Tips for teaching English to teenagers in Hong Kong – The best way to engage

Many teenagers in Hong Kong will speak English to a conversational level, so you may wonder why they want to attend English lessons outside of school. Many of them will want to be fluent in English as they will be using their English abilities both for future study and their careers.

Your job during the lessons will be to enhance their English to the next level so that they can achieve their ambitions for the future. It can be challenging to decide how to approach your lessons with this group. However, here are my top tips to help you get the most out of Hong Kong teens during their ESL classes.

Tip 1: Find out their interests

One of the most important things to consider is their interests. At this stage, the lessons must be tailored to what they find interesting; otherwise, they will not engage. I once made this mistake by assuming that a class would like to participate in a lesson about Harry Potter. It massively backfired as it turned out they were probably the only group of teenagers who hated the topic.  We were able to turn the lesson into a debate of why Harry Potter is overrated. However, using topics every week they dislike, will discourage their willingness to learn.

Tip 2: Learn what motivates your teenage students

It is also critical that you find out what motivates your teenagers. Again they may prefer certain activities you do in the lessons over others. Encourage your students by telling them if they put effort into learning; they can do fun activities. Make sure you ask them if there are any other activities that they would like to complete in the lessons. It will go a long way with your students, and they will appreciate it! One example of what you can do is similar to young learners. The teenagers always love baking as a reward. Make sure that you give them more challenging recipes than the younger learners, though, to help further expand their skills and English vocabulary. You can also ask your teen students what their favourite things to bake are so that you can cook them together.

Tip 3: Incorporate activities they enjoy in the lessons

There may also be other activities that your teenage students enjoy doing that you can incorporate into the lessons, so make sure you do this. An example is one of my students loved art. So we spent some of the class doing art. While they were drawing, we were practising verbal communication by talking about the drawing they were creating. Then they wrote about their artwork to practise their descriptive writing.

Tip 4: Tell a joke and show them you have a sense of humour

What works universally with teenagers is a sense of humour, and this is no different for Hong Kong teens attending ESL classes. Telling the odd can be beneficial in terms of building a good rapport with them. Again, the teens will get more out of their lesson if they can relate to you as a person, rather than them just seeing you as their teacher. As you get to know your students, it will become easier as you will get to know what humour your students will respond well.

Tip 5: Be cheery in your lessons for a pleasant classroom environment

Nobody likes a bored or cynical teacher. So you must be as upbeat as possible during the classes. You can notice a difference in students motivation levels when you put that little bit of extra effort. It makes the lesson more engaging and a happy classroom environment. They will also be more comfortable asking for help for anything they are unsure about. It will make them feel relaxed during their ESL lessons and will ultimately help their English abilities improve.

Tip 6: Have a mixture of activities during the lessons

During each lesson, you must have a mixture of tasks to complete. If you focus a whole class on only doing reading or writing, your students will get burnt out and will not get much out of the lessons. Make sure to include some speaking along with a writing task in the classes to keep engaged and enjoy the lesson. Doing a mixture of activities in each lesson will assist more than one area of their English language. So all of their English skills will advance at a similar rate, rather than only having one area improve, such as speaking.

Tip 7: You may need to revise some essential language

Although the Hong Kong teens English abilities may seem more advanced, they sometimes still making some common mistakes. It natural to have revised some points when learning a new language, and this will be no different for Hong Kong teenagers. When revising the language, they have some knowledge of, make sure it does not take too long. Students will not want to spend a significant amount of time practising. The best way to approach is to spend 10 minutes every lesson practising the target language and grammar, then progress onto other tasks. This way, they will not become demotivated or bored with the revision.

Tip 8: Push them with the learning

Also, you should not be afraid to push teens in your ESL classes sometimes. They are in your lesson to level up their English speaking abilities. Doing this every so often will help them with enhancing their capabilities. An example is choosing topics that are interesting to them and debate them.  Allow them to research their points, write down relevant information and then have a discussion about the issue of choice. They may need a little bit more support than with other activities, but this will only be because they haven’t prepared for a debate before. Once they have done this a few times, they should understand how to perform well in a discussion. However, you should be careful not to push them all the time as it will discourage them with their learning. It is vital to find a balance between doing challenging tasks and work they can do confidently.

Tip 9: Help them to develop their argumentative skills in writing

Additionally, students should use the argumentative skills they have developed in the debates with their writing as well. It is because many of the Hong Kong teens will have ambitions to study at universities in English speaking countries. So these are essential skills they will need to be successful in the future. They will need some guidance with how to structure as chances are they would not have written in this style before. However, you could spend a few lessons teaching them how to develop a written case before they write their first one. So you gradually build them up to writing a good argument, rather than going straight into writing their first one clueless, which will knock their confidence. It may take time for the students to develop this skill, but it will pay off in the long term.

Also Read: Teaching Advanced C1 Learners – Tips and Ideas

Teaching teenagers is very different from teaching other ESL learners. However, once you have learnt to help them with their English successfully, they become a lot more enjoyable. I hope you find these tip useful and enjoy teaching these lessons in Hong Kong.

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This article was originally published on September 17, 2019 and was last updated on July 13, 2020.

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