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How to motivate (teenage) students 
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Joined: Sun May 09, 2010 4:58 pm
Posts: 59
Post How to motivate (teenage) students
it's been a long time since I posted here, hope you are all well and doing well.:)
I've moved to Hunan province to teach high school in the best school in the city. The students are very good, but me, being an inexperienced teacher, have difficulties in making my lessons interesting to them. For example, during the superstorm Sandy events I had a lesson about natural disasters, showing the kids video clips of some hurricane surges and tornadoes, introducing types of the disasters, then I had them do a word search and after all play a role of a news reporter at the place of a disaster. This all sounds exciting to me, but not in the least to the kids.

Mark, you said you always try to make your lessons exciting, like an adventure, and succeed in motivating them to learn on their own afterwards. Can you please share some tips on how you manage to do that?

Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:12 am
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
Post Re: How to motivate (teenage) students
Oh, no! did I say that? :smt009

Teens are hard. I certainly can't say that I'm always successful. I have students that quit my school for various reasons and sometimes it's because my style, ideas, or content just aren't stimulating to that person. I guess I can say that I'm successful in keeping enough students to stay in business :P

I think this applies more to younger children, but, generally, I find that if they enjoy the lessons, they will continue. If they are interested they will learn and want to learn. If they continue, then they will learn and be successful (hopefully). So, I try to find a balance between fun and learning. I want the lessons to be fun and I want them to learn. That may be what you were referring to with "Mark, you said you always ... succeed in motivating them to learn on their own afterwards."

As students get older, late elementary school and certainly by junior high, students don't need as much entertainment. It doesn't hurt, but the lesson content should take priority. I believe that by this age, they can appreciate a good lesson for what it is and they begin to understand that education and knowledge are empowering. ... That doesn't mean they'll like it, but they can appreciate it :)

Your lesson sounds great! But, I can see how teens might not get into it. You might try some things that they are already interested in: sports stars, fashion, movies, movie stars, music, famous singers/groups, high school life, or TV shows. When you have a topic they are interested in, you might find that they want to ask their classmates about these things. They want to know what their friends think.

Role plays might always be hard with teens. They are too worried about what everyone else thinks of them to really get into the roles. That's not to say that they wouldn't do it or wouldn't like it, but I don't think I could get my larger school classes to do something like that. Another thought is that they might just need some time to get used to such activities. Sometimes certain ideas fail the first time simply because students are unsure of what they're supposed to do. If you repeat that activity, they do much better the second and third time around. So, I don't give up on what I think is a good idea or game right away. If it fails a second or third time, then I throw it away :D

I generally stick to the idea above. I try to find something that they are interested in from the start. From there, I try to find an activity for them to practice what we're currently working on. The main idea that I incorporate is that getting the information (or accomplishing some fun task) is the main goal. The English just facilitates.

My high school lesson this week was just teaching them about blending words in a sentence. I modeled for them how a native speaker would say the following sentence:
    "What does Bill have in his bag?"
We generally reduce /t/, /d/, and /g/ at the end of words and blend final consonants with words that start with a vowel sound. So, the sentence above sounds something like this:
    "Wha' does Bill hav vin nis ba'?"
Sorry, that's not the best phonemic representation but I hope you know what I mean.

I brought some children's books for them for them to read aloud to each other and practice. They seemed to really like the lesson. They liked that they sounded more like the English they hear in the movies and in songs. (It would have been better and more interesting to have a real line from a recent, popular movie, show them the clip and first have them try to transcribe what was said. You could even have several. After they watch the first time, practice like I said above and then go back and see if they can understand what was said in the clips again.)

I hope that is a little helpful.

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Fri Dec 07, 2012 10:37 pm
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Joined: Sun May 09, 2010 4:58 pm
Posts: 59
Post Re: How to motivate (teenage) students
Thanks. I can share what I found successful. The 15 year-olds were really into the movie "The Cell" (Jennifer Lopez starring) and they also liked Escher's work of art (you know these optical illusions like endless stairs, waterfall) I've also found out that Chinese teenagers, as opposed to their western peers, are totally not interested in talking about dreams (which I tried to make my last lesson about)

What you said about them being hard and appreciating the value of knowledge is true, I had one of my students discard me after discovering that my language level is not satisfying enough to him (I'm a non native speaker)

Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:06 am

Joined: Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:52 pm
Posts: 1
Post Re: How to motivate (teenage) students
For teenagers I would try to make it competitive especially in teams. Peer pressure (in a good way) helps to motivate those that usually mope around mumbling (I have a lot of these).
Sometimes If i have a big class or i need smaller teams I get the third team to be the judges when teams 1 and 2 are playing each other. This means that almost everyone is included even when its not their turn.

Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:08 pm
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