How to motivate teenage learners

It's the primal fear of many TEFL Teachers both new and experience, how to control teenage classes. How will you get their attention? What can you do to earn their respect? How will you win the battle for control?

It really comes down to one thing… motivating your teenage students.

It’s true, your teenage classes can be your most difficult and often the hardest work, they are notoriously hard to motivate but they also have the greatest learning potential. While it might take a lot of time, knowledge and patience, with hard work and perseverance your successful teenage classes are likely to be your most rewarding by far.

Understanding your teenage students

It doesn’t matter which part of the world you are in your teenage students will be going through a difficult stage of their journey between childhood and adulthood. They will be going through a great deal of personal changes and dealing with difficult questions, while consciously trying to fit into the environment around them, eager to be not only be accepted, but  be treated with respect and fairness. At the same time your teenage learners will be in need of authority and guidance. While you may think it best to take on the role of friend most teenagers much prefer a teacher who values and respects them.

When dealing with teenage classes always maintain a strong and clear teacher/student relationship, keeping control of the classroom at all times, but at the same time encouraging your TEFL students to influence the topics of the lessons. Don’t look to your students for lesson plans, always show that you are responsible for the class and that lessons well planned, but encourage them to give ideas, ideas which will be listened to and acted upon.

Learn all about teaching teenage TEFL students with these commonly asked questions

Engage your students' interest

Get to know your teenage TEFL students without putting anyone at the centre of attention. Set early assignments where they give you information about their interests and hobbies outside of school, and then use this information to design future classes that will engage with their interests.

Teenagers typically engage with modern culture and find it hard to connect with the past. It’s not your job to give a history lesson, make sure to use default topics such as modern technology, social media, and pop culture to bring activities alive and engage their attention. Most teenagers are also very self-centred and will take pleasure in talking about themselves and voicing their opinions. This can be brought out through journal tasks and newspaper style exercises.

Using resources

Good teachers will always use resources in their classes to bring a lesson to life, and this is even more so important when trying to motivate a TEFL class of teenage students. Good uses of resources will not only get the attention of your class but it will also inspire creativity and break the tension in within quiet and difficult classes. Here are some resources you should try:


Teenagers of all culture relate to music, it is often the best way to get teenagers to express themselves and connect with a lesson.

Role playing

Role playing is an ideal way to bring quieter classes to life. Acting gives your teenage TEFL students a chance to release any anxiety or tension in a safe and controlled way, helping them really connect to the subject and making for a memorable lesson.

Social activities

Teenagers are very social creature by nature, though many may seem shy or reserved, most teenagers long for social interaction. Group activities can be a great way to get a shy class to bond and working together.

Pop quizzes

We don’t mean surprise quizzes, rather quizzes on the topic of pop culture. Students hate being tested on the things they are taught in school, it makes them feel controlled, but allowing them to express their knowledge of their hobbies is a different thing altogether and will often get them highly motivate.

Who doesn’t like games? While teenagers don’t like to be treated like children, they do have a very competitive nature and giving them a chance to show off and compete in small groups is a great way to bring class interaction. Just make sure to give everyone a chance to shine.

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