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  1. #1
    kirstyjay is offline Newbie
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    Question Teaching teenagers and young adults

    Hi there. New to the forum, although not new to forums in general. :)

    I have started teaching a 4-month long course for teenagers / young adults where I live. I have 3 groups with between 10 and 15 students in each group. There's one group 1 in one locality, which is a mix of 13 through to 21 year-olds. They are all reasonably the same level though, so it works well.

    The other 2 groups are in another locality, and due to the number of sign-ups, it's split into 2 groups... 12-14 inclusive and 15+. The 12 to 14 year-olds are fine, but the 15+ group is proving to be hard work.

    The classes are supposed to be conversation based and I'm also supposed to be doing lots of interesting activities with them that will be interesting to their age group. the activities bit is not a problem, as I have started a rolling project, writing a newspaper which will then build to other media over the full course.

    The actual English lessons with this group are like pulling teeth though. No matter what game or conversational activity I do with them, they just won't TALK to each other. I have tried 'find someone who...' games, and last week I did the one where they had famous people's names on their backs and they had to find out who they were by asking yes/no questions to each other... NONE of them would mingle!

    They all seem to be shy and insular and I'm at my wits end trying to find conversational games to get them to open their mouths. They are also a monolingual group, so I have to really monitor them to make sure they don't slip into L1 when I'm not looking. All in all, it's becoming a little tiring with this group, as I feel I have to babysit them constantly.

    Does anyone have any suggestions how I can handle them? Children and adults are by far easier to handle than teenagers!

    Thanks in advance,

    Kirsty

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Teaching teenagers and young adults

    Have you tried any structured speaking activities like role plays? I haven't taught people of this age group for years and may be showing this, but I did have good results doing these.

  3. #3
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    Esgaleth is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Teaching teenagers and young adults

    Yeah, this age group IS a true headache. If there are any magic tricks to make them speak it's mostly a stroke of luck to find any. The crucial point is if they are willing to speak to each other in L1. If not, not much can help. The problem appears to be more psychological than linguistic. However, there is a handful of activities worth wile trying.

    - pair work. Unless you know for sure who can be paired with whom, it seems reasonable to change pairs every lesson. Such 'find a partner' activities can be based on any language aspect. For example, in terms of vocabulary revision - student A says a word, the student who can give an opposite/ synonym/ definition/ collocation/etc becomes his/her partner for the lesson. True, you have to vary the activities but they'll soon find out the pattern and will be trying to get the partner they like. You may be surprised at how quickly shy students become self-assured when paired with the right group-mate.
    - small group work. Competitiveness can be the key word here, however it may depend.
    - it might help to make them prepare the games/activities themselves rather than offer the ready-made ones. Additional speaking practice while doing this can also develop a speaking habit.

    Could it be a good idea to share the experience of teaching teenagers? Not much information is available about this particular age group.

  4. #4
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    englishhobby is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Teaching teenagers and young adults

    Perhaps, they won't talk because they cannot talk? )) I suggest doing more "shadowing" exercises first, imitation exercises, drilling the target structures for the best part of the lesson so that they could produce them automatically at the final stages of the lesson. I noticed that when we're trying hard to make a lesson fun for them, they don't often appreciate it. Making them work hard (with little or no fun at all) sometimes can be more effective. In this case they long for interesting activities and when they finally get them as a reward for hard work, they can be more enthusiastic.

  5. #5
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    moonlike is offline Member
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    Default Re: Teaching teenagers and young adults

    Hi Kirsty
    I came across some websites. I think they can be of great use for you.
    eslkidstuff.com
    apples4theteacher.com
    4kids.org
    abcteach.com
    dltk-kids.com
    kidsturncentral.com
    teachervision.fen.com
    Good luck

  6. #6
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    I'm With Stupid is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Teaching teenagers and young adults

    I tend to find my teen students to be pretty willing to do this sort of thing. My teen classes tend to have a lot of banter and rapport, and I think a large contributor to that is the fact that I don't bother too much about L1 use in class (obviously during an exercise, they have to use English). I've been in classes where L1 is completely banned, and particularly at low level, this means that students can't communicate fully, which means they can't have a laugh, make jokes and build the sort of rapport that makes them enjoy group work. I'm not suggesting that you do this, because it obviously comes with its own issues (they won't shut up), but it might be worth thinking about if you're very strict on L1 use.

    In terms of activities, I find task-based learning to be pretty effective with teens, although you still have to do a bit of babysitting, because certain students have a habit of sitting there and allowing other students to do all of the work.

    Other motivational factors can be very simple. For example, I often play a game where students have to complete exercises on little bits of paper and bring it to me before getting the next one. All I need to do to motivate them is drop them on the floor after I've checked them and say that the last team to finish has to put them all in the bin. You'll be amazed at how much quicker they complete the activity. Making things a race is often a very useful tool to motivate reluctant teens, so its worth thinking about how you can adapt any activity into a competition. Again, this can have negative side-effects though, because there's a tendency for pronunciation to slip when they're against the clock.

    Another thing to look at would be whether your students are confident enough in the language you're asking them to produce. If your students are a low level (you didn't say), they might need quite a bit of time to think about and prepare what they're going to say. And teenagers more than any other age group are going to be more self-conscious about looking stupid in front of people, so this applies even more so.

    If they're older teenagers and are of a high enough level, it might also be worth explaining to students why you're asking them to do something a particular way. At 15, they should be old enough to be treated like adults and engaging them with the teaching process, and even giving them some input, might be useful.

    I'm just brainstorming here though.

  7. #7
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    konungursvia is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Teaching teenagers and young adults

    In this case, I would stop doing 'serious' activities like asking them to debate a topic, and start playing games that require the use of English.

  8. #8
    richardavie is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Teaching teenagers and young adults

    I feel your pain! My advice is role play, it's almost like it's easier for them if they are acting. Scenarios that have worked for me include:

    Doctor - Patient
    Lost Tourist - Tourist Guide
    Criminal - Police (invent a crime scenario)
    Shopper - Shopkeeper (haggling in a market is good)
    Football player - journalist
    Flat viewing scenario (get-to-know-you type questions)
    Unsatisfied shopper - shopkeeper (faulty TV, telephone, videogames, hairdrier, etc)

    Just give them a clearly defined role and they will usually do it. Hope this helps!

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