When it comes to teaching ESL classes, teens are perhaps the hardest group to motivate. However, with a few innovative techniques, you can get teens excited about learning English while connecting with them on a deeper level. Here are some suggestions for motivating teen English learners.
1. Pop Culture – Most teens will have a strong interest in music, movies, and television, which means they’ll be more willing to discuss Beyonce’s latest hit or the new Twilight movie than the headlines in the news. This is a good way to use descriptive words, express opinions, and use the past tense, and it will help you learn more about your teen students.
2. Competition – Teens are just as competitive (or even more so) than little kids. Harnessing this sense of competition is a great way to motivate them in English classes. You can incorporate games into almost any type of lesson or activity. For example, a game for vocabulary practice could involve having them write down as many words they can think of related to a specific topic in one minute.
3. Talents – Learning about your students’ talents is another great way to connect with them. These talents can become the basis for creative English lessons. If a student plays the guitar, he/she could play a popular song while the rest of the students sing the English lyrics. An artistic student could draw a picture for the class to make up a story about.
4. Pen Pals – It can often be difficult to motivate teen students to write. One way to do this is to give them each a pen pal. This could with an ESL class in another school in your district or on the other side of the globe. You can easily find ways to connect with other ESL classes online, and this also makes the process go a lot faster than sending letters.
5. Appropriate Reading – No teenager wants to read dated stories about Dick and Jane that don’t apply to their lives. Find reading that interests them, such as stories about teens, celebrities, or sports. It’s also important to make sure the reading is at the right level for them – if it’s too easy, they’ll be bored, and if it’s too hard, they won’t want to do it.
6. Music – Teens don’t really want to listen to the audio practices that come with English courses, but they love listening to music. Play songs they like and go over the lyrics together (as long as they don’t have inappropriate words). You could even make worksheets for them to fill in certain words as the song plays.
7. Videos – Like songs, videos are a great teaching tool for teens in an English class. Thanks to YouTube, it’s easy to access everything from movie trailers and music videos to funny home movies. These can be great materials for discussion and comprehension.
8. WebQuest – Teens love to surf on the internet and are very good at finding information on the web. WebQuest is a tool that creates activities or “quests” that have students search for specific information based on links their teachers give them. Then they make a PowerPoint about what they found out. WebQuests can even be designed based on reading level, which makes them easy to adapt to any ESL class.
9. Games – As mentioned above, teens thrive on competition. Games are a great teaching tool as well because it makes students forget that they’re learning when they’re having so much fun. Games that work well in classrooms include quiz games, like Jeopardy, or a guessing game like 20 Questions.
10. Life Connections – Connecting to students’ lives in a tangible way can help them understand why learning English is important for them. You could go on trips to their favorite places like shopping centers or sports arenas and practice giving directions. You could also have them bring some of their favorite objects into class and talk about themselves.