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Getting teens to keep talking

Teacher training and Development

Getting teens to keep talking

<![CDATA[The noontime #ELTchat on 09/03/2011 focused on how to motivate teens to extend their speaking activities, so as to go beyond “I agree” “I disagree”. A numbers of issues was raised such as motivation, being relaxed, students’ silence etc.
This summary was contributed by Anastasia Kararoudi – @tasoulazac on Twitter and although she is new to Twitter I think she did a great job! Thank you Anastasia!!!!!!

How to motivate teens to extend their speaking activities, so as to go beyond “I agree” “I disagree”

Image used with the king permission of F Michael Kloran - more at http://www.myenglishimages.com/

Image used with the kind permission of F Michael Kloran - more at http://www.myenglishimages.com/

Do you think that students can speak in front of the class and the teacher just because you tell them: “You’re in class and I’m telling you to speak in L2 now”?
#ELTchatters started sharing their experience and mentioned that speaking activities should be motivating and teachers should make students want to speak and participate in class not because someone told them to or they just “have to” but because they find the topic familiar or relevant to their lives and they have personal opinions to share.
As a result speaking activities should be related to their “real lives”, or to something they can connect to and find something to say, whether it is accurate or not. They also need to feel secure in order to speak out which means that we, as teachers, must create a warm and welcoming environment to foster participation.
And why don’t they feel secure? Because one ‘fear’ for teens is sounding ‘babyish’ as they don’t have enough vocabulary to express themselves. #ELTchatters agreed that the hardest thing about working with teens is that teachers forget what it feels like to be a teen so try not to ask them do speaking tasks that they wouldn’t naturally do in L1 or you wouldn’t enjoy doing.

Some really great activities shared:

–  Give students role-plays ( they could even create their own cards).
–  Organize speaking competitions, debates, news show.
–  Play the “devil’s advocate”.
–  Make projects using cameras.
–  Choose a topic and appoint students to be the ‘teacher’ or the ‘expert’.
–  Organize a ‘joke day’(students tell jokes in L2 and then they vote for the best).
–  Ask them to interview other teachers or friends and then they have to be the reporters and the rest of the class the audience.
–  Students could make up their own cartoons.
–  Play the “gossip” game (two-minute conversation, they change partners and talk about what they just talked about with the first partner”.
–  “Radio DJ” (students introduce a song/singer they love as if they were a DJ, they explain how it makes them feel and the others comment).
–  “Treasures” (students bring in something important to them and they have to tell the story behind it) an activity which is like the old “Show and Tell” at school.
–  Cut up cards with controversial statements for students to agree or disagree and justify it.
–  Ban phrases “agree”- “disagree” and get students to find synonyms/other ways to say same.
–  Have an L1 policeman in each group, i.e. one student who makes sure everyone participates in English; this could be one of the quiet students.

How to keep teens motivated during speaking activities:

– Get students to choose topics of interest to them so as to feel motivated.
– Every speaking activity needs a build up otherwise students are not prepared contextually or cognitively.
– Reward students who keep talking in L2 with stickers, stars, prizes etc.
– Cut up lots of speaking prompts and force them to use as many as possible in their discussion as a competition.
– Prepare students well by giving them thinking/preparation time, be patient and monitor to ensure they’re on task.
– Allow rehearsal time.
– Teens usually find discussion points rather boring so give them an angle eg. Discuss as if you were a lawyer/priest/…
– Students love it when they get into the “I am showing the teacher something new” mode, so try to exploit that.

Some useful links:

As Tara Benwell said “although ELTChat always raises important questions, provides useful suggestions, and allows English teachers to connect with teachers from various backgrounds and specialties, it often leaves us with a bunch of outstanding questions to ponder such as”:

– Topics that work well are teen-centered or teen-selected?

Thank you very much and don’t forget that …

“to teach teens, think like a teen!!!”


by Anastasia Kararoudi




One Response

  1. Tefl Jobs says:

    I used to do a lot of debates with my English elective classes while teaching in Japan. I always let the students chose the topics so I would be confident of them having some opinions. Also we would spend 1 or 2 classes beforehand to prepare, looking at phrases used while debating, sentance structure and useful vocabulary. They generally worked well and the students enjoyed the experience.
    Best regards, Jon.

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