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Welcome to the mind of a teenager

Every year many EFL teachers decide to work in residential summer schools for teenagers. Around the world the number of children and teenagers learning English is on the increase. Yet, most EFL teachers start their career by taking either the CELTA or Trinity TESOL courses, which are widely accepted as teaching qualifications but primarily focus on teaching adult students with little or no input on younger learners or teenagers.

Even with the best of intentions and a solid grounding in EFL methodology, the first experience of teaching teenagers can be a huge challenge. Stress levels can rise quickly in a busy, buzzing summer school and statements such as the following might be overheard in the staffroom or come up in observation feedback.

All teenagers love One Direction and so I planned a class around the band. I thought the students were going to enjoy it but they weren’t really interested.

I’m trying to make things fun for them but nothing seems to work!”, or worst of all, “I don’t think they like me….


Image result for boring students

Of course, this isn’t the case. Teenagers are teenagers and sometimes it is just worth reminding ourselves what life was like for us at that age. Ask yourself the following questions, or even better, talk to an old school friend about them. Think back to your own school days as a teenager.

  • What did you enjoy about school?
  • What did you dislike?
  • What was your favourite teacher like?
  • Who was your least favourite teacher and what were their lessons like?
  • Do you remember the time(s) when you got away with not doing what the teacher told you and how much you laughed afterwards?
  • And how about all the messages that were secretly sent between classmates in lessons?
  • What was it like to be eight years old and how different was it to be 16 years old?
  • Can you recognise the behaviour in some of the teens that you have been teaching? 


Practising empathy can open up a whole new view of the world and provide a great starting point for future lesson preparation.

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For more ideas and further food for thought, also check out Herbert Puchta’s notes on  motivating teenagers or engaging teens emotionally.