There is no doubt about it, motivating teenage learners is tough. I’ve come across many a half-asleep student in my class who had no interest in what I had to say. How about the kid with the mobile who insists they are only using it as a dictionary or the student who asks to go to the toilet so often you could swear they had a bladder infection. Ring any bells?
Yet there is always that magical moment when you stumble across something they are really interested in talking about and you’ve got them! Suddenly they are jumping out of their seat to share an opinion with you…in English! You leave class with a bounce in your step and a smile on your face. If you too are struggling to motivate your teenage learners here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years. Try them out along with some of our lessons aimed at teens and let us know what worked for you and what didn’t. If you have any tips of your own, please share them.
Top 5 tips for motivating teenage learners:
- Use realia: Real life objects help to personalise and give a real-life purpose to lessons. Ask your students to bring something to class to talk about, bring in your shopping, receipts, recipe books, recycling etc. Bring in some everyday objects and get students to invent a new use for them. Bring in some old clothes and do a fashion show or get some menus from a local restaurant.
- Make it relevant: Teens are usually obsessed with music, celebrities and films so talk about them! Think about the topic you need to teach and how you can make it current. If you are teaching vocabulary connected to appearance and clothing, bring in some pictures of celebrities to critique. If you are teaching a grammar point, find a song that uses it. If you are writing reviews, get students to write it for a film on at the cinema.
- Make things competitive: A simple grammar exercise can be livened up with some healthy competition. Vocabulary revision can be made interesting with a game at the end of class. If the students are looking less than enthusiastic, a change of pace with a 5-minute game can breathe life into the class again.
- Use technology: Teenagers are constantly checking their phone or facebook. Exploit it! Get them to discuss new apps they have downloaded, photos they took at the weekend, trending topics on twitter. Show them youtube clips or English websites they can use at home. Here are some useful sites for teens: www.lyricstraining.com, www.lessonstream.org, www.eslgamesworld.com
- Personalise: Teens love to talk about themselves and their ideas. Connecting English to a student’s personal life and interests makes it meaningful for them. Use students’ names in language examples, listen to your students’ opinions, if they have knowledge on the topic you are studying, get them to share it. Use your students’ strengths: if they are good with technology, get them to set up a blog, if they are musical, bring some instruments to class.