When undertaking work with young people, one should remember several crucial matters that may have a decisive impact not only on the course of individual classes but also on the result of cooperation with the group in the long term.
The first thing you should realise as the leader of a group of teenagers is the apparent age difference between you and them. The resulting generation gap may cause significant differences in terms of perception (e.g., your examples may be incomprehensible to them), values (what is important to you, not necessarily is to them), or the way of motivating yourself and doing work (e.g., multitasking, looking for quick and straightforward entertainment).
Another thing you should realise as soon as possible is the strong desire of teenagers to achieve as much autonomy as possible. Usually, teenagers already feel grown up and important. They may already have specific plans for the future and know what they would most like to learn and what will be helpful to them in the context of the end. They also clearly communicate which tasks they enjoy and which are tedious or incomprehensible. Most of them are well aware of their strengths and weaknesses, so if we allow them, even to a small extent, to decide what and how they learn, we can expect significant progress from them.
Remember that all changes should be made in small steps. Initially, let the group decide which activity they would like to do first or which activity they would want to skip because it is too dull or difficult for them. For example, if you plan to practice writing in a language class, present a few ready-made topics from which students can choose the one they like the most.
Think about how you can avoid routine in your classes. Typically, lessons are conducted according to a pattern, similarly to textbooks, in which another follows one portion of knowledge. It is worth breaking these patterns and creating a more unpredictable lesson plan. For example, in classes dealing with historical issues, create a list of cross-cutting topics, showing the country’s history in some context (e.g., economic, social, or ecological), and let young people show their inventiveness, analytical skills, or even vision.
Currently, children from an early age are taught to compete with others, whether in the sports, scientific, professional, or social sense. Building a child’s vision of a world driven by a constant struggle for the good of this world is probably not conducive to their broadly understood positive development. Still, careful use of this as a factor motivating young people to behave in a way conducive to their development does not seem inappropriate.
When designing classes, try to weave elements of healthy competition into practical exercises while preventing students from dividing into groups – better and worse in a given field. The competition will undoubtedly increase their involvement in the performance of tasks, make the exercise situation more realistic, and teach responsibility and teamwork.