How to ensure a positive response from a teenage EFL class

How to ensure a positive response from a teenage EFL class

Diary submitted by Matthew M. Madrid

Student Motivation/ Classroom Management
How to ensure a positive response from a teenage EFL class

Teenagers often represent a challenge in the classroom; their growing need for independence and their inconsistent motivation has the potential to alter the dynamic of a class and leave the teacher somewhat powerless. This diary will reflect on the best ways to draw a keen response from a teenage class when teaching EFL.

Teenagers will often “bring different dispositions and potential to language learning than younger learners or adults, and these factors have a considerable impact on… the teaching strategies they respond to” (Richards 2015, p.234). Such dispositions can include a resentment of authority figures, an increasing need to work independently, and a heightened level of self-consciousness. It is therefore crucial to know how to adapt your teaching methods to meet the requirements of a teenage class.

The “authority figure’ dilemma can be resolved by establishing an effective teacher-student relationship. Given that teenagers often have not chosen to study English themselves, creating a relationship where the “teacher ‘connects’ with the learners and is valued and respected but not viewed as an authority figure” (Richards 2015 p.238) is of paramount importance. From my own experience of teaching teenagers in La Réunion, I found that the best way to obtain such a relationship was by bringing humorous elements to English lessons. The key is to “make yourself the object of humour… making yourself the figure of fun can put your students at ease in your classes and make you approachable”. (TEFL Trainer) Other humorous elements of the class could include showing a video at the start of the lesson, or performing an amusing role-play or dialogue. This was particularly beneficial at the end of the week when the students were tired and motivation had dropped.

Furthermore, given that teenagers want more independence, it is logical that student-centred learning is far more effective than teacher-centred learning. To immediately establish this student-led dynamic within my own classes, I would allow students to select their own topics whenever possible. In addition to this, I observed that team-based activities, such as debates, were particularly well-received by teenagers and an effective way of encouraging class participation; the students thrived off the team atmosphere, the element of competition, and their own management of the class. The key to these debates was to reward fluency over accuracy; this facilitated their involvement in the activity, particularly that of weaker students, as they were not afraid of committing errors. During the debates, I would keep my own involvement at a minimum, only helping to continue the flow of the conversation. Whilst I would correct any outstanding errors, particularly grammatical errors, I would also wait to the end of the class. This maintained the student-centred orientation of the lesson and prevented any students from feeling singled out. Due to the previously mentioned heightened level of self-consciousness felt by teenagers, they will often become resentful towards a teacher if they are embarrassed in front of their peers.

Ultimately, teenagers can be difficult and unmotivated but with an awareness of how the teenage brain works, alongside the establishment of an effective relationship and a careful selection of activities, they can become an incredibly rewarding age group to work with.


  • Richards, Jack (2015), Key Issues in Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • TEFL Trainer, Teenagers: Classroom Management, TEFL Trainer Online Course, https://www.tefltrainer.com/lessons/teenagers/ (accessed 24 August 2017)