Teens and Tweens: 4 Most Effective Ways to Reach Younger Learners
Younger learners can be both fun and frustrating depending on the time of day, the cycles of the moon, and the distractions that almost every new day can bring.
Students have a lot on their plate these days from pressures at school to extracurricular activities to hormones and social awkwardness. Follow these tips and you will find yourself in the hip and cool category with your teen and tween learners.
Try These 4 Most Effective Ways to Reach Younger Learners
It’s inevitable. No matter what country you are teaching in, teens’ primary distraction is technology and social networking. From Facebook to Angry Birds to texting to online gaming, we teachers are up against a lot of outside factors. The best way to get your younger learners to turn off cell phones and tune in to your lessons is to provide what they want. Don’t fight it. Students crave new and distinctive ways to study and practice language. If it can incorporate some cool graphics, provide some involved simulations and allows for independently-paced activities, your students will be mesmerized. There are so many websites out there dedicated to enhancing English proficiency, you really have your choice of online games, quizzes, and collaborative activities! You can utilize these by presenting them in front of the class and incorporating them into a classroom activity. Depending on where you are, many students have computers at home and believe me, if they are introduced to something on the internet that sparks their interest, they will play with it at home. If you are lucky enough to have a computer lab at your disposal, by all means use it! There are suitable collaborative activities that are specifically designed to engage teens and tweens that might involve things like solving puzzles, competing, and trial and error. The graphics and topics are often what pulls them in, and the challenge of completing levels can keep them hooked. The best part is often the programs focus on developing two to three skills at a time. Be an innovator for your students, and they will not only be much more receptive, their language skills will increase. You can find free sites focused on vocabulary, listening activities, critical thinking, pronunciation, just to name a few.
Humor Works Wonders
Like I said earlier, teens and tweens tend to be under a lot of pressure and they are going through a lot. You want your classroom to be a place where they don’t feel those same pressures. It is important to have firm guidelines and meaningful expectations with younger learners, but it is also really important to have a good rapport with them. One way to do this is to make learning fun, entertaining, and even at times, goofy and silly. Asian students can be notoriously serious and focused, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a funny bone. If you can incorporate activities that stress fun and competition without too much forced language practice, you will have found one key to success. Also, if there are particularly dry topics that you’ll be covering, find ways to have fun with it. Instead of going through dry drill for an upcoming test, create a Jeopardy game complete with teams and scorecards. You could even dress up if your students know who Alex Trebeck is. If you can be natural with teens and tweens, and show them your sense of humor and sarcasm, you will gain their trust. You may even get them to loosen up and stop being so cool all the time!
Relate Topics to Them
One mistake a lot of teachers make is forgetting about student relevance. Language learning is flexible in that you can incorporate almost any topical lesson that you want. Focus on what the teens and tweens are interested in and engaged by. You can gain a lot of interest if you are discussing things that are relevant to your learners. If you are overseas you can let them educate you. Find out who the popular singers are and do some translations with their songs. If you have a class that is obsessed with the World Cup, incorporate it into your lessons. Have them make presentations on topics that interest them like their hobbies, favorite musicians or movies, and give them a venue to share their knowledge. Teens love showing off what they know, and they will give you ideas on how to do this if you just listen to them. Be culturally aware and don’t just bring your culture to them, let them share what is important to them.
Alter Your Activities
Teens and tweens definitely need a lot of variety in lessons, and differing their practice will help increase their language retention rate. Lessons that are focused on hands-on and interactive activities without being overbearing or intimidating work best for this age group. It’s important to give them the opportunity to put into practice what they are learning and to incorporate different types of activities in one lesson. Varying what the students are doing on any given day can lead to more fluid lesson. Integrate games, presentations, question rounds, and any other form of interactive activity on a daily basis. Getting them out of their chairs, allowing an acceptable amount of noise (within reason) and providing structure within a fun atmosphere all work wonders for younger learners!
Teaching younger learners like teens and tweens doesn’t have to be stressful or frustrating.
You can make a big difference in the amount students’ will learn and retain if you apply these strategies. Don’t forget to come to your younger learners with an open mind, patience, and a supportive attitude!
I am an ex-ESL teacher who has transitioned from that industry into the field of adult education. I have a long history of teaching ESL in numerous countries and varied classroom settings. I’ve also taught a variety of learners, but found I loved teaching teens and adults the best. I spent three years certifying and training want-to-be teachers in China and the Czech Republic. I am also a writer and editor interested in anything to do with education, travel, and lifelong learning.