Teaching teenagers and behaviour management. / How to keep teenagers interested when learning EFL

Diary submitted by Pariise D., Valencia, 2020

Unlike the other interns at Kings Language Academy, the vast majority of my students are teenagers which meant that typical sing along classes and games would not be as well received. In this respect it was therefore important that my approach was slightly different to maintain student interest. For younger students you would be expected to coach them more and provide them with a rigid structured lesson to provide guidance. However, I encouraged older students to think more for themselves and this was reflected with a less structured lesson plan that allowed for diversions in topic where necessary. The flexibility in lesson plans allows the student to have a semblance of control over what is discussed and thereby keeps them engaged.

It was important to recognise a need to differentiate the teaching style between younger students and teenagers. I relied on TeachThis worksheets targeted at teenage learners. For example, you can select the age of the students for each topic and you are then provided with an activity made with the students age in mind. The additional challenge was the close age gap between myself and some of the older students. It was important that despite this, the students recognised me as their teacher whilst not seeing me as superior.  It was vital that I did not appear to be patronising but rather respected them as the young adults they were. The benefit of this was that in turn they respected me.

My behaviour management strategy involved clear explicit rules and expectations, but most importantly, a positive working environment where students would feel comfortable to ask questions. This idea can be further supported by Rogers who explains that “without clear direction and confident and respectful leadership from a teacher, some class members will find ways to ‘take over’.  (Rogers, 2011) I have included a pie chart to visually explain the challenges I faced in the classroom when teaching teenagers.

Whilst not a defeatist I think it is important to remember the students are currently in an important stage of puberty. It therefore becomes important to not discredit them but rather to use this and work around it to maintain a friendly atmosphere. Unsurprisingly, the most common misconduct was the use of mobile phones during classes. I experienced on multiple occasions students who would continue to ignore rules and use phones during class. Recognising the significant influence phones and technology have in our lives, particularly for teenagers, I incorporated the devices into the classroom. Kahoot, the educational application that can be downloaded onto phones, was used as a chance for students to interact whilst also learning. I was able to monitor results and ensure that whilst on their phones, students were indeed answering and most importantly understanding the questions in the pre-selected quiz.

This was successful and it reduced the need for students to check their phones. Students have benefitted from lessons being more practical and visual as it allows them to learn in a flexible environment that does not mimic the traditional teaching structure of their schools. In fact, my students often request to use the app in classes and it has become a regular closer of our sessions.


Rogers, B. (2011). You Know the Fair Rule: Strategies for Positive and Effective Behaviour Management and Discipline in Schools. Aust Council for Ed Research.

Skopelja, E. N., Whipple, E. C., & Richwine, P. (2008). Reaching and Teaching Teens: Adolescent Health Literacy and the Internet. Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet, 12(2), 105–118. https://doi.org/10.1080/15398280802121406

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