Published 11th September 2017

Teaching English abroad can mean many different things. You might teach at a summer camp or at a university, a government school or a language institute. What this means is that you will probably find yourself teaching all the different age groups at some time or other, whether you like it or not.

Teaching teens is one such age group which is often met with trepidation by EFL teachers. If you have any experience working with teens you will know that they can be quite difficult. Not because of their personalities or behavioural issues, but because they are in a tricky place developmentally – physically and socially – and so they can be challenging to satisfy. Teaching English as a Foreign Language to teenagers is equally as problematic as working with them in any other capacity.

Of course, that’s not to say that it’s impossible to make interesting, engaging EFL lessons for teenagers. You just need to give it some thought.

Ok, so you don’t actually have to give it some thought because we’ve done the thinking for you!

Three handy topics which are sure to interest and engage your teen learners.

They’re obsessed with it and most of the time we try to persuade them to put their phones down and read a book or play sport outside, but sometimes we can use this fascination to our advantage. Technology is a controversial topic which can be the basis for a number of different debates: Should children be allowed to use technology? Will technology ever replace teachers? What was the most important invention? These are just a few ideas that can be constructed into heated EFL lessons – great for outspoken, opinionated teens!

Popular Culture
While their taste in music or movies may seem ridiculous to us, we can’t control what they like, nor should we. Whatever floats your boat, as they say. Instead, get to know your learners by getting to know what and who they are interested in – singers, movie stars, sports stars, TV personalities. It’s probably safe to say they’re more keen to do readings or listenings on the celebrities they like than on the golden oldies who are usually in the coursebooks. You never know, maybe you’ll learn something!

The Future
Teens have their whole future ahead of them. This is an exciting time in their lives and it’s probably something they think about quite a lot. Why not harness that energy and utilise it in the classroom? Let them discuss their own futures with hypotheticals or imagine they are looking back on their lives to talk about regrets. Just think of a topic and the associated language structure and the possibilities are endless. 

There’s no doubt that teens get a bad rap when in fact they are no more or less challenging to teach than kindergarteners or adults or any other learners for that matter. Teenagers have a lot to say and would love to say it as long as they feel comfortable and are interested. In order to make a successful EFL lesson, then, all we need to do is create our lessons based on topics that teenagers are sure to enjoy, such as technology, popular culture, and the future.