Workshop Review : Sophie Handy – Top Tips For Teens

In the first part of her talk at TESOL France this weekend Sophie described common factors of the various stages of “teenagerdom”:


  • girl/boy gulf
  • teacher approval still strong influence
  • world seen in black or white
  • new school =new challenges
  • physical changes starting & strong self awareness


  • SELF = most important thing in life
  • “nobody understands me”
  • girls are maturing faster than boys
  • group identity very important
  • independence Vs. security
  • developing an independent world view
  • strong opinions


  • physical growth more or less finished
  • boys have caught up with girls
  • girl-boy relationships develop
  • can work more independently
  • more tolerant
  • more confident in own identity
  • more differentiated world view, accept more grey areas

Sophie then went on to describe various forms of class disruption such as talking out of turn, not paying attention, not working, getting up and disturbing others, arriving late, etc., before giving the following clear, do-able tips to avoid these problems:

  1. Meet & Greet

Meet students at the door, greet them with their name and a smile, start each lesson afresh, standing by the door encourages them to calm down as they enter the room.

I would add here that it’s a good idea to have something written on the board that they can get on with immediately, the page number of a picture to describe, a quick warm-up exercise such as how many words can you make out of “SCARECROW”? or how many clothes can you name?

  1. Seating Plans

If possible then choose your own seating plan, “U” shapes work well for discussion activities, as do grouped tables, but discipline can be easier in a classroom where the tables are in rows.

Also draw up a plan of where each student is to sit within the class.

I would add here that it’s important to change a seating plan around from time to time, it’s not fair for well-behaved kids to be stuck at the back, or as buffers between more challenging students all year.

  1. Learning Objectives on the Board

This lets the students know what to expect and tells latecomers what they’ve missed. Starting with a fun activity as opposed to homework checking will stop students coming late (and also get the lesson off to a positive start in my opinion). When setting homework try and get the parents involved, i.e. find a family recipe to tell the class about next lesson. As Sophie pointed out, it’s good to get the parents on board in a positive manner, and not just contact them to complain about their child.

  1. Own the Room

Walk the walk and talk the talk, this is your space, be comfortable or at least fake it ‘til you make it! Another piece of advice I heard was to get into the ‘student zone’, their side of the classroom within the first ten minutes of each lesson, don’t stay hiding behind your desk.

  1. 5-4-3-2-1

When asking for quiet use this countdown technique, “5…still waiting for this side of the room…4… very good Claire…3…just waiting for these two to get their books out… etc.” to get silence by 0.

  1. Struggle to achieve meaning

Treat students with maturity, challenge them, get them to figure it out and flex their cognitive muscles a bit, with prediction tasks, “deliberate” errors etc.

  1. More carrot, less stick

Send home a positive note, use proximity praise (praising neighbours will make the student imitate their beahviour), give blanket awards not punishments, encourage team competitions, etc.

Giving the student a choice struck a chord with me, I feel it’s important to always give them an escape route, back them up against a wall and they have no choice but attack, for example “do you want to put that phone away now or give it to me?”

  1. Encourage Reflective Students

Let them reflect on their progress and successes, use two stars and a wish, this can be left on your desk anonymously or told to the class in a plenary.

This was a very informative workshop, full of useful ideas for what can be a difficult area in teaching teens.


About fabenglishteacher

enjoying sharing learning
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1 Response to Workshop Review : Sophie Handy – Top Tips For Teens

  1. Pingback: TESOL France 2014 – thoughts, poster, handout and links | EFL Notes

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