the more you will have to assist and teach them how to act in the classroom.


Young children need shorter, more dynamic activities. It’s always better to get them moving in the classroom to stop them from getting bored. No action should last more than 15 minutes, or they will tire of it and lose concentration. Writing activities should be kept shorter as they will be unable to focus for so long and find it monotonous. 

The key to teaching young learners is using lots of games that don’t make them realise they are learning! Board games, singing and dancing and more movement activities are essential so your learners are active and engaged. This will make them want to go back to the next lesson!

Of course, it doesn’t mean that teenagers don’t need or deserve fun activities. You should make sure that your lessons are communicative and fun for them. If they spend all day at school copying verbs, give them a break in your studies and show them that learning English is fun too! 

Teenagers can do longer writing tasks or reading but don’t make the lessons too based on this, or they will also get bored. More critical for teaching teenagers is that they will learn more if the tasks are personalised to them and their interests. Take the time to know what they enjoy, their favourite sports and films. They will be more likely to participate and more enthusiastic if they are passionate about what they have to talk about or write about.

How to teach young learners and teenagers:
Young learners:
  • Be patient. They are learning how to navigate the academic world and their development. They might take time to do something or to catch on to how things work. They must have a teacher who can respect this and handle it well.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a fool out of yourself. If you’re a teacher who doesn’t like the whole song and dance routine, then perhaps young learners aren’t for you. You often have to act a bit silly and light-hearted with children. If not, they probably won’t enjoy your lessons.
  • Implement class rules but don’t expect learners to know them straight away. It sounds simple that they need to sit on their chair or get their book out, but they probably won’t do this. Start establishing these key classroom behaviours and consistently have a well-behaved class in the long run!
  • Young learners have little autonomy and will probably not sit at home learning the material. So repetition in class is essential for them too. Start each lesson with a game that covers what you studied in the last address. Repeat the songs repeatedly so they learn the lyrics, you might get sick of it, but it will benefit them when learning English!
young boy on laptop
  • Personalise the lessons as much as you can. Let teenagers talk about what they want to (while utilising target grammar, of course), and they will be much more responsive to learning. Please get to know each of them individually and their interests. They will appreciate this a lot more, and this will build up a good rapport with them.
  • Set the boundaries from the start. Of course, you should be friendly and approachable but don’t let the lines blur between friend and teacher, especially if they are closer to you in age! If you go into the first class acting like their best friend, then the rules will not be established, and you will end up with an unruly class that might not respect you!

           It’s better to start more seriously and as a stricter teacher and then relax as the students prove they can follow your rules. You don’t have to be mean but show that you are firm, so they respect you as a teacher, not a push-over!

  • Be careful what you say! Teenagers are self-conscious and easily influenced or affected by their words and actions. Don’t make fun of them or encourage others to do so, even if you think it’s for a laugh. Anything you say might be taken to heart and can have a more profound impact than you realise.
  • Give teenagers some responsibility for their learning. They need guidance, but they should have some choices and independence. Treat them like the young adults they are moulding into, and they will appreciate you for it.


In Conclusion 

Teaching young children and teenagers can both be very rewarding and challenging at the same time. There is a lot of demand for both as parents worldwide want their children to have the best opportunities, and proficiency in the English language is a way to increase this. There are many literature and game ideas for teaching these classes, so take some time to research if you’re a newbie teacher. Remember you want to make your lessons engaging and valuable, although how you do this will differ depending on the age range you are teaching!


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