How do you motivate TEFL students?

Motivating young learners often proves straightforward, as they typically greet activities with eager enthusiasm. Likewise, adult learners usually exhibit determination and interest, being in the class by choice and possessing explicit objectives related to their career, academic, or personal life. However, the teenage years can present a different set of challenges. As adolescents, learners often become reticent to participate in class due to fear of making errors or being embarrassed among their peers. Their self-awareness can hinder full engagement in classroom activities. Here are some effective strategies to bolster motivation and participation in your teenage students.

Use plenty of pop culture

While English learning may not enthuse your students, they are likely to have some interests in popular culture, such as music, films, TV, and books. You can use these areas to make lessons enjoyable and engrossing. For successful implementation, knowing your students' preferences is essential. For instance, if a particular music band is popular among them, their lyrics can be integrated into a listening and writing exercise. Discussing what a celebrity wore to a recent event can make a past tense lesson more engaging than textbook suggestions.

Also read: What are the best books for ESL teaching?

Use a little competition

Introducing friendly competition can enhance the motivation of students who might be hesitant to participate. Many games facilitate competition, but other activities can also serve this purpose. For instance, the first student to complete a written exercise or the one with the most accurate responses can choose a video to watch or a song to listen to.

Play to their strengths

It's said that everyone has a unique talent and encouraging students to use their strengths can significantly enhance their engagement. Identifying these strengths requires understanding your students individually. Musically inclined students can incorporate their skills into song-related activities, while artistic ones can use their drawing abilities, and so on.

Use pen pals to encourage writing skills

Teenagers often shy away from practicing English writing. Introducing pen pals can help shift this attitude. Online message boards for English teachers offer opportunities to connect with others interested in establishing a pen pal exchange. This practice gives real-world meaning to writing exercises, which often go underutilized in English language classrooms.

Also read: Should we teach culture in the EFL classroom?

Only use age appropriate reading material

Just like writing, reading skills in English often do not receive adequate attention. To make reading exercises intriguing, ensure that the selected material resonates with the students' interests. Numerous books targeting teens can be employed, or other materials like celebrity biographies, sports articles, concert reviews, etc., could serve the purpose, provided they match the students' reading level.

Use popular songs for listening activities

The audio material that comes with most textbooks may not engage teenagers. Replacing these with music that resonates with the group can enhance their interest. Be cautious about the content's appropriateness, as explicit content could invite trouble.

Utilize videos

Thanks to modern technology, you no longer need a bulky TV or DVD player to show videos in class. It's simple to download the videos onto a laptop or other device, ready for use whenever needed. Short videos like celebrity interviews, movie trailers, or music videos usually hold the group's interest.

Also read: Who will my students be when teaching English abroad?

Play lots of games

Regardless of the age group, games are a key element for motivation. For teen learners, choosing games that foster competitiveness, offer challenges, and reinforce the lesson's core is crucial. Guessing games and quiz formats have proven effective for this age group.

Use realia

Real-life objects, or "realia", can motivate students more effectively than mere pictures or drawings. They can be as simple as personal items that relate to the lesson or maps and brochures for lessons on directions. Students can also bring their own realia to discuss their out-of-school life.

Also read: Which English should be taught in the TEFL classroom?