What do teenagers need?

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Some of us struggle with our teen groups. Sometimes it can feel like there’s a disconnect between what the teacher has planned for the lesson, and the reaction or behaviour of your teenage group. This can be frustrating when you feel you took particular care in planning the lesson!

To help us plan and deliver lessons to teenagers, we should know about their needs. When we bear these needs in mind, our lessons tend to be more enjoyable- for all involved.

 

Belonging

We know teenagers care deeply about the opinion of their peers, and that they don’t want to seem vulnerable or be put in an embarrassing situation. If we include stages in our lesson plans that put teenagers on the spot, or make them stand out from the crowd, they may react badly. At best, they may withdraw and avoid participating actively. At worst, they may act out when they feel discomfort.

To avoid embarrassment, I like to:

  • give pupils some individual thinking time before I ask them to speak
  • avoid asking questions to individuals in front of the whole class, when there is a clear correct or incorrect answer

As teenagers need to feel a sense of belonging, plan activities that will foster this. This could include:

  • opportunities for group and pair work with different classmates, throughout each lesson
  • including some personalisation in every lesson, and giving pupils an opportunity to share this with some classmates
  • demonstrating that you, as the teacher, value everyone’s opinion and experience

 

Independence

Teenagers, depending on their stage of development, want and need to experiment with making choices and taking responsibility. At the same time, they need to be given boundaries and rules by an adult… but they can also find this stifling!

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When planning your lessons, consider if there are any stages in the lesson in which you can give them some choice. This could include:

  • choosing what output they will produce. For example, after looking at a grammatical structure, allow students to choose whether they want to use this to write a text, or deliver a presentation
  • choosing the input. For example, give learners the choice of watching a video or reading a text that uses the vocabulary you’re going to focus on
  • choosing the homework. For example, give three choices to choose from- one option is a gapfill from the workbook, one is to do a short writing activity, and one option is to bring something related to the topic to the next lesson
  • choosing between doing an activity in a pair, in a group, or individually

 

Respect

Teenagers want to feel respected. They need to feel their voice is heard.

We can demonstrate that we respect our teenagers by:

  • truly listening to their point of view
  • negotiating the class rules and expectations with them, early in the academic year
  • not interrupting or negating a comment they have expressed
  • respecting their boundaries- for example, if there is something they don’t want to talk about, we need to respect that

 

Useful links

The above list is not exhaustive. Find out more about the needs of teenagers below:

5 basic needs of teenagers

What your teenager needs

Meeting the needs of teens

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