Effective tips for teachers: how to motivate teenage students

How to spark motivation in teenage EFL learners: practical tips

How to spark motivation in teenage EFL learners: practical tips


  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

Sometimes we hate them, other times we absolutely love them… Teenagers can be described by all possible completely contradictory adjectives. So how do I motivate them?


I try to start with a genuinely caring ‘How are you? How was your day?’ And while they are all connecting to the lesson I am sharing the brightest part of my day myself. Sometimes someone starts venting about school and nasty teachers, and I share my opinion on how disrespectful and unfair they could be and by the time everyone gathers, we have taken pleasure in sharing our emotions.

The next thing I like to start with is a short warmer like solving a riddle or discussing a saying. This usually helps to ‘turn on’ English mode. A little competition on who solves it faster, or whose explanation is the most unusual or the funniest wakes these minds up.

One of my favourite ones is recycling previously-learned material. This could be a quick half-crossword, question gap-fill, and a follow-up discussion – the more communicative the task is, the better. Teens are very creative and thorough at making questions to their partners themselves. So, sometimes I ask them to send their questions to me in chat and then I copy them to Wordwall to make an interactive activity.

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The most important thing in planning my lesson (since IHCYLT) is asking myself: ‘What is the final activity that my students will be doing?’ This should be something interesting for them and simultaneously give them an opportunity to use TL. 

As an example, the other week we were covering the Use of English word formation and collocations in the context of dancing.

After doing the ‘boring’ part, I had my teens go online and search for a national dance of any foreign country (a list of countries was brainstormed).  They had time to prepare and use new collocations to talk about the dance they found with their partners. As an alternative, with weaker groups, the websites could be provided by the teacher.

One more example is from my communication skills course where we had room for presentations. We were watching a TED talk about big data. We analysed the structure of the talk and worked out the criteria. 

Then, they had to do research and prepare a PowerPoint presentation with a partner about an example of how big data helped solve a problem or improve a situation

Home tasks

Home tasks are mostly treated like labour conscription. So, if it is something ’sweet’ AND optional, this is most likely going to be done.  For instance, we covered vocabulary describing experiences and feelings. The home task was 

  • to visit a website of a Multisensory museum
  • watch a video about a piece of art 
  • and tell about their experience next lesson, using new words.

After we have learned the strategy to take notes while listening in the context of a healthy lifestyle with my other group of teens, I asked them to listen to a podcast and make notes, so that next time they were able to share the content of the talk with their partner. Of course, some of them have their favorites, but the options of the web pages were provided.

Sometimes no matter what you do, only magic makes them do homework. I have a teen who never does homework in the Workbook, but every time I give a link to a Quizizz or any other online resource, magic happens and he is prepared

What kind of homework do you give your teens?


Being fair and honest with tests helps to not only motivate the students but also respect you as a professional. I never give tests (even little dictations) without a warning beforehand. 

I always give a revision lesson before term tests. I always let my teens know the criteria they have to meet to get a good mark, be it tasks on speaking or writing, vocabulary and grammar, or reading and listening. They should know what is expected and what to expect.

Creative kinds of tasks give the students the freedom to choose what they like and see how the material they learned in the classroom can be applied in the real world. 

So, you will have to see what is of interest to your unique group of teens and choose something fitting.

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Article authors & editors
  • Viktoriia Pervaniuk

    Viktoriia Pervaniuk


    CELTA, IH CYLT, TKT (Module 1) certified teacher of General English & Teenagers



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