Published 11th October 2016

When you teach English as a Foreign Language, you may find yourself teaching kindergarten, teenagers or adults. Each age group brings their own needs, experience and issues into the classroom. Usually teachers have a preference for an age group for whatever reason, and while you can try avoid a particular group, you often don’t have a choice which is why as a TEFL teacher you need to be able to teach all sorts of learners.

So let’s think about teaching teenagers.

Teenagers are at a tricky stage in their lives. Being a teenager is not easy and this can translate into anxiety, confidence issues or acting out in the classroom. As the teacher, it is your job to be able to control your teenage learners, help them learn and keep them motivated.

The first step for teaching teenagers is involvement. Teenagers are very creative and naturally inquisitive, but you have to be able to communicate in their language, so to speak. Keep up-to-date with trends and incorporate technology into your lessons to maintain interest levels.

Pay individual attention to your learners and get to know them. Teenagers have a need for validation, so responding to them on a personal level shows you value their opinions. This needs to go beyond the class material and relate to their lives outside the classroom too. If your learners feel you appreciate them as adults and not children, they will respond better to you.

In terms of the class material, make sure it is interesting and relevant. Class activities should be engaging and fun. Use topics which are appropriate but challenging. This is the time for learners to start to express their own opinions and learn about the world around them. There is no reason that this shouldn’t be brought into the TEFL classroom.

As you can see, teenagers are very self-involved and focussed on themselves. This is only natural so we need to use it to our advantage. Personalise activities and make them relevant to your learners’ lives outside the classroom. Relating language to yourself makes it more memorable and the chance that it will be used spontaneously is improved. Plus you are guaranteed that your learners will be interested in the topic!

While teaching teenagers can bring with it its own set of challenges, once you have built up a good rapport with your class you will understand them better and so be able to create more effective lessons for them. Teaching teenagers can be especially rewarding so the next time you have the opportunity, follow these simple guidelines and your lessons will be everything you need them to be.