For over 5 years I have taught English as a Foreign Language around the world to young learners in many different environments. My love for teaching and discovering new and interesting locations has taken me on a fantastic journey across Europe and beyond, during which time I have met and taught some incredible young people whose enthusiasm has infused with my passion for teaching.
Here I’d like to talk about my top 5 tips to engage young learners. Engagement for me is the key to EFL teaching, whether it be in the classroom or one-to-one. If the student is not engaged in the material or the topic, then the lesson will simply not be as effective.
1) Stay young
Try to understand youth culture and develop lessons and activities around things which interest them. For example, I have designed lessons around social media and messaging applications which I have found effective as it is something young students already understand and it gives them the impetus to express their ideas.
2) Use technology
Try to find video clips from the internet to support your topics and use Power Point where appropriate to set the context for your lessons. Visual presentation is very important to engage young learners. I often include music during lessons and allow students to create their own playlists for when they are doing a task based activity. Film-english.com is a fantastic website for engaging lessons based around short videos.
3) Save the trees!
Don’t go overboard on paper copies and handouts. Teenage learners will not respond well to being buried in gap fills and reading texts. Focus on speaking, pronunciation and expressing ideas. Most teenagers love to argue, so give them something constructive to argue about. Reading exercises should be short, to generate ideas, and gap fills and matching exercises used only to test understanding.
4) Make classes active
Begin and finish with 5 minute warmer activities like backs to the board, change chairs or a board race. A stagnant classroom breeds despondency and lack of concentration. The more energy you can generate in the classroom, the more productive the lesson will be.
5) Be flexible
Finally, make sure you structure your lessons, but be flexible. If an activity is going well, extend it and don’t worry about time. If a particular role play is generating a lot of speaking and feedback, run with it until you feel the students have had enough, don’t stop it because of a lesson plan. On the other side, don’t be stubborn with activities. If something is not going well, end it as soon as possible and move on. Always have additional activities in your mind going into a lesson.