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Keeping teenagers engaged can be one of the most challenging experiences a teacher will encounter. However, with a little imagination, reasonable boundaries, and careful planning, ESL lessons for teenage students can become the highlight of the student's academic life.
The first elements to put into place are reasonable boundaries. Students must be aware that they are responsible for their learning, not the teacher. Here the educator must walk a fine line between recognizing the teenagers as soon to be young adults as well as young people with one foot still in childhood.
During the first class, begin a discussion on boundaries. Place the words, Respect, Tolerance and Compassion on the board before the discussion. Ask the students if they can tell you what these words mean. List their responses. Have them look the words up in the dictionary. Ask them to give you examples of each in practice. For instance, we show respect for each other when we actively listen to another speak. Ask them what else they think should be added to the boundaries. Finally, break the class into three groups (or as many groups as there are words listed as boundaries) assign a word per group. Have the groups design a poster for their word. Hang the posters around the room to remind students of the classroom boundaries that they agreed to keep.
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Hot and Cold: Ideas for Year-Round Learning
ESL teachers are often in the classroom year-round; therefore, having interesting activities can keep students from becoming bored with school. Here are some activities for any season.
- Role-playing - Teenagers, for the most part, love to act. Break the class into four groups. Assign each group a season secretly, without the other groups know which group has what season. Have the groups find a private place where they can discuss how to act out their season. Allow at least 30-45 minutes for them to discuss and practice their skits. Come together; give each group cards with the seasons listed. Have the groups act out their skits. The groups listening must raise their cards as soon as they know the season. Give points for who is first, second, third. At the end, add up the points for the winner.
- International Days - This activity can be done at any time of year. Have students pick a country to represent. They can do this individually or in small groups. They can choose their country of origin or another country. Students will need to research the country, create a poster presentation showing important information about the country, and, if possible, provide artifacts from the country. Each student will give a brief oral presentation about the country, telling why he or she is representing it. Ask students to research activities held in their country of choice during whatever season the class is in at the time of the presentation. Conclude the day's festivities with folk dances and food from the various countries. This activity should take several weeks to prepare.
- Home Movies - While home movies are not something we all have access to, photos are. Have students bring in four of their favorite photos from their home - one from each season - or, if they have them on the computer, have them email them to you. Create a slide show of the classes' pictures. Have each student tell what is happening in his or her pictures. Have those listening jot down questions. Create a word list of activities or terminology related to families. This activity will take several days to complete.
- Scavenger Hunt - Prepare a scavenger hunt for the class at any time during the year. Have the students find evidence of various things or activities related to the season they are in at that moment. For instance, in the spring, have them find evidence of tulips, daffodils or crocus. In the winter, have them find a snowman. Ask them to take pictures of their discoveries showing evidence that the picture was taken during the hunt. (Note: Usually, this can be done by having the students take a picture with one of their peers in the picture, or, with a card showing the date in the picture.) Set a time limit for the hunt. At the end of the time limit, have students prepare their evidence to share with the class (Most likely, this will be the next day.) Keep track of who found the most things correctly. Have a small award for everyone.
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This is the first in a series of articles on how to incorporate interesting ESL lessons for teenagers into your curriculum year round. Use this link to find ESL summer activities.
- Content from author's experience.