Getting Teenagers to Speak in L2

Isn't it time we stopped being boring in class?

Isn't it time we stopped being boring in class?

  • They feel silly speaking a language in which they know they are making mistakes.
  • It is artificial to communicate with their classmates in a foreign language.
  • When they want to say something important to each other, they do so spontaneously in their mother tongue.
  • They do not have the L2 vocabulary or grammar to express the concepts that the teacher wants them to express.
  • They do not understand the point of speaking L2 all the time in class.
  • It is very tiring to concentrate on producing a foreign language especially when your level is low.
  • The topic / activity that they are supposed to be talking about in L2 is boring, so they talk about something else in their mother tongue.
  • their teacher at school told them to stop coming to learn here cause its not important - their parents made them come
  • The local education system encourages students to abandon L2 studies in order to concentrate on school subjects or examinations

Things to remember when planning / while teaching your next teenager class

  • To us, teachers, this is a school - to them it's a place to relax and have fun. Don't be a killjoy
  • Give them space - a lesson in a straight jacket (too fixed in procedure or topic) is not liked - be flexible and adapt the conversation to the students' likes whilst trying to stay in topic 
  • Show interest in what they have to say
  • Try to relate to their situation - remember you were once a teenager too
  • Make the communication seem casual - converse, not drill. The more formal or traditional your instruction approach, the less u will get from your Ss - no one wants to be in a classroom after school
  • Pick up the line and carry on the conversation - Comment on similar things that happened to you - this helps to diminish the teacher-student barrier
  • Always try to be understanding, and take their side, not their parents - especially do not attempt to be a parent to them
  • Smile, be funny and friendly - laughter rises blood pressure waking people up and making them come back for more
  • Praise their efforts, even the smallest one - every one needs a pat on the shoulder every now and then - their parents are not especially good at this, but you can be
  • If they're really reluctant to speak, don't push too much - push too much and you will be like their second nagging mother - they don't want the pressure from home and school here
  • Try not to ask about school or home issues unless they bring up the topic
  • Avoid putting anyone under the spotlight - Get students into pairs or small groups - this is helpful to get reluctant students talking; remember to remix teams every now and then to take focus away from chronic underperformers
  • The best conversation class is not always one in which students are talking all the time - allow for some quiet time; include tasks that need some group discussion and preparation before delivery
  • They have a short attention span either cause they a) have other priorities or b) just don't care - work on shorter, but more varied activities (real conversation as opposed to drills brings inflections/change which has the same effect as having various games)
  • Don't be afraid to try silly games
  • Remind them of the Only-L2-in-class Policy - set a method that works for you