Let’s be honest, teenagers can be a challenging cohort to teach. They enjoy testing boundaries and often rebel against rules and authority figures. At the same time, teenagers are also filled with energy, creativity, and self-expression. Middle-school and high school teachers need to find positive ways to channel this energy while also navigating and managing the more resistant aspects of their students’ personalities. What are some effective classroom management strategies teachers can use while also giving their students the space to thrive? Here are seven great suggestions:
1. Clearly state your rules and expectations
On the very first day of class, present your rules and standards to your students. If you deduct ten points for late assignments or request that all cellphones remain out of sight unless part of the lesson plans, now is the time to tell your class. Explain the consequences of breaking the rules. The key to establishing authority is to follow through every time and to make as few exceptions as possible. You also need to commit to following your own rules. If your students can’t be late for class, neither can you!
Tip: List out your rules as a pledge and ask each student to sign it on the first day of class.
2. Get to know your students
Each of your students is a unique individual with their own experiences, perspectives, and insights. As you get to know them, you’ll be better able to understand their personalities and the reasons for their opinions and actions. Building rapport with your students is one of the best ways to gain their trust and ensure that your classroom runs smoothly.
Tip: At the beginning of the year, give your students a public, anonymous quiz. Ask about their lives, tastes, and opinions to get a better feel for the personalities in your classroom.
3. Invite your students to help you plan the lesson
Teens value freedom and choice. As they balance on the edge of adulthood, they want a bigger say over their lives. Respect this growing maturity by asking them to provide feedback and suggestions for your lesson plan. At the end of the day, you will be the ultimate decider on the lesson plan, but their input can help you better customize your plan to fit their preferences.
Tip: Poll your class on the types of assignments they like to complete, what styles of learning they enjoy, and what particular topics interest them the most.
4. Treat your students with respect
Teens want to be taken seriously. You may see your students (especially younger teens) as children, but they want to be seen and treated like adults. They also have an uncanny ability to sense insincerity. While you can’t treat your students like adults in all situations, acknowledge that they have valuable opinions and actively listen to what they say. Elizabeth Ann McAnally, a middle school music teacher encourages educators to show sincere appreciation to their students.
Tip: Host classroom discussions rather than strict lectures so your students can share their opinions and perspectives. Try to encourage all your students to participate, even your introverts.
5. Encourage creativity and self-expression
One of the great benefits of teaching teens is to watch them navigate the world with an entirely fresh perspective. Help them express their endless creativity by giving them choices in how they want to tackle the course material or complete assignments. You are likely to be continually surprised and delighted by what they come up with.
Tip: Review your assignments and look for areas where you can give your students more choices. For example, instead of making them do a book report, let them present on their book in any form they choose. Don’t be surprised if you get Jane Eyre rap songs, video re-makes, or interpretive dances.
6. Changing the environment
Teens often have difficulty paying attention to a lesson for a long period of time. This is because a teenager’s pre-frontal cortex—the area of the brain related to memory, judgment, focus, and self-regulation—is still developing. To help teens stay focused, teacher Vicky Saumell suggests changing the environment whenever possible. “A classroom, a library, a garden… Anywhere is good for a lesson,” Vicky explains.
Tip: Review your lesson plan and look for opportunities to change the environment to fit a particular topic or assignment. Can a physics experiment be done outside? What about a poetry reading in the auditorium?
7. Create a competition
Teens can be fiercely competitive, so a great way to grab and hold their attention is to create a competition related to your lesson plan. Divide your students into teams. Let them name their teams and even create mascots. Then, let the competition begin. It can be anything from a rapid-fire trivia quiz to team performances, or solving puzzles. Give the winning team a prize. It doesn’t have to be anything grand. A little trophy or medal is all the winners need to earn bragging rights.
Tip: Use Poll Everywhere Competitions to set up a fun and interactive trivia game.
Live polling, anonymous feedback, and interactive competitions from Poll Everywhere makes it easier to connect with your class and improve student engagement. Quiz your students about their lives or ask them for feedback and suggestions on your lesson plans. Our Poll Everywhere Competitions gives you all the tools you need to create an unforgettable trivia tournament. Effective classroom management with teens is possible as long as you show patience and respect to your students and keep these seven tips handy.