Teens and coaching

Some commentators on the blog have asked why there is so little attention paid to younger learners and teens classes. I’d like to state clearly that this in no way reflects a notion that coaching is for adults. Quite the contrary; coaching and the methodology behind it can and should be introduced as young as possible. The bias towards adults’ classes is quite simply a consequence of Duncan and my current interests.

So we are pleased to introduce a new guest blogger this week, Clare Sheppard. Clare comes from Dublin and worked in Hong Kong and Italy before moving to Barcelona, where she works for the British Council. Clare has been experimenting with some coaching ideas and has adapted them for the teens classroom.

In the next few days, another teacher will show us how he adapted for an even younger class. For now, I’ll hand over to Clare…


Lesson:  “Drives – motivational activity” for Upper-Intermediate/FCE Teens

For this task I chose to do the activity “Drives – a motivational activity” with my FCE class. I chose this in order to promote motivation and enthusiasm amongst teenage students of a B2 level.

The strategy  in mind for this adaptation was to gauge how much teenage students regard English as yet another subject which kept them behind a desk, between four walls, and whether they could align it with another extra-curricular activity by which they are motivated to practise outside the confines of which it occurs, in other words, to stimulate agency.

First, I had to adapt the “Drives…” activity to suit make it age appropriate. I maintained Dan and Duncan’s idea of using sport but I used a story of when I was fifteen and joined a football team, and though I was really bad, yet I wanted to be good because my family had played football before me (extrinsic motivation) and I very much enjoyed the sport and the company of the people on my team (intrinsic motivation). One day my coach told us a scout would be coming to the next match to scout for the regional team. I practised and practised on my own, in our local park, and in the end I made the cut.

I first had them do a running dictation of this story and then I gave it to them cut up and they had to put it in order. Because of the theme of football and the fact that I was some of their ages in it they were interested and after we had finished they asked me lots of questions: “is it true?”, “do you still play?”, “how did you feel?”, “were your family happy?”

I then asked them to write just a few sentences about something they feel motivated about and willingly practise outside in their own time.

They gave me feedback such as dancing, sport, music, playing the x-box. I asked them why they practised these in their own time. They overwhelming answer was “because we enjoy them, because we can see out friends, because we can move, be outside.”

I then asked them to think about English.

I asked them why they are learning it.

They gave me the following answers which are displayed in the table below:



It is easy My parents make me
To speak to my English cousins because I get on really well with them To get a good job
It is fun Because if you don’t you’ll be poor
I realise it is important Because people tell me I have to
To be multi-lingual To communicate

We followed that up with a discussion about how they feel when they come to English class, and ‘tired’ won out as the overall adjective to describe it.

I then asked them to imagine that they have a friend who is does not speak English, but has to start lessons and is very negative about it. I asked them to write a) what would you say to them regarding why this person should learn English b) what would you advise them to do outside class to get better quickly.

Why they should learn English

Advice to improve

–          Interesting language Go to a summer camp
–          Use in a job Speak English to your family if they speak English
–          Communication if you go to a summer camp Talk to a penfriend
–          If you hate it keep in mind that it’s important for the future Sing songs
–          To get an English girlfriend Watch films
–          Because it’s one of the most important languages Play football on an English team (summer camp)


–          You get good marks  
–          You can live where you want  
–          Books, films, TV series are better in English  
–          Football  
–          To understand lyrics of music  


I told them that many of their reasons and much of their advice point to something a lot more alive than simply an academic subject, and asked them if they regard their pieces of advice as something fun to do and/or something that they would do. They all replied that they regard them as fun and that it would be something they would do.

The activity really engaged the students. It worked as a method of personalization, that is, they liked talking about themselves, they liked that I was asking how they felt about English. It also worked in the sense that it altered their perception of it being solely an academic process.

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9 Responses to Teens and coaching

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  3. Duncan says:

    Very interesting posy Clare . Thanks. I love the way you got them to create a list of “training activities”, or ways to practise English outside class with the idea of the imaginary friend. This list could then become the basis of an “operation triunfo” (see activities section on this blog) where they themselves commit to some similar type activities to practise their English.

    • Clare says:

      Thanks, Dan. That is a really good idea, and as they are an FCE prep class something like “operation triunfo” may strike a balance between their post-class exam prep obligations and my effort to make them see English as something more “alive” than yet another academic subject.

  4. margot says:

    Thanks Clare. Really nice to way to have them talk about themselves, and an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other and you better. Then at the same time it gives them a chance think about motivations and things they can be doing to further enhance their learning outside the lesson and on their own terms, according to their individual goals.

    • Clare says:

      You’re welcome, Margot, and thank YOU your comment. This class is normally quite a challenge so it was very fulfilling to have them respond so well to an activity and open up in such a way. It definitely had an effect on the dynamic.

  5. Gaston Bacquet says:

    Thank you, Clare. I haven’t worked with teens for a while but both the activity and the coaching strategies can totally be used with adults; we might get some different motivations but the fundamental idea behind it is the same. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Clare says:

      Hey Gaston, I definitely think that adults would respond well to the activity. The feedback may differ but I think the end result would be similar.
      Glad you liked it.

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