Motivating teens during English class

pretty teens using a phone app like snapchat

Teens can be hard work!

It can be hard motivating teens to learn English. They often seem listless and bored and as if learning English was worse than a bullet in the head. This mournful sight can be de-motivating for ESL teachers. However, 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. On the other hand, it is good to use teen-related props. Here are three cool tools to obtain a glimmer of life from your fatigued teenage ESL students.

Motivating Teens Tips

Be up to date

One way of motivating teens is to use their medium as a learning tool. However, be sure to use the latest app, since anything for boring older people, or that is passé, will flop. In addition, 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 others. Since you are the page administrator, you can delete anything you don’t like.

Motivating teens with cool tools

Cool Tool Number 1

Instead of using a bunch of random people from a textbook to work on talking about yourself and descriptions, why not use Instagram, or the latest trendy app? Teens love it. Have a  competition where each teen submits a chat, presents it to the class with a paragraph about the message behind the picture. Students then vote on the top three photographs and the top three messages. This way, you make the messages necessary, where kids work on their English.

There are equivalent apps to Instagram, such as Masquerade, Snow, Face Swap Live and more. That said, ask the teens in your class because popular apps come and go. In addition, with the Zuckerpath being attacked in court again at the time of writing, he will rename apps to hide the scandal. Find out what your teens use on their phones when they interact with each other and adapt. 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 slang. These days, since many kids message each other (even when they are sitting next to the person), it’s an opportunity to work on writing skills in English class. Look up ‘teen speak’ online, and you’ll find translations of what’s in everyday use. IK is, I know. Ur is your, and so on. Your teens may be using a mix of international and local teen-speak. For example, French teens use MDR (mort de rire) for LOL (laugh out loud).

Give kids a selection of conversations to translate into teen-speak. That activity 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 phones. 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

Motivating teens with a class page

You might make a teen Instagram page (or whatever is ‘in’) for the class. It should be English only but allow teen-speak to make it more relevant to teens. Then, post a picture on a hot topic. For example, it might be an upcoming movie or a band they like.

Once the conversation is going, consider staying out of it, letting them interact with each other. Teens 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. So it’s worth the risk!

Survey or competition

You might run a competition or survey there to motivate kids to use the class page. For example, using the Snapchat idea above, have class members publish their pictures and vote on their preferred ones. The pics with the most reactions are the winners. A competitive edge is only an option; try one and see if it works for your class. On the other hand, public failure of an unpopular picture is humiliating, so disallow thumbs down and negativity.

Cool tools to help teachers

Cool Tool Number 3

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

10 thoughts on “Motivating teens during English class”

  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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