Published 19th March 2018

Teenagers have quite a reputation in the classroom, and not only in the English as a Foreign Language classroom. Teenagers are notorious for either being loud and unruly or sullen and non-communicative; no matter what they do they have a bad reputation as students.

Of course, there are many factors which contribute to their behaviour in class – peer pressure, identity issues, social awkwardness – but many times if you are able to connect with them they can be the best students you’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching.  One very important aspect of teaching teenagers is understanding them, planning relevant lessons and responding appropriately to them – basically, being able to connect with them on their level.

The first thing you need in order to be able to do this is to identify good topics for your lessons. If you centre your lessons around themes and topics which interest your students, they will be genuinely interested in the lesson and actively participate in the lesson activities. To be sure which topics are relevant for your class you will need to do a needs analysis and get to know them on a personal level, but here are a few topics which should stimulate conversation with your teenage learners:

The future

Teenagers are at a very exciting time in their lives. They will finish school soon and join the big wide world of independent living. Though there may be a bit of anxiety about the future, they should also be enthusiastic and excited. This can translate into passion and energy in the classroom. Tune into these feelings by speaking about the future on an individual level or a more global level. Activities can include making predictions about the future, finding out about jobs they may be interested in trying, and making time capsules to represent their generation.

Technology

It’s no revelation that even our youngest students these days are exposed to technology and incorporate technology into their everyday lives. Though traditional teachers may try to limit the use of technology in the classroom, there is no reason not to take advantage of their knowledge of and interest in the subject. You can have a debate on the use of smartphones in the classroom, discuss the future role of technology in the workplace, and do research webquests.

Relationships

Teenagers are usually caught up in a whirlwind of relationships, so talking about them is a natural option. Bear in mind you don’t have to discuss only romantic relationships; friendships and family are also relevant. In class you can talk about the order of relationships in different cultures, give advice for problematic relationships agony aunt-style, and do an unromantic version of speed-dating.

Teaching teenagers can be challenging but don’t be put off if you find yourself faced with a class of unimpressed teens. Think carefully about what interests them and you could find yourself having the time of your life in the classroom.