Teaching teenagers is undeniably one of the most challenging tasks. While young learners exude enthusiasm for everything and adults typically have their motivations and clear learning goals, teenage learners stand apart. They are often considered the most unruly in terms of behaviour and the least motivated to learn. 

In this article, we have gathered vital information on effectively teaching teenagers.

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Tips for Teaching Teenagers

Build Rapport
Create a safe environment where they feel comfortable and secure. This way, your student will want to study.

Learn About Your Students 
As much as possible and as soon as possible. Inquire about their hobbies, interests, favourite music, books, ambitions. This will help you find the most motivating activities and topics. 

Use Multimedia
Everything with pop culture works: videos, songs, YouTube, etc. 

Diversify Activities
Teens get bored easily. Impress them with flashy visuals, fun topics, debates, games from TV shows, group work, and artistic tasks. Make sure there is always variety. 

Challenge Them
Introduce slightly more difficult and competitive tasks, prepare extra materials for advanced students.
Six Tips to Motivate Teen Learners

1. Satisfy your students’ needs and goals, find topics relevant to their lives.
2. Make use of pop culture whenever you can.
3. Use authentic materials, especially vlogs, songs, etc.
4. Assign creative tasks (e.g. make a vlog about your daily routines, learn a song with lyricstraining.com).
5. Integrate mobile technology into the classroom.
6. Challenge them to deal with real world problems for meaningful lessons.

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Table of contents

Teaching Teens to Use Phrasal Verbs

Games with phrasal verbs

The best way to work with phrasal verbs is not merely to provide a list for memorisation, but to engage students in games and incorporate real-life examples from their own experiences.

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“Catapult” is an online game that helps users learn and practise phrasal verbs through gameplay. It is designed as a competitive game but can also be played individually. Let’s take a look at how it works: a sentence with a missing phrasal verb is provided, and players must choose the correct answer from three options. The game’s graphics depict two towers, and players’ knowledge of phrasal verbs will assist them in catapulting the opposing team out of their tower.


Charades is an interactive game that many students are familiar with, and it’s highly effective for teaching phrasal verbs. Divide the classroom into two groups and write down phrasal verbs that involve physical actions on a sheet of paper. Each group selects a student who will act out the assigned phrasal verb without speaking. If the other group members successfully guess the word, they win.


“Taboo” is a card game that can be utilised not only in physical classrooms but also in online classes. The main rule of “Taboo” is to describe a phrasal verb without using the words written on the card. Here’s an example: The phrasal verb is “to break up”, and the taboo words are “to end”, “to finish”, and “a relationship”. Learners must explain the word without resorting to the taboo words. You can create your own set of taboo phrasal verbs or find them online.

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Phrasal verb matching

Phrasal verb matching can be assigned as homework or used as a pairwork activity in the classroom. Write down all the newly learned phrasal verbs on cards and their definitions on separate cards. Ask your students to match the definitions with the corresponding phrasal verbs.

Cut Up Phrasal Verbs

“Cut Up Phrasal Verbs”. This task focuses on practising the formation of phrasal verbs. Print out phrasal verbs and then cut out the particles. Divide the classroom into separate groups and give each group ten verbs and ten particles. Set a time limit and ask the students to create ten phrasal verbs using the cut-out words. The team that completes the task the quickest wins.

Vlogs and Songs with Phrasal Verbs

One key to success in learning a foreign language is motivation. It’s a well-known fact that teenagers have a fondness for the internet. By utilising vlogs on YouTube, we can help them find the motivation to learn even phrasal verbs. We have previously written about influential vloggers who inspire English learning. Additionally, there are dedicated videos specifically focusing on phrasal verbs.

“English with Lucy” has a short yet informative video on food-related phrasal verbs. In this video, Lucy not only explains the verbs but also provides context on how to use them.

VenyaPakTV has recorded a video on the most useful phrasal verbs, where he gives their definitions and makes sentences.

“Adam’s English Lessons” has released some videos on phrasal verbs as well. Adam introduces a verb with different prepositions and explains its meaning. For example, the verb “to take” with “after”, “out”, “in”, “over”.

Moreover, students will remember phrasal verbs better if they hear them in songs. You can just google song lyrics with the phrasal verb you want to practise or use this website.

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Teaching Teens to Give Feedback

We have already talked about various feedback techniques and how to use them in the lessons. One of the strategies mentioned was the so-called peer feedback. Not only it empowers students to be the experts but also makes them gain control over their own learning. Isn’t it what teenagers sometimes lack?

However, peer feedback might lead to some potential dangers. Not all students feel confident about identifying their peers’ mistakes. They might mark a correct answer as incorrect and even try to explain why! Additionally, they may not be sure whether a perceived mistake is truly a mistake or if they’re just doubting themselves. One more issue is that teenagers might struggle with providing constructive feedback and, even worse, accepting criticism. So, how do we teach them to give feedback properly?

Take Your Time

All lessons that include peer feedback should be planned well in advance. Provide enough time for students to become acquainted with the procedures and format of peer responses. It is crucial for them to understand not only how to provide feedback but also the reason behind it.

Start with asking teens what they actually think of the idea of evaluating each other’s performance. Explain why it’s useful. Gradually introduce them to various feedback strategies, starting with something manageable like a brief 30-second description of a picture instead of a full-fledged essay. This way, your teens will soon get used to giving and getting feedback on a regular basis.

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Create a Safe Environment

A comfortable environment is everything. Ideally, students should feel comfortable enough to share their work and be brave enough to assess a peer’s performance. Encourage peer support and make sure the feedback your teens give and get is valuable and respectful. You can make a list of “no-no” phrases such as:

Yeah, good.
Everything is fine, I liked it.
I don’t like it.
That’s stupid.
You really don’t understand?
Just look at this, it’s terrible.

These phrases have a negative connotation and can be judgmental. Building rapport with teenagers is not a one-day event. However, if you consistently demonstrate to them, lesson after lesson, that mistakes are opportunities for growth and progress, they will feel more relaxed when giving and receiving feedback.

Show the Ropes

Why don’t you teach some basic techniques first? One common technique we use in our lessons is called “Praise, Ask, Suggest”. When evaluating a written or oral answer, students are encouraged to start by finding something they really like about it. Then, they ask a question to clarify any controversial issues. Finally, they provide a suggestion on how to improve those issues. Let me give you an example of how this technique can be applied to a film review:

I really liked how you described the main character and told about the plot. That was interesting and bright. Now I want to watch this film too!

However, I noticed that you were using some words like “good” and “interesting” too often, they are repeated in almost every line.

Why don’t you think of some synonyms? Something like, you know, “exciting”, “fantastic”, “gripping”, or “impressive”.

Another technique that can be employed is called “I Noticed and I Wondered”. This can be used for pair feedback or even as a whole-class activity. I personally love doing this after my teenage students have completed their drafts of essays, reviews, articles, or other standardised pieces of writing.

Once the drafts are ready, we display them on the classroom walls. Students then walk around, read the papers, and write their comments on sticky notes. These comments should begin with phrases such as “I noticed…” and “I wondered…”.

I noticed that you used a lot of different linkers. That’s cool!I wondered why you didn’t give any
I noticed that your conclusion paragraph consisted of one sentence and looked too short.I wondered why you didn’t have a name for your article.

To facilitate the process, you can ask learners to focus on something in particular, for example, text organisation, use of synonyms or linkers. Higher levels can be more independent, though.

Why just drafts but not the complete papers? First, I do believe that the teacher still has the final word. Second, when students get comments on their work in the middle of the process, they have a chance to edit the paper and improve it.

Use the Forms

You can’t expect your teenage students to provide each other with objective marking and profound commentaries without any support. What they need is guidance and clear, straightforward instructions on what to look for and what to do. What can help a great deal is additional tools like forms or checklists. 

Here I share some of the forms we use with teenage groups. You can alter the focus of attention according to your needs and the level of students. 


Does the text relate to the task? Why (not)?
What did you like about the ideas? Why?
Find a strong paragraph that worked well. Why do you think so?
Are there any paragraphs which look too long or too short? What can be done about that?
Is the text OK in terms of repetitions/synonyms? Bring some examples.
Have you spotted anything which can be improved?What’s that? How would you improve it?

Comparing the Pictures

Did you partner answer the question about both pictures?
Was there any comparing? Which words and structures did you notice?
Was there any contrasting? Which words and structures did you notice?
Tick the phrases that you heard:I believe…
It seems… / They seem…
It looks (like)…
It/they might…
Was there any extra or unnecessary information which made the answer too long?
What vocabulary related to feelings and emotions did yoy hear? Do you think it is of Upper-Intermediate level?

All in all, teaching your teens how to give proper peer feedback is at times much more complicated than providing said feedback yourself. Be open to making changes in the procedure every time it is necessary. 

Teaching Teens to Write

“Writing? Oh, great! Can we do it every lesson?” said, probably, no teenager ever. Meanwhile, writing is one of the productive skills which should be taught properly. How to prepare teenagers for writing? Let’s try to figure it out.

Make Sure They Have Ideas

Not only teenagers but adults as well can struggle with writing tasks simply because they may not have much to say. This is particularly noticeable when we work with high-level groups or exam classes. Here are some suggestions and tips:

  • Background reading. Prior to a writing lesson, encourage students to read something related to the topic at home. It could be a specific article you’ve chosen for them or something they can find on their own. This reading will provide them with additional insights and ideas.
  • Native language. If your teenage students are not yet at the Upper-Intermediate level, consider having them discuss the topic in their mother tongue. Pair them up or place them in groups so they can freely express their thoughts and perspectives. 
  • Roleplays. When working on specific writing tasks, such as drafting a proposal to the city council, organise a roundtable discussion in your classroom. Let students assume the roles of city representatives and residents and engage in lively debates. This way, students will come up with fresh ideas and perspectives.
  • Collaborative writing. Collaborative writing is a great tool to enhance writing activities for teenagers. It offers a wealth of opportunities, particularly for creating stories. Consider allowing your students to work in pairs when composing their next text. They can plan, write, and edit together via Google Docs. 

Make It Real

Sometimes we do writing tasks just for the sake of writing. Letters to unknown “pen pals”, blog entries which are buried in copybooks, film reviews that no one except the teacher will ever read. It’s time to stop!

  • Let your teens write letters to each other or the guys from another group. It’s a great way to boost their motivation, knowing that a real person is interested in their letters.
  • If you’re studying a review, direct students to websites like Amazon or any other suitable platform for writing reviews. Writing for a real audience and receiving star ratings and comments — this is exactly why we teach them this skill, right?
  • How about starting a group blog or a social media account? You can post most of the texts that explore popular exam genres online. And the best part is, they’re likely to get a response, which is incredibly encouraging.

Examine the Layout

We work with a range of various texts, from a postcard to an essay, from a menu to a newspaper article. Texts of the same genre share some features in terms of layout, level of formality, and language. The more examples your students analyse, the better. They will learn to spot these quickly if you expose them to something more than just a coursebook page.

  • Let your students examine several examples of the genre they are going to write with. Ask them to brainstorm what these texts have in common. A helpful resource I often use is the genre analysis form provided by BBC Teaching English. It directs students’ attention to aspects such as the intended audience, level of formality, communicative purpose, and layout features.
  • Discuss the purpose of each paragraph. Many teenagers struggle because they are more accustomed to shorter forms of writing, such as messages or notes. Every time they encounter a longer piece, they hesitate to structure it properly. By discussing paragraph purposes, you can help them a great deal.

Boost the Vocabulary

We always want our teens to progress, so we encourage them to use more complicated structures or freshly learnt vocabulary. One of the best ways for students to boost their writing is to use a wider range of lexis.

  • Revision and extension are everything. Don’t limit yourself to just the vocabulary covered in the unit. Revise it as much as possible: play vocabulary games like “Hot Seat”, “Taboo” or “Alias”; make split crosswords where students work in pairs and explain words from their half of the crossword to each other. Exploit lexical approach and encourage extensive reading. The more they read, the more they spot, the more they remember.
  • Direct your teens’ attention to synonyms and antonyms. Students can keep a synonyms/antonyms page in their copybooks. Also, ask them to brainstorm synonyms for “good” and “interesting” every time you start a review. Or hand out the model text for individual work where some words are repeated and ask students to find alternative expressions.

Digitise It

As most teens start their essays, “we live in a rapidly changing world”. So, let’s exploit its countless digital opportunities to improve writing skills. The almighty Internet is any teacher’s true friend now.

  • Use tools for collaborative writing. Google Docs, PrimaryPad, Padlet, even emails will make writing activities both meaningful and easy to perform. Also, it’s easier to check.
  • Create a collection of websites which contain quality model texts of various genres. Next time when you need to assist your teens with a real example, just direct them to one of the pages with top-notch reviews or argumentative essays.
  • Spread layouts as QR codes. This way, your teens are more likely to save them. We all know what happens to a stack of paper copies by the end of the school year, right?

Have a great lessons!

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