Engaging Teens during English Class with their cool tools not your textbook

pretty teens using a phone app like snapchat

Teens can be hard work!

Teens can be hard work. They often seem listless and bored and as if learning English was worse than a bullet in the head. This can be de-motivating for ESL teachers. I don’t think the answer is for the teacher to try to be as cool as the students. That would be a losing battle, since a teacher might look a little silly slouching around attempting a level of coolness that no longer comes naturally. However, it is a good idea to use tools that teens relate to. Here are three cool tools to obtain a glimmer of life from your fatigued teenage ESL students.

Engaging Teens Tips

Be up to date

Be sure to use the latest ‘in’ app, since, if you propose something perceived to be for boring older people, or that is passé, your idea will be a major flop because you’ll be seen as just another fossil from the staff room, that has lost touch with real life.

Watch out for bullying

Watch out for online bullying, or a child being ignored by the others. Since you are the page administrator, you can delete anything you don’t like.

Cool Tools

Cool Tool Number 1

Instead of using on a bunch of random people from a textbook to work on talking about yourself and descriptions, why not use Snap Chat, or the latest trendy app? Teens love it. Have a Snap Chat competition where each teen submits a snap chat, presents it to the class with a paragraph about the message behind the picture. The class then vote on the top three pictures and the top three messages. This way you make the messages important, and those are where kids are working on their English. There are equivalent apps to Snapchat such as Masquerade, Snow, Face Swap Live and more, but just ask the teens in your class. Find out what apps your teens are using on their phones when they interact with each other and adapt this idea to that. Students can work in pairs or threes if there are not enough phones to go around.

Cool Tool Number 2

Kids communicate with each other in Teen Speak, or teen slang, and since so many kids are messaging each other these days, (even when they are sitting next to the person), this is an opportunity to work on writing skills in English class.  Look up teen speak or teen slang online and you’ll find translations of what’s in common use these days. IK is I know. Ur is your, and so on. Your teens may be using a mix of international teen speak and local ones. For example French teens use MDR (mort de rire) for LOL (laugh out loud). Give kids a selection of conversations and have them translate them into teen speak. That works on reading and understanding. Collect these for translation back into proper English in a different lesson to work on writing skills. The best source for these conversations is from your pupils, that way you are getting the real deal. There may be volunteers in class who are happy to share and translate from their phone. If not, have the teens write them. Type “teen speak” into your search tool and you’ll find plenty of websites with examples, like these:

GOAT – Greatest of all time

TBH – To be honest

I’m weak – That was funny

It’s lit – It’s cool

If you are looking for UK teen speak, type that term in to get different acronyms.

teens writing on mirror

Class Facebook page

You might make a teen Facebook page (or whatever is in, Instagram?) for the class, English only, but teen-speak allowed, this might motivate some students. Post a picture on a hot topic for your teens. It might be an upcoming movie or a band you know they like.

Once the conversation is going, consider staying out of it and let them interact with each other. They might not think it’s cool if the teacher is chatting too. After all, anyone over 25 is already too old!

On the other hand, joining in might help you create a bond with students.  It’s worth the risk!

To motivate kids to use the class FB page in the first place you might run a competition or survey there.  For example, using the Snapchat idea above, have class members publish their SnapChat pictures and vote on the ones they prefer. The pics with the most reactions are the winners. The competitive edge is only an option, try one and see if it works for your class.

Cool tools to help teachers

Cool Tool Number 3

My book of games and activities for teens and adults! for the classroom and adaptable to online. OR this dedicated ESL Online Games book

9 thoughts on “Engaging Teens during English Class with their cool tools not your textbook”

  1. wow…it awesome. thank a lot. i ever use ur cool tools no 2. it`s quite effective to gain my students` spirit in learning English especially in speaking

    1. Dear Nur, Thanks for your comment, great I’m glad you liked the idea of using and translating teen speak.

      Hope it goes well.

      All the best

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