Lesson preparation & young students

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Teaching teenagers is usually fun – at least for me, I really enjoy teaching the group unfairly claimed to be the most difficult (but I’d never ever take up a group of children aged less than 10 years old again!). One of the things I’ve learnt so far is that with teenagers you have to be prepared for everything.

Literally everything.

Some time ago I had a chat with a fellow EFL teacher and he said “I don’t think OUR teachers prepared so much for their lessons as we do for ours.” I thought of my parents who were Maths teachers in primary school (real evil teachers grow up in Hell, huh 😛 ) and as far as I remember they used to spend a lot of time on lesson prep… But it was completely different from what I’m doing years later and – that’s important – in a language school.

Have you ever checked how much time you spend on lesson preparation? I say, that’s difficult to check, as I spend roughly 2 hours a day, everyday, without even touching actual lesson material – but hey, that’s the issue of young learner teaching.

What does this evil teacher do, you may ask. Well, I surf the Net, of course!

You have to work quite hard to be a step ahead, and some of my students are 24/7 online (pretty much like me, but that’s another story). So the first hour:

First thing in the morning – 9gag! Then some local varieties (as my students speak mainly Polish). I tried 4chan, but it’s too much for me 🙂

Next thing I check are the news – local and global. Some of my students are interested in politics, some in economy, some in history… and as soon as they realize I’m more or less familiar with the topic they love, they keep talking about it. I’ve even decided to bring short news by BBC as a regular listening exercise to my intermediate+ levels and it works just great (I’m sorry to say, but I find most of the listening exercises in coursebooks too easy… and too boring).

Then we move to weird/geeky stuff. Praise Cthulhu and all his spawn, my husband is quite geeky and that helps a lot, I manage to pick up some info and then use it in conversations.

Then – TV series. I don’t usually watch TV series longer than 20 episodes (except for My Little Pony, alright), but my students do and I have to know quotations they may use – or sometimes I need to use them during the lesson.

And finally – the second hour on the Net means football news, usually BBC and Skysports. As a woman keenly into English league I have to know more about the subject matter than any of my students. So far, so good – even those students who used to be slightly unbelieving have learnt to talk with me about football; sometimes we have quite lively discussions, indeed!

I’d encourage everyone to try making the effort and using some of the ideas above in the classroom. I don’t want to make other teachers follow me – I just want to put emphasis on the fact that teaching teenagers is more than grammar and vocabulary. In my opinion our main responsibility is to make them actually like the language and enjoy using it – and what’s better than allowing them to enjoy communication on topics related to their spheres of interest?

A couple of days ago I had a chat with a student and she said “I’ve observed a huge progress I’ve made this year, but I don’t even know how I’ve made it.”

A huge compliment for a teacher 🙂

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