Do you know if your teenage students are paying attention? The obvious answer could be: Yes, I know they are not. However, let's see how we can interpret the signals of their faces and body to try to get them back.

Do you want you know if your students have understood what you have just explained?

Do you want you know if they are having fun or if they find the lesson appealing?

Just look at their faces and their body language and you'll know!

The power of observation is immense. Sometimes we are so concentrated on our own words and on our discourse that we forget the true protagonist of the learning process: the students. Sometimes we make such a big effort in order to get our ideas across that we are not aware of those that get lost along the way.

There may be many reasons for leaving someone behind without even noticing. It could be because they had a bad day at home, because they hadn't eaten enough and they are hungry, or maybe they ate too much and they are feeling sleepy. Perhaps, they may have had a terrible argument with their boyfriend or girlfriend, the sort of argument that only a teenager can have where it feels like the world is going to end.

It could also be that the theme they are reading about is not interesting enough, because they don't really like Justin Bieber any more. It could also be that the activities are too easy or too difficult. Or that they couldn't be with their best friend when working in pairs. They will probably be wondering about their WhatsApp or their next Instagram picture.

And we could identify an infinite number of reasons because they never stop surprising us. Whatever terrible or amazing things are going on in their intense teenage lives, the first step to deal with it is through observation. Observe their gestures, their facial expressions, their look, their smiles, their postures. Make a joke or say something nonsensical and watch their reactions. You'll see if they are paying attention or not.

From that point forward, taking into consideration that visual and emotional feedback, you'll start to make decisions on how to draw them back to a kind of learning state of mind or even lead them there for the first time.

It's not easy. I know. But we'll keep on trying because that's what we are there for: For them, although, sometimes, they won't even notice.

Ingrid Mosquera, PhD.

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