10 Tips For Teaching Older Students (10+ Years or Older)

By Editorial Staff •  Updated: 02/25/22 •  Classroom Resources

Students 10 years and older are not little kids. A mistake new teachers make who don’t have experience working with different age groups is to not adapt their teaching style to the student.

This matters and the parents we’ve spoken with care about this. An 11 year old boy is not a 7 year old girl. You must be flexible with how you interact with the student in class. Also, how to present yourself in your introduction video see will effect what type of students are interested in learning with you, so be thoughtful on this (see more on our video introduction tips).

With platforms like VIPKID or SayABC it’s critical you develop an ability to be flexible with students of different ages. Of course you’ll naturally be better at one age group of students than others. But you should try to learn and understand the needs of both.

This is what makes these platforms so useful and helpful for students. They get access to a wide range of teachers with various teaching styles. Regardless, one issue teachers is a lack of bookings and it’s often due to how they teach and present themselves.

Not to imply they are bad teachers, on the contrary. Most are excellent for young learners but the tactics and teaching styles don’t translate well for older students, particularly male students.

10 Teaching Tips for More Advanced Young Learners

So what are Teach and GO’s teaching tips for students in that challenging age range of 10-13 or perhaps young learners who are more proficient with English than expected? This is what we advise:

  1. Be age appropriate and don’t treat them like a child.
  2. Joke around, be cool and talk to them to build rapport.
  3. Learn how to expand on the lesson.
  4. Ditch the reward system for older students.
  5. Move past topics where they show proficiency.
  6. Speak in normal tone, no high pitched baby talk.
  7. Use props for fun and to engage with the student.
  8. Have your energy level match or be slightly higher than theirs
  9. Don’t force anything.
  10. Know what you’re talking about

Be age appropriate with older students

A 12 year old boy and his parents are not going to enjoy or appreciate a class with you if you insist on following a teaching style that is directed towards a lower age level or gender.

While a 10 to 12 year old is a child still, they are at that age where they don’t think of themselves as a kid and are wanting to be treated more like an equal. For older students, make sure to keep things professional, fun and age appropriate.

An excellent teacher for younger leaners but not older students.

For example, if you’re teaching an 11 year old boy who may be at a lower level don’t baby them. They are at level 3 because of their proficiency with English, not because of their maturity level.

This is important to keep in mind particularly for your video introduction on any online teaching platform because parents don’t want to book their pre-teen age son or daughter with a teacher who does not have the right style for them.

Joke around, treat them like intelligent young adults and build rapport

Older students again want to be treated a little bit more like an equal. Typically older students have a better command of English so take the opportunity to build rapport, joke around a be cool at the beginning of the lesson.

Often time this means being flexible with the warm up. The warm up is the first few slides where it’s more game oriented as a way to give context to the rest of the lesson. Sometimes the warm up is something a bit lame for a 12 year old boy like singing a song. Be flexible and adapt everything and anything you need to do to accomplish the lesson objectives.

That means complete the warm up in the best way you can. Ask them questions, like and dislikes and build a connection so they enjoy class.

Learn how to expand on the lesson

Expansion is one of the most important skills any online teacher can develop. What expansion means is to adapt the lesson as you’re conducting it to make it appropriate for not only the students language ability but also maturity level.

Lesson objectives are clear, but often times the actual slide or activity is way to simple or way to childish. Adapt the lesson as needed. Again, your goal as the teacher is to meet the lesson objectives.

Go back to joking and being cool. You are free to meet the class objectives as you see fit.

Ditch the reward system for older students

Often online platforms have a build in reward system like stars or whatever. Use the platforms reward system of course but leave it at that. Up to 10 years old, reward systems are essential and motivate students.

Once a student is 11 or older they become much less effective and it goes back to point 1. You end up treating a 13 year old like a 9 year old. For children, their maturity and behavior advance rapidly with each year.

We’ve found it best that once a student is 11 years or older, an extra reward system is not effective and the student will become resentful for being treated like a little kid.

Move past topics where they show proficiency or expand

When an older student shows a high level of proficiency over a topic then move on from it or expand on it. For example many Chinese students are quite talented at mathematics and get the concept of 90 being “greater” than 80 and are able to vocalize that sentence with ease.

Do you really need to have them do the next 12 examples of “10 is less than 15” and so forth? It gets boring and redundant for the student and it makes them feel like you don’t respect them as you’re not treating them at an appropriate level.

So to sum this point up, expand if possible or move and get to a different topic.

Speak in normal tone of voice

Don’t be fake. Older students are not stupid and can pick up when you’re being insincere. This includes the tone of your voice. Keep your tone stable and don’t switch into a high pitched tone you would use for a 6 year old. Also consider getting a voice amplifier for class to help your students have a better experience.

This takes practice of course because teachers who are great with older students struggle with young learners for the same reason.

Like we said at the introduction, it’s not to imply one way is better. It’s just that if you’re an amazing teacher for a young learner you’ll need to practice toning it down for older students.

Use props to help meet the lesson objectives

For students of all ages, teaching props should be used to demonstrate concepts with students and to make class more fun. Just use your professional judgement on what to leverage and what to discard as not appropriate given the students age.

There is no one prop you should have or use but we do have our suggestions (whiteboards, stuffed animals, things of different colors, letters).

Have your energy level match or be slightly higher than theirs

With young learners, their energy level is almost always quite high and it’s what makes teaching children so difficult. But with students who are slightly older you’ll want to be observant and be a step above their energy level.

You could very well have a 12 year old boy or girl who demonstrate a level of maturity not found with an 8 year old. As such, you want to match their level or be slightly higher.

Again it goes back to the first point. Don’t baby them. If they are calm, collected and appear to be motivated and mature students. Treat them as such. It’s inappropriate to be at an energy level that is significantly higher than theirs.

Again however this is a skill you will learn to develop over time.

Don’t force anything

With older students you need to pay attention to their proficiency and interests. Some activities designed for an online class are simply age inappropriate. You’re not a robot and are typically allowed to teach in your own way. The end goal is always to meet the lesson objectives, keep parents happy, and competently teach the student.

Use an activity as a base. If it’s too inappropriate then just change the activity all together and never force the student to do something they are not interest in or an activity that is not appropriate for their age or level.

For example, you have an advanced student who is 12 years old and you’re learning about spiders and insects. You have an activity to sing “itsy bitsy spider” because who ever made the material designed it for children under 10.

Instead of forcing your 12 year old student to sing when they clearly don’t want to expand and ask interesting question about spiders and build rapport.

Know what you’re talking about

This may seem a bit strange to say, but a lot of advanced lessons teachers themselves need to review so they know what their talking about. For example, if you have a lesson about the rock cycle you better know the difference between metamorphic rock and igneous rock is.

You better be able to explain what exactly a syllable is and why words that have two vowels may only have one syllable. You need to know if the number zero is negative or positive (side note – it’s neither, why?)

The reason is that as a teacher you could very well be asked by your student to explain concepts in more detail. It’s your job so don’t fail your students by only being ready to teach little girls the ABC’s and 123’s.

Teaching older students conclusion

To conclude, be open minded and flexible with various levels of proficiency and maturity with regards to your online students. You as a teacher will naturally be more skilled with one group over another and that’s fine. Work on diversifying your skill set.

If you’re great with older more advanced students you may find it difficult to be a high energy and playful teacher for young learners. The converse is true as well.

Editorial Staff

The editorial Staff at Teach and GO is a team of teachers with a broad range of experience led by David Unwin. We have been creating helpful advice, guides and tutorials for teachers since 2018.