Top 5 tips for teaching teenagers - Larissa Albano

Five jobs you need to know if you teach teenagers

Five jobs you need to know if you teach teenagers

We all know we can’t judge a book by its cover. Teenagers are not as bad as they are described. Personally, they have been teaching me a lot and they helped me improve my expertise in teaching and even in other fields. So when I teach my teenage students I usually do five more jobs (luckily not all together).

Personal Trainer - At school students spend many hours sitting at their desk, they need to move a little if you want to keep their attention high.

An exercise I usually do with my students is “up&down”. It is a true-or-false game I use to revise what we learnt in the previous lesson. I make a statement. If it is true students stand up but if it is false they keep sitting down.
Another activity that makes students move is the gallery walking. I give my students a gap-filling text and I write the answers on post-it notes I put on the wall of the classroom/corridor of the school. Students walk around to fill in the gaps of their text.

Finally, when it is time to revise vocabulary at the end of the lesson I often divide the class in two teams in order to do a relay race. One student has a whiteboard marker, they write a word/phrase on the board and then they pass the marker to the next member of their teams.

IT Expert - Teenagers love technology. So why don’t we use their passion to teach them English? There are hundreds of apps, websites, and softwares designed for education purposes.
An online learning tool I often use with my students is Glogster ( It is a website aimed at creating online posters. If you are teaching another subject such as History or Science through English this is the right tool to put your students’ work on paper… ops online.
I also like using social networks such as Facebook. For each class I have a group chat where my students can share their doubts about homework and ask each other questions about the course. Once a month I also post a picture from the graded reader book we are reading to ask students to predict what happens in the next chapter. My students write their predictions through comments to the photo and when we read the new chapter they are able to say by themselves who guessed or at least went near to the right answer.

Artist - Pablo Picasso used to say, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”. I cannot agree more with him. To engage teenagers you must be as creative as possible.
Not only do I draw in my lessons but I also use music and role plays. Drawing helps students understand the meaning of new vocabulary. Music is an excellent strategy to engage teenagers at the beginning of the lesson or to re-engage them when they lose their attention. When we learn about real life situations such as ordering at the restaurant or buying a concert ticket I usually play a role to model the activity. In this way they are more confident when it is their turn.

Project Manager - If you want teenagers to succed give them a project to carry out. They will not let you down. One of my last projects with teenagers was about famous people. They had to create a factfile about their favourite star. They made a power point presentation describing the life of the famous person they had chosen and they showed it to their classmates.
The project we are working on right now is about our town. Everyone is developing an aspect of the city such as museums & monuments, nature, shopping, etc. and all together we are going to create a blog to promote our town on the internet.

Referee - Teenagers like competition but they prefer it when they play in teams. Being a referee means being neutral, doesn’t it? Well, it depends. In order to create harmony in the class the result of any competition must always be a tie. When I divide students in teams (either pairs or groups) I always try to find a balance so that everyone is the winner.

To sum up, do you want to be successful in teaching teenagers? Be eclectic.

Larissa Albano is a teacher of English as a foreign language in Italy since 2009. She set up her own language studio in her hometown in 2011. She teaches mainly teenagers and adults in small groups. She blogs about her teaching methods which combine the use of everyday life objects and technology at

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