Adolescent readers are hard to keep motivated, especially with all the technology that is available for their enjoyment. In the world today, everything moves fast and our students are under the false assumption that learning is fast and instant. After all, their world is filled with instant food at the drive-thru, instant contact with friends via texting and social networks, instant music and videos through the Internet on various devises. It is hard for them to comprehend that time and effort is needed to accomplish some goals. Reading seems to them to be a waste of their valuable time. Teachers must find ways to engage adolescent readers in their classrooms and engage them in active learning.
Adolescent readers do not respond well to passive learning techniques. To engage the adolescent, the teacher must understand how the adolescent mind works and use this information to design learning activities that will engage the students in active learning. Books and reading activities can become an exciting part of a class if presented in an engaging format. Adolescents are social creatures; friends are a vital part of their lives at this age. Using their socialization in group activities can improve the student’s ability to read for information, organize the information, and apply the information to a group project or problem. Because interest in anything at this age is short-lived and intense, do not give long assignments. Adolescents generally retain only 5 to 7 bits of information at a time.
There are a number of activities that will help develop the adolescent’s ability to comprehend and retain information learned in the classroom. Starting the class off with a short writing activity is one way to set the stage for learning. There are many web sites that offer simple writing prompts that can be used for the beginning of class. As a high school reading coach, my students always began the class by writing from writing prompts for 5 – 8 minutes as roll was taken and attendance information taken care of. Each entry was read with the student earning up to 20 points per entry for the week for a daily grade of 100. Notes on how to improve the entry were made and returned to the students resulting in improvements in writing evident at the end of the grading period.
Other forms of active engagement include the use of peer collaboration in practice activities and projects. Students learn more from each other than is realized. The main problem encountered is keeping the students on task and not socializing. Project learning is a wonderful way to engage students. There are many articles on project based learning on the web along with project ideas and plans. Keep in mind that interest will be short and intense, so design projects that will keep attention focused on the objective that are completed in a short period of time with different types of activities to keep the learner engaged. Include problem-solving activities and higher order activities that require higher order learning in projects and activities for adolescents.
Adolescents are a challenging and exciting group of students to teach. As teachers, we can learn much from their interactions with each other in projects and many times, they surprise us with the abilities they possess as problem-solving skills, communication skills, and social skills develop.
Source used: Alabama Reading Initiative, 2005