Tips for teaching advanced students

Teaching advanced students is a challenge for all teachers: either native or non-native speakers, fresh out of the university or experienced ones. I remember having my first advanced group of students. I was so stressed, biting my lips and saying: “What do I have to prepare? If they know more than I do? I don’t even know what and how to teach them? They know everything!” Sounds familiar? Get a grip! Here are some ideas you can use for teaching advanced students.


It is by far is the largest area to work on as the most part of grammar points have been covered. Advanced students do need an enormous amount of vocabulary, however these are generally not just separate words at their level.

  1. Firstly, the students need to be aware of advanced types of collocations. For example, heavy rain, a quick shower, wave frantically, a surge of anger, vaguely remember and so on. You can see more in this book. It’s useful if students identify these lexical chunks in a text themselves as it can raise their language awareness, extend their control of language and enhance contextual guessing skills.
  2. Another thing to consider discussing with students is connotation. This refers to a meaning implied by a word besides the thing that is described explicitly. Connotations can be positive or negative. “Childish” and “youthful” both mean the same but “childish” refers to immature behaviour while “youthful” refers to an energetic person. This is an important thing to know when they choose a lexical item in their speech or writing.
  3. One of the key areas of linguistics advanced students will run into is idioms. These are set phrases that usually have a figurative meaning. As there are thousands of them it’s a good idea to teach them by topics or in context, e.g. if you come across ones in a text you read. You may use this book that includes phrasal verbs as well. Organise a guessing game or use pictures that describe idioms to let your students guess the meaning. It can be fun and a encourage your students be creative.
  4. Newspaper language is a huge area to discover. Specific meanings of common words or puns are a fun and productive way to extend students’ knowledge and boost their English. Puns have gained a foothold in news headlines as they catch the attention quickly and draw the interest. Give students opportunities to analyse and “solve” them and let them “play” with language too. Here are some news websites you can use: VOA, BBC, Science news, NY times
  5. The last but not the least are such aspects as euphemisms and slang. This can be encountered in tv series, movies as well as in the print media. Draw the student’s attention to these features, elicit the meaning, help students guess. You can organise a slang quiz using Kahoot and see who how hip they are to some slang.


When it comes to grammar there are still certain things to do with advanced learners, they are somehow “relearning” rules.

1. Revise areas of particular difficulty. Generally these are

  • articles: “a” for describing a particular instance, e.g. There was a bright blue sky when I woke up; or nouns that have different meanings when they are used countably or uncountably, e.g. They care about grammar vs an old Latin grammar),
  • conditionals with “should”, “were” “had” e.g. Should you have any queries, do not hesitate to contact us; or if + will e.g. Turn on the air-conditioner if it will help you to sleep.
  • nuances of tenses and aspects’ use, e.g. The text needs to be revised if the article is to be published.

Moreover make sure the grammar rules your students already know are not just simplifications but deep and profound knowledge. You may choose several topics and create a short quiz for each lesson and see who is the biggest grammar geek! Use these quizzes to elicit the weak points the students have and clarify them.

2. Deal with some complicated points that more than likely learners haven’t been taught. For example, inversion (Had you asked, I’d have been able to help), adverbial clauses (Hot though the night air was, we slept tight), etc. Also when you check learners’ essays or listen to their speech make notes on some “simple” language that can be made more complex or rephrased. Then encourage students to change the sentences or phrases themselves using new complicated points.

These are useful books to teach grammar at this level: Advanced grammar in use and Oxford Practice Grammar.


Apart from two language systems discussed above I would also like to touch upon skills.

1. When you teach reading or listening use authentic texts, audio and video. Foster learners autonomy, encourage them to read and listen a lot on their own. These should be extensive and diverse topics and types of literature, books, audio books, podcasts, magazines, articles, audios, lectures, videos, stories, fiction, etc.

When you teach reading and if you’re not sure about the level of the text you can check it here EVP, Vocabkitchen,

On the whole develop a broader understanding of the way of life in cultures where English is the mother tongue, including system of education, customs and traditions as this information helps learners make sense of texts, understand native speakers’ allusions, jokes, etc.

Regarding tasks, at this level they are not only reading/listening for details, they are more complicated and may include defining main or subsidiary ideas, inferring the meaning, tone, author’s opinion or attitude, etc.

2. Regarding writing skills these are some things to work on: text organisation both into and within paragraphs; control of complex sentences; use of wide range of vocabulary and grammar. You can check this book some ideas.

3. As for speaking bring up features of native speech. Clarify the nuances of and work on connected speech, stress, rhythm, intonation, hesitation pauses, markers and so on that can help to express meaning effectively. Learners can use this website to find and listen to any word on Youtube.

In terms of topics work towards an ability to express an opinion on important issues or controversial topics, e.g. Where do new ideas come from? How do people react to change? How does the language affect who we are? etc.

Check these books for some ideas for speaking:

Q skills for success

Discussions A-Z

Discussion starters


All in all when you teach advanced student the main point is to make lessons more learner-centered, help learners find the rules themselves using their extensive language background, boost their autonomy, encourage independence, raise language awareness and increase skills of guessing meaning from context.

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