Teens texting on smart phones

How Do You Teach a Generation That Doesn’t Want to Read?

Smart phone with text messages displayed on screenA teenager’s world is very interactive and full of high-interest activities, whether he or she is tweeting about the latest action movie, spending a video-game-filled afternoon with a friend, or skipping through the Internet, jumping from one site to another. Their days are spent networking, communicating, and participating in behaviors that are fast-paced and engaging. In order to help today’s students learn effectively, one strategy is to provide instruction that is designed the way they communicate, interact, and yes, read, in the real world.

Provide instruction that is manageable and interactive.

Educational instruction should be accessible and familiar to students. Teens spend much of their time utilizing the Internet. This means they are familiar with and comfortable reading information that is in small chunks and is interactive. Instructional lessons can be crafted so the cognitive load for students is not too overwhelming. It can be designed so students feel confident and can master the material by practicing key concepts individually and then applying that knowledge. And it should take advantage of technology so students can interact with the material in different formats and obtain immediate feedback that tells them if they were correct or incorrect and indicates whether or not they truly understand the concepts presented.

Hook kids on what they know and engage them with real situations.

Instruction should relate to the students’ world. Lessons should provide compelling information and challenges that draw them into learning. In all domains—from social studies and science to math and language arts—there are ways to hook students on the material and provide active ways for them to recognize the value of and relate to the material they are learning. Students should have the opportunity to explore different angles of the content and complete tasks and assignments that provide the time for them to reflect on and expand on the material they are discovering.

Bring lessons to life by providing multiple representations.

Instruction should incorporate various visuals, including diagrams, graphs, maps, and charts to convey concepts and expand learning opportunities. By including photographs, audio clips, and video clips that are vital to learning, the material can be brought to life in the lessons. The same technological advances that are used in video games and on the Internet can and should be utilized for education.

Make learning social.

Encourage students to share what they read and learn—with their parents, family, and friends. Invite them to discuss what they are learning in their classes and to take a real interest in finding out what they like and why. Book clubs and reading groups, as well as discussion groups and chat rooms can be useful to bring students together, to help them find mutual interests and connections, and to get them talking and interacting for a constructive purpose. Instruction in all its facets should encourage students to elaborate, question, and explain what they are learning.

About the Author


Patricia D'Agostino

Patricia has spent more than twenty years developing curriculum for students ranging from first grade to high school. She has worked at major educational publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Scholastic, and Houghton-Mifflin, and by doing so she has gained a wide range of instructional knowledge. At Edgenuity, Patricia is dedicated to helping produce the best possible learning experience for all students today.