Top Tips for Teaching Teenagers/High School Students

By Daniela Pesconi-Arthur

I imagine that teaching teenagers is one of most teachers’ biggest nightmares. Especially if these teenagers come from the same country, from the same school and will be in the same group while studying abroad. Uh-oh… What are the problems a summer course teacher is likely to encounter? Let’s take a look:

  • Daniela's ClassAll your students (or most of them) speak the same language (not English, obviously);
  •  Most of these students will insist on communicating in their own language;
  •  Mobile phones, cameras, iPods and other types of gadgets will probably be more interesting to them than learning the Present Perfect Continuous; and so on.

So you might be asking yourself: what should I do? Don’t panic, I’d say. If this is not your first time teaching at summer school, you will be just fine, like the previous years. However, if this IS your first summer school, you might be a bit apprehensive. I don’t blame you at all.

Anyway, whether you are a rookie or an experienced teacher, I have some tips for you.

1) Get them interested. Get them to talk, to solve problems. Challenge them.
I have used The Apprentice with my students and it was brilliant! On BBC, once a year, they have a 3-month series, which can be easily watched online, and with subtitles, depending on the level of the students. Then, you can divide them into groups and give them the same task. Give them some time, and let them use their imagination! You can walk around taking notes of their use of language, checking what they are doing, etc. At the end of the activity, I usually ask them to “pitch” their ideas to another teacher/group who will vote which group did it best.

2) Don’t be annoyed by their use of their phones in class. Use them too!
Use their gadgets in your favour in class. Have them record dialogues, presentations, interviews, anything they can do using the language learned during the day/week. I used my students’ phone camera to record them presenting the news. They loved it, and “demanded” that I sent them the video, so they could show their families and friends. Having a blog really helped, because I usually post everything they do, and that really motivates them.

3) Record your students’ trips.
During summer courses, students usually go on lots of trips. Why not use their own experiences and pictures to get them talking? Last May we went to see the Queen in Cardiff Bay. Of course the students took loads of photos, and spoke English most of the time (that makes ANY teacher ever so proud, doesn’t it?), so I used their favourite pictures and created a slideshow. All they had to do was to say a little something about each picture they’d chosen.

Next time, I’ll post a tutorial on creating a slideshow with voice comments.

See you then!



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