8 Tips for Keeping Youth Involved and Listening

Let’s just be honest with the fact that not every lesson is going to be a success, and sometimes we will lose our youth. It’s important to always be aware of what’s going on in the room (whether youth are sleeping, texting, talking to each other, looking at you confused, intently listening, or looking bored).

  1. It’s important to think beforehand about what questions your youth might have about the text, or further questions about the chosen topic. It’s important to try to figure out these questions beforehand. If you sense that a youth looks confused, instead of calling them out in front of everyone, ask: “Do I need to explain ‘X’ further?” or say: “Let me explain ‘X’ a little better.” You can always ask if everyone is following; I occasionally do a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to see if people are following.
  2. If you see a youth texting, simply take up the phone. Hopefully you have previously explained that cell phones are not allowed during the lesson. Some people take up everyone’s phones before the lesson and give them back at the end to take away distractions.
  3. If some youth are talking you can always ask them to keep quiet, or simply move towards them, if possible. I’ve found that moving towards talking youth lets them know that you see them talking.
  4. You need a plan if youth are being a distraction. Sometimes the distraction can be squashed with a warning, sometimes they might need to be moved away from someone, and sometimes they might need to be removed from the room.
  5. If a youth is sleeping, I like to drop something really loud near them.
  6. If a youth looks bored, think about ways to get them involved. Sometimes I like to randomly ask everyone to stand, and then they are either remain standing to answer the question one way and they stand if they answer the question the other way (reminding the youth that random ones will be called upon to explain their answer to the question). 
  7. Find out from parents and youth if they tend to prefer everyone together, small groups, or separated into senior high and junior high.
  8. A great way to keep youth involved is by giving them a handout so that they can follow along or a blank sheet of paper where they can take notes.