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Motivating teenagers on summer courses

June 22, 2006

Summertime and the teenagers are coming!

Hello again,
For those of us in the northern hemsiphere the season of the short summer course is nearly upon us. Teachers everywhere will be scratching their heads for ideas on how to keep bored teenagers occupied. While parents no doubt have high expectations that their teenagers will benefit educationally from a summer English course, the kids probably have another agenda: having fun. And can you blame them? At the end of a long academic year...

...why should they be keen on getting back into the classroom in the holidays? But it’s the poor teachers who have to find ways of motivating the youngsters to want to learn something. So what can they do?

To begin with, I think the lessons should “feel” as different as possible from the traditional classroom experience. This means avoiding books, writing, traditional homework in favor of dvd, music, computers, photos and talking. It also means giving the initiative to them students as much as possible. On day one, the task could be for the students to find out as much about each other as possible so that at the end of the day a comprehensive class profile can be built up.

Letting the students explore their own interested is crucial. They could give biographical presentations of their favorite singers, bands, artists, with illustrations of the music. They can do the research using the Internet.

Having them set their own learning targets is useful too. The targets can be put into chart form with daily aims along the way so that they can tick off what they think they have mastered.

Make any writing tasks as real as possible. Have them send postcards back to their parents. If they have a photo project, ask them to write brief descriptive paragraphs of each picture. They can keep a daily journal that they spend about twenty minutes class time each day in writing.

If the class is a multinational one, make use of maps and photos of the different countries so students can explain key facts about their own country to the others. If the class is mononational explore their ideas about their home town, the things they like about their area.

I don’t want to compile a list of activities but I hope the gist of the message is clear. To motivate the students, get involved in their world, their interests. Let the classroom be a hive of activity rather than a row of desks with open textbooks. Help students clarify their own learning aims and then monitor their progress. And you know, after a while they may even request an old-fashioned lesson!

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