Twelve Things to Keep in Mind When Teaching Teenagers


1.  It seems that all teenagers are interested in pop songs, so exploit that interest by bringing music–and the feelings that can be expressed through songs–into the classroom. 

 2. Teenagers (perhaps especially the current need-to-know generation) like to be seen as cool and up-to-date, so bring in topics of current interest from IT, sport, entertainment and media, and English-speaking cultures that is personally relevant to your learners. 

3.  Teenagers are discovering (often with difficulty) a different relationship with others and group work allows individuals to interact with different classmates in a less stressful, collaborative atmosphere. 

4.  Teenagers are starting to define their proper personalities (sometimes it seems they have multiple personalities!) and role play activities can allow them to try to express different feelings behind non- threatening, face-saving masks.

5.  Part of growing up is taking responsibility for one’s acts and, in school, of one’s learning, so a measure of learner autonomy and individual choice can be helpful for teenagers.

6.  It’s amazing how some teenagers will have an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of a particular field, so let individual students bring their outside interests and knowledge into classroom through cross-curricular work. 

7.  Variety–including surprise and humour–is the spice of classroom life (perhaps particularly with teenagers and their infamous short attention span), so try out different warmers, starters and fillers to change the pace and enliven the organisation of your lessons. 

8.  Teenagers are discovering their (often awkward) bodies so use movement by giving students an opportunity to move around during class. 

9.  Teaching in secondary school often means teaching multi-level classes, but effective classroom management can help even with very large classes. 

10. Use of the mother tongue can not only steer a whole class activity away from misunderstanding, confrontation and potential discipline problems (always a risk with teenagers), but also help avoid pressure on an individual by removing the impression that one person is being tested and put on the spot. 

11. Games can provide not only purposeful contexts in which to use language but they also stimulate interaction, provide competition and are fun–as long as rules are clear and clearly followed by all participants. 

12. Project work offers each individual a chance to use their individual talent to do something personally meaningful and motivating with the language they are learning–and the resulting posters and other visuals can be displayed around the classroom (just as teenagers decorate their rooms at home).


Editor: Simon Peel

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