Activities for those 'too cool' advanced teenagers

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Activities for those 'too cool' advanced teenagers

Post by trubadour » Fri Mar 14, 2008 2:37 pm

This is a call for lesson ideas, strategies and materials. I describe two below - everyone is welcome to try/adjust them and see how it goes... Add your ideas... [edited the title to include both/all genders..]


I have a new class of 6 teenage (ave. 16 yrs. old) girls who have been at the private after school school in Taiwan, where I've just started work, for years.

Apparently, and not surprisingly I guess, they are really difficult to motivate or interest in speaking English. I've experienced this kind of thing before with not much success and want to be better prepared this time.

I am aware of certain techniques for conducting the classes in such a way that is conducive to all, there is plenty of advice out there. One usually has to figure this out for ones self anyway.

However, my new lessons require that I come up with stuff for us to discuss, activities to do, etc.


So far, I've thought of a kind of 'spin the bottle' combined with 'would you rather,' where they will have to spin the bottle (which I hope will be kind of fun) and the chosen one then has to answer a 'would you rather' question out of a hat or something. List of questions below. Any ideas/variations for this?

I've also had a look around for some stuff on Taiwanese celebrity gossip, which I figure they'd be interested in. Although there is danger in being a try-hard teacher trying to get 'in' with them - and just coming off ignorant and patronising, this may be better than discussing the news or stuff they may have no desire to talk about with me and especially with each other.

I thought we can read it and they can come up with arguments why this certain couple should/shouldn't get together, get them to offer advice, or something. Advice/ideas on this would be much appreciated. Projects are encouraged at this school, but I have not had much experience of doing anything that lasts beyond a lesson. I am loathe to say this is a project and have them not be interested the whole time and it drag on. Any suggestions/experience on how to do this?


Link to gossip forum: ... 0949.html

I'd keep the pics and proabably cut it off before the writer offers their ideas on why the couple are suited. Perhaps I could present this as a kind challenge, where they have to guess what the writer said. Is this too complicated/contrived/closed?


'Would you rather questions' (please feel free to add your own or edit those present - they're bound to be better than mine!):

Would you rather have a private jet or a private limo?
Would you rather die for someone or kill for someone?
Would You Rather be a dog or a cat
Would You Rather Be famous or be rich?
Would You Rather Be a god or the devil?
Would You Rather Be an actor or a singer?
Would You Rather Lose your cell phone or your TV?
Would You Rather Bite off and eat your finger or your toe?
Would You Rather Be eaten by ants or be eaten by lions?
Would You Rather Have a brother or a sister?
Would You Rather Have an LG cell phone or a Motorola?
Would You Rather Be a girl dressed as a boy or a boy dressed as a girl?
Would You Rather be really tall or be really short?
Would You Rather Go on a date with Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp?
Would You Rather Go on a date with Ming Dao or Xiao Zhu?

Your additional ideas, experience and suggestions very welcome!
Perhaps this thread could serve as a resource for people to share their ideas.
Last edited by trubadour on Fri May 23, 2008 2:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by blackmagicABC » Fri Mar 14, 2008 6:06 pm

Depending on what you are required to teach you could try short story reading. It does take a long time to start seeing results but it is worth it. Ideally you want the students to read the story at home and then discuss it in class. Initially they won't, in fact for the first 6 months you would probably have to get them to read it in class.
You should spend a lot of time discussing ideas form the story, as well as how they apply to their lives, in class.
As an idea.
Start with a shortened (easy to read) version of Black beauty. Discuss the approach and attitudes towards women in the time when the book was written. How about the attitudes towards cripple people or other people who are suffering? Explain why you are discussing this.
This is before you have even read the first chapter.
In the book, discuss cruelty to animals. Discuss having pets? Since you live in Taiwan you should know the attitude towards stray animals. Is it the animal's fault or society's fault?
Make sure that you discuss something mildly controversial (give the arguments of both sides) but try to build sympathy for the characters in the book. The reason is that you want to try and create a desire in them to read to the end without having to wait for class.
You might consider discussing controversial subjects in class risky but think of this. You are dealing with teenagers who are usually very rebellious and opinionated. Get them to share those opinions. Here is an example of how I would lead the conversation.
There are many stray dogs. Should people be required to have a licence to keep a pet. Not controversial and most of them would say yes just to get you to not ask them another question and because the answer seesm obvious. They also still believe that everything has a right and wrong answer.
Now give them a sheet with this story on.

A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell. He painted a sign advertising the 4 pups. And set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of little boy.

"Mister," he said, "I want to buy one of your puppies."

"Well," said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, "These puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money."

The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change
and held it up to the farmer.

"I've got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?"

"Sure," said the farmer. And with that he let out a whistle.
"Here, Dolly!" he called. Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur.

The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight.

As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse. Slowly another little ball appeared, this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp it slid. Then in a a somewhat awkward manner, the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up....

"I want that one," the little boy said, pointing to the runt. The farmer knelt down at the boy's side and said, "Son, you don't want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would."

With that the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers.

In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe.

Looking back up at the farmer, he said, "You see sir, I don't run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands."

With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup.
Holding it carefully handed it to the l ittle boy. "How much?" asked the little boy. "No charge," answered the farmer, "There's no charge for love."
If this boy is denied having a pet because he doesn't qualify for or can not afford a licence for one, then everyone who just said yes is just cruel.
Make it theatrical and attach a picture or two. Cripple boy and cute puppy. The least that would happen is they would want to defend their previous opinion or change it but then you have them talking to you. Disagree with everything they say. Tell them it is a true story from your home town and the boy had his pet taken away because he didn't have the right papers. If someone asks you what happened to the boy and the dog you can tell another story about how he got to keep the dog because the previous owner paid for the licence or whatever. I am not saying you have to lie. I am saying you have to appeal to their emotions.

If the class is girls only, then pick your books accordingly. If it is a mixture then follow the above up with the Sherlock Holmes story "The hounds of Baskerville" If the students felt some sort of sympathy towards the animal in the previous story they might be more willing to read this story by themselves. You are moving away from the animal theme but try to link the themes you discuss from book to book to allow them to draw on previous knowledge.
Lets say it is an all girls class then do Jane Eyre (Please get the students to pronounce the name correctly) and ask these questions.
WHy did the author not use her own name? Why did she not tell people she was a woman? Are women still discriminated against today? Do you feel this at school or not? Do you prefer male or female teachers? Why? Do you think the president should be a man or a woman? Why?
The only girls only class that I ever taught (up to now) read these two books in order. In the middle of Jane Eyre where she is about to be married and then it is called of, the girls starting complaining about how guys got away with things like this. What a great discussion! The next week half the class had finished reading the book. Now it is a pleasure to teach them.
Remember to make sure that the reading is on their level. Don't introduce more than 5 (preferably 3) new words per hundred they read otherwise they will either not understand or lose interest because they consistently have to stop and figure out the meaning or check the dictionary. If there is nothing applicable then prep your lessons and give them a wordlist prior to class so they can refer quickly to new words and not lose interest. Ask leading questions as to what could possibly happen in the next chapter to spark interest. Summarize every chapter in a few sentences that they write down at the end of the chapter, as it makes it easier for them to follow the story.
A final note. Try to get them to listen to each other. If the subject is controversial they are bound to disagree. Let them listen and speak to each other. The only rule is they have to stick to English. It is easier for me because they can ask me a word in their native language and I can translate it for them. If you cant then they should use a dictionary or ask their friends or worst do what we have to do when communicating. Explain what you mean without the exact word. The book just serves as a structure and I use it because most studies show that reading is very beneficial to language acquisition. You need to create the topics, controversy and whatever else is necesary to make it a lesson. Appeal to their hearts. Make them cry if necesary as long as they feel something more than "we have an English lesson"

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Post by trubadour » Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:50 pm

Thanks blackmagicABC.

I wonder how anyone could read Jane Eyre, but, I take your point!

Girls are into that kind of thing, no?

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Post by blackmagicABC » Sun Mar 16, 2008 1:02 am

Well, not knocking the book but there are better books.
Charles *beep* has a few, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula etc.
Girls tend to like the love and all ends happy kind of stories. Worst ever in my opinion is Little Woman. I almost fell asleep teaching it.

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Post by trubadour » Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:09 pm

I guess my point is - how to get them to read it, to know it. Reading it in class ain't condusive to a good class activity. They won't read it at home.
Do you know what I mean?

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Post by Sally Olsen » Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:23 pm

I always found a book that had a movie associated with it. I first showed the movie (most students had already seen them with translation) so knew the story in their own language. Then we made a simple story from pictures drawn from the Net - like a story board. You can also take pictures while the movie is showing with a digetal camera - not very clear but they can colour them. You can also get the script of the movie if you can't find the book. Then we talked about similar incidents in their lives or the lives of their family and friends and they wrote their own stories. I typed these and distributed them to all the students so they could read each others stories. Of course, I corrected spelling and obvious errors but tried to keep it as close to the original as possible. We made these into books for future classes to read with digetal pictures or their cartoon impressions of the story. Then I did all the normal things with the stories - asked them to make up comprehension questions, studied the grammar, studied the vocabulary and brainstormed other ways to say the same thing, practiced spelling and played a lot of games with the words. My female teenagers loved Jennifer Lopez movies and Mandy Moore. Most of the books mentioned have had a movie made. You can show short sections and then read over the simplified story until you have completed the movie. Of course, they also want to talk about the actors as well and that creates its own writing and reading, poster making, picture albums, t-shirt making and so on.

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Post by blackmagicABC » Wed Mar 19, 2008 6:01 am

trubadour wrote:I guess my point is - how to get them to read it, to know it. Reading it in class ain't condusive to a good class activity. They won't read it at home.
Do you know what I mean?
At first they don't read it.
I know there are many people against this but I have my reasons.
Let the students read aloud in class.(if there isn't a student or two that is good enough then do it yourself) Don't shy away from the initial response because many of them are shy at first but get used to doing it. Let them close their books when someone else is reading and then ask listening oriented questions after a paragraph or two.
You have to attach an activity to this or else they will purely refuse to answer. I play a form of battleships where they get to win "fake" activities. A 10000 dollar voucher at Gucci or whatever and then they have 30 seconds to tell us what they will do with it. A date with Chen Shui Bian etc. Pick things that will get them talking. Trust me a date with Chen Shui Bian would get them to at least say something. They can also give the prizes away but only once so if they don't want to go on a date with someone they can give it to one of their friends. Tell them the gifts before hand. There are obviously some empty blocks. Make half the gifts "negative" (You get to school and realize there is dog poo on the back of your shirt, go on a date with George Bush, or whatever) and make the other half "positive" (date with Jay or Wang Lee Hong).
This gets them some listening practice.
In the GEPT which they would have to so at some point there are reading passages in the speaking part of the test. This is good practice for it. Let the nxt student read silently over the paragraph he or she has to read next while they have time.
Eventually, if you present it right, they will start reading by themselves if it is something they find interesting. Watch the difficulty level though. You achieve more by getting them to read something that is easier or a little below there level than battling through something difficult.

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Post by trubadour » Sat Mar 22, 2008 3:22 pm

Thank you guys for your advice. I am sure I can try your suggestions in the future.

UPDATE: In the event, the students were fine. Actually, they tricked me by turning the lights off and hiding so that I thought the class was empty (and it worked). When, eventually, I went in anyway, I found them all hiding behind a corner! It was OK, I asked why they were in the dark... In truth it only twigged after I asked, that they were really hiding from me as a teacher; I had figured that they were trying to scare me by ambush! Thankfully, they turned the lights on when I suggested doing so and sat where I asked a few stragglers to sit. Their responding in this way was actually a very good start to the lesson.

We had a fairly standard session, doing their grammar exercises in a relaxed fashion sharing a joke here and there. This occupied the first hour. In the second we did a reading exercise. They responded quite well to the story and we discussed some the words and ideas quite satisfactorily. They were very slightly undisciplined, but nothing in anyway serious. I have found that the students in this school have quite a different way of going bout things than I'm used to, and that I have to adjust to them as they have to me. they are more used to coral than individual reading, for example.

In the case of these students, it seemed their sense of self-respect, honesty, humor and intelligence made them quite tolerable students. Taking things easy certainly paid off. With these older and wiser students, classroom control becomes a much subtler and reasonable affair. No one wants to be embarrassed by being reprimanded or too uncool to put themselves in that position.

On topic:

Like I said above, we did their grammar exercises and I tested them on their understanding of the vocabulary as was appropriate. Perhaps next time I can set up a more challenging test of their understanding such as a 'hot seat', 'just a minute' or 'stop the bus'.

We did the 'spin the bottle' game for the last 20 minutes, only using half the questions posted above (our bottle took quite a long time to stop spinning). They seemed to enjoy the spinning of the bottle and decided what was and wasn't a fair spin without any prompting and despite my attempts to subvert it (to include those it had missed). We had fun guessing who it was going to be next and why. Often, the questions produced further conversation during the spinning of the bottle, where they elaborated on the given topic freely and without pressure, merely to fill the time, as it were. They were quite good at answering the questions but I'm not sure if they were really very interesting to them. Perhaps, when I know their interests a little better, I can write some better questions or get them to do so, now they know the game.

Thank you BlackMagicABC and Sally Oslen: I have taken your advice and found a story book. I found it in a local bookstore. It's from the 'Scholastic' series, level 2 called 'DJ Ambition' about a girl who wants to become a DJ. I wonder if they will find it interesting. I would rather have them read fairy-tales but this was the best I could find.

Sally: I lack formal training in teaching English. I regularly get my students to make up their own comprehension questions (which is great, and which I may have learnt from you!) but I am very weak at looking at the grammar points. How do you suggest one goes about this?

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Grammar book

Post by melichan857 » Tue Apr 15, 2008 7:58 am

I'm in a similar situation - I teach late teenage and early twenties students who are often "too cool for school".

The best way I've found is to get them motivated is to get them involved in a "project". I'm doing a web-based project, but perhaps you could have the students create a story while they read the story you're giving them.

As far as grammar goes, I like the book English grammar in use. It has great explanations of usage for each point, as well as exercises.

Good luck with it all!


Mel's ESL Megasearch- search 100's of ESL websites simultaneously

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Post by Sally Olsen » Tue Apr 15, 2008 4:59 pm

I would suggest that you start by having them point out all the nouns or as they call them "participants" in a sentence.
They can colour these with a red or pink pen designed to highlight words. When they get bored doing that, you can use green highlighters for the verbs and start to notice the tenses.
You can ask them why they think they need different nouns in a passage that are almost the same meaning - girl, young woman, lassie, young lady and so on.
I usually introduce them to a Thesaurus at this point and have them look up words in the passage to see what else they coud have used.
Tests like the ILEtS really reward students who have a varied vocabulary. The verbs are more intereting to discuss and you can gradually introduce all the tenses and why they are used and perhaps make a chart for them. You can use another colour for adjectives and another for adverbs, another for connectives and so on.
You can also correct their writing in this way so they begin to understand that they must use certain nouns with certain verb tenses.
Don't worry if you don't know the rule for everything. Just save that example until it comes up again and see if the students can figure out the patterns.
Or you can ask in the Applied Linguistics thread.
Treat it as an scientific experiment or an archeological dig with genuine interest in why words act as they do. They can be the Indiana June's of Words.

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Post by trubadour » Fri May 23, 2008 2:49 am

Thanks for these tips, guys. I'm going to try the story boarding 'project' today and possibly highlighting and using key grammar phrases. )


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Post by trubadour » Fri May 23, 2008 2:59 am

I found that class quizzes, where the students write the questions for each other, were quite a good way for them to test each others knowledge and revealed the things they found interesting in a given text. You can specify they use a certain tense, reward the best questions, etc.

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Classroom Activities

Post by HeatherC » Thu Jul 31, 2008 7:48 am

I've used the following activity with teenagers and adults.

Diary of a Superhero

Objective: Use present simple verbs

Time:45 minutes

Resources: pictures or video clips of superheroes (Batman, Spiderman, Superman, etc.), blank daily schedule sheets (one per student OR one per small group)

Level: Beginner to Advanced (with adjustment)

Warm Up (15 minutes)

Say, "How many of you have seen any movies about superheroes?" Allow students to answer and share about the movies they've seen.

Show students pictures of video clips of different superheroes. Ask them questions like, "Does anyone know who this is?" "What does he do?" "Does he have any special powers or abilities?" Allow students to discuss.

Activity (30 minutes)

Say, "Now we know that superheroes can get very busy. Let's pretend that each of you has been hired as the personal assistant (PA) of a superhero. You get to choose the superhero or you can ever make up your own superhero. Part of your job is to keep his daily schedule for him."

Continue reading here ... html?cat=4

See more lesson plans and game ideas here ... reiro.html

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Post by Sally Olsen » Thu Jul 31, 2008 6:00 pm

No women superheros?

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No Women Superheroes

Post by HeatherC » Fri Aug 01, 2008 2:09 am

In America, yes....but in Pakistan, no!

I didn't use pictures of women superheroes in my class as they mostly are drawn or portrayed in skin tight clothing or what would amount to underwear.Students would feel uncomfortable to see women, or even cartoons of women, dressed in that way. I googled "woman superhero" for images and got a lot of skin.

If you know of a modesty dressed woman superhero, please let me know!

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