Teaching teenagers – how to get their attention and keep it

Teaching teenagers – how to get their attention and keep it

November 21, 2019 3 By Stanley Isaacs


An important aspect of
teaching teenagers is getting their attention
and keeping it. In this video we’re
going to look at three tips
to do this, along with some practical ideas you might try
with your classes. Knowing what your
students like and dislike both in terms of
activities and general interests
will naturally help students to stay
more motivated during
classes. At the start of the
course, a competitive quiz can help you learn
something about your students, and also familarise them
with the organisation of your
coursebook. Split the class
into teams and ask one student
to be the spokesperson. Only the spokesperson
can give the team’s answer. Then, start asking questions about
your coursebook, if necessary, in your
students’ first language. For example, how many units
are there? What starts on page
125? After, say, 10
questions, finish the quiz by
asking each team to decide on the
unit that looks the most interesting,
and why. Make a note of their
preferences, and try to bring these
subjects into the lessons whenever possible. Teenagers have shorter
attention spans than adults. This means it is crucial
to give as few excuses as possible
for their mind to wander. First, be very
explicit with task instructions. If students are
working in pairs who are they working
with? Do they need to take
turns? How long do students
have to do the activity? Is there a time
limit? Second, vary common
activities to keep students listening
and motivated. For example, instead drilling new vocabulary
using the audio, model it
yourself. Try changing the
tone of your voice, for
example, whispering the
vocabulary, and ask your students
to do the same. Are you about
to begin a reading about a real person
or a place? Before you read,
give your students a few minutes to find
three facts about the person or place
on their phones. Reward original answers
then use this information as
a quick scanning task to see which
facts are mentioned in the text. Sometimes, lessons
don’t go to plan. Your students can’t understand
a concept or activity. Or perhaps they simply
aren’t listening. This isn’t unusual
of course. Young brains need a break.
So when you recognise the situation
of your classroom, it’s time to change
direction. Use extra resources
in your coursebook, such as puzzles, get students up on
their feet to play a game, and at the end,
get them to sit next to someone
new. Or simply tell your class a
memorable story of your own, related to
the topic. The aim here is to
get back students’ attention and help them
engage with the lesson again.