Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Hyperactive teens

This morning I started teaching four 13- and 14-year-old boys from Azerbaijan. They are in their second week at our school on a booster course for iGCSE English as a Second Language. I have them for two 45-minute slots, which are their 3rd and 4th for the day.
I know that I am very lucky to have such a small class, but at the same time it was quite a struggle. I felt like I was running a race throughout both lesson. They demanded a lot of energy to control them and get them to listen to instructions. They don’t see the point of working in pairs or of peer checking. Getting them to work by themselves was possible, but required quite a battle and a lot of praise when they did anything. Class discussions involved a lot of work from me, with them mostly trying to get me to say words in their language, which I assume were not very complimentary!
We have a points system, where they are given points for doing anything good (including offering answers to questions, writing a couple of sentences…) and points are taken away for problem behaviour (not listening, throwing rubbish on the floor…or even, as one boy did today, pouring water on another boy’s head!). It may well have been them testing my limits today, but I thought I would share the situation and see what others think.
Another teacher has them and the other four students (making a total of 8) from 9-11 and I have them from 11-1. Their speaking is pretty good, with the odd hole for vocab. Their writing is fluent, but very low on accuracy, but I’m not sure how to deal with that, since any attempt to focus them for more than 15 seconds has been pretty futile, so peer correction or group correction seems to be a no-go. They are only with us until the end of this week, so I won’t be able to radically change their learning style.
Tech is also not really an option, although they do have their phones, and repeatedly get them out. The aim for the week is to give them some reading and writing practice to help them with that part of the week, and the topic is ‘Ideas and the future’. They went to London at the weekend, so I got them to write about that today, then edit a picture of London to show it in the future, and write a little about that. My co-teacher is doing some exam-style reading based on the melting of the polar ice caps tomorrow. No idea what I’m going to do yet!
Feels much better to get that all out of my system…looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this group!
Thanks 🙂


Comments on: "Hyperactive teens" (6)

  1. Sandy I know exactly how you feel!! I have to deal with similar groups of Greek teens 3 times per week. At the end of the lesson I feel like I have run a marathon haha!! Pair work is for them an excuse to speak in Greek and group work forget it!!!
    I also taught some students from Azerbaijan last summer in Oxford and teaching them was exactly as you described it.


    • Thanks for the sympathy Nikki and Janet!
      I did an activity today with reading around the walls. They had to find vocab and the answers to comprehension questions one at a time, and write the answers on mini whiteboards, then show them to me to get points. This seemed to work quite well.
      Nikki, maybe you could get your students to write about themselves and see if you can plan some lessons around their interests? Even if you have to follow a coursebook, this may be more productive! Sure it’s something you’ve ied before anyway.
      Good luck to both of you!


  2. I feel your pain!

    I teach a class of teenagers twice a week who test me to my limits every day. They sound really similar. Unfortunately I’ve inherited them from a teacher who left and he was never able to get them under control and they seem to have had a free reign to act and do as they wish so consequently they see class like a playground.

    I’ve tried every trick, used every possible teaching method and read countless articles about how to control them and how to motivate them and most of the time, it fails. Consequently I feel like a failure.

    The only way I can get them to do pair work effectively is if I make it a competition. They absolutely love competitions….

    Good luck!


  3. I’ve had a lot of success with troublesome teens with “reverse reading”, or what I call the “friendly eraser”. They invent wacky teenage answers to your questions on the board, and then erase away until they can remember it all. I collated a few different teachers’ posts about using it here
    Good luck!


  4. I’ve just finished teaching the group and thought you might like to know what happened. I had one lesson which approached a ‘normal’ one, in which I ended up teaching them the names of some extreme sports. Apart from that, the whole week has been far too much of a battle for my liking, and I’ve ended up being a teacher I don’t want to be :s I don’t think I was strict enough at the beginning of the week, even though I thought I was, and they also couldn’t see the consequences of their bad behaviour enough. When one of the students was in class by themselves, they were calm and I could have a civil conversation with them. As soon as another one arrived, they immediately got distracted. This also happened whenever their teachers came in, and one boy even bit his teacher at one point! I have never met any teenagers quite like them, even in three years of summer school with probably 500+ kids, and I hope for the sake of teachers in Azerbaijan that not all students are like that. All in all, I am sure it has been a valuable experience, but right now I am very tired and quite relieved.


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