Teaching European teenagers


Practical tips

Teaching teenagers has much in common with teaching adults but obviously allowance needs to be made for their age, level of maturity, understanding, shyness, confidence etc.

The following tips will need to be adapted for your own teaching situation and whether you are teaching 1-1, 2-1 or 3-1

Discover what interests or motivates your students. Whether it is sport, fashion or music or something more serious or academic, it gives you subjects that the student is very likely to want to talk about. Use the Internet to search for relevant short texts that can be used for discussion and vocabulary.

Daily diary
Many students are happy to keep a diary. This can be a great way for them to keep a record of all the things they have done with you. Some may want to keep it private but most are happy to have help with their writing.

Word box. You can get your student to write new words and phrases on pieces of paper, which are then kept in a word box. The box fills up as the course progresses. You can use these words for quick revision of vocabulary or pronunciation. Word stress can be marked above the word.

Make the most of cooking and mealtimes. If your is interested, you can prepare a lesson around cooking some British dishes. The lesson can cover for example ingredients, instructions, requests and flavours.

Make the most of supermarkets. You can devise activities/discussion around:

  • Comparing supermarkets (size, range, atmosphere, prices, service etc)
  • Finding goods (eg wholemeal flour, organic eggs etc). Understanding directions
  • Asking questions at customer service (job vacancies, store card etc)
  • Asking for cheese etc at a counter
  • Leaflets/recipes at the checkout (reading, discussion, cooking)

Video. Use very short video clips (5 to 20 seconds) to generate a discussion on what has just happened and what might or is likely to happen. This can be extended to include descriptions of people, their lives and hopes/dreams, the atmosphere, choice of music etc.

Role plays and dialogue building. Pretending to be someone else is excellent for more introverted students (and a piece of cake for the more extravert). Clothes and hats can add to the fun. Examples can include TV interviews (news, celebrities, famous sports people), restaurants, at the airport, shopping, police station. Exaggerating the situation eg very difficult customer in a cafe can inject much humour. Role plays can be scripted or unscripted (or a bit of both). 

Readers. Most major ELT publishers have collections of reading books, graded for different levels. You could set some reading for homework and then discuss the passages the following day.

Games. 20 questions (What am I thinking of?), quick Scrabble (must speak a sentence with the word put down)     

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2 Responses to Teaching European teenagers


  1. Christine-O says:

    Thanks for this. I am a first timer and, although I have provided lots of stimulus and different activities for my student, he is not enthusiastic about exercises on paper or any written work. How much should I push him to do things he is not keen on? He keeps reminding me that he is ‘on holiday’ and I have some sympathy with that but I also want to make sure that his parents’ money is being well spent. His favourite activity so far seems to be conversation practice and we have done loads of that, with/without tape recorder, with short clips from TV, interviewing each other, talking about his friends at home, writing it down and correcting it, etc. I have tried to introduce new vocabulary this way, asking him for instance about his friends’ ‘temperaments’ (new word for him) and insisting that he use words that are not just ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to describe them – hence he learned ‘volatile’ and ‘calm’ yesterday as descriptive words and is using them freely today. Am I on the right track with him?


    • IanBarker says:

      Christine, I think you are on the right track. Going with the flow is often more productive than going against it. Learning a language is much more than paper exercises and while in the UK your student has the opportunity to speak English. It sounds like you are being creative and that learning is taking place.

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