As someone who’s taught English to all age groups, I’ve noticed that every group is very different. Here I’m not talking about the most obvious thing – the groups having different needs – but rather in what their motivation is for learning English.
First we have young learners who are so full of energy and love for learning that you can basically notice the improvement from one lesson to the next. Something similar happens with adults. They usually have set language goals for themselves, and already have lots of experience that helps them learn quicker. And then we have preteens and teenagers. I believe a lot of teachers would agree that having a group of smart and creative kids in front of you giving you just the bare minimum in class can be very frustrating.
Most of the students from this age group that I’ve worked with have had problems with one thing in particular – writing in English. Listening and reading in English is something most students do even in their free time, thanks to the pop culture nowadays.
Unfortunately, most teens believe that writing has become less important. Yet, we as adults know that we need writing all the time: from writing resumes, filling out job applications and official documents, to passing classes and getting into university. More than that, we often express our feelings and organise our thoughts in writing (at least I do).
Here are a few tips on how to motivate your teen to write (in any language):
- Show them that writing is important.
The reason we learn writing in school isn’t because teachers have all this free time and want to fill it any way possible. Explain to your teen that writing is a useful and necessary skill to have, and that it will help them get what they want out of life.
- Ask for their opinion.
Try to encourage your teen to express their opinion on different topics that they find interesting, whether that’s the latest movie they watched, or the recent political events. This will help them organise their thoughts in a more coherent manner.
- Write as a family.
Whether it’s a thank-you card or a letter to your relatives, including your teen in the writing process will help them practice writing and understand the significance of the written word.
- Finally, if you notice a problem and/or lack of progress, get help from a professional.
Your child’s writing skills will be graded, and it will influence their overall grade. I remember an incredibly smart 16-year-old student who spoke English fluently, yet he almost failed his English class because of his writing. Learning how to write well in any language takes time, so make sure you give your teen enough support from the start. Also, during this rebellious period, teens often respond better to an outsider than to their parent.
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