Defining Adolescence: An Activity for The First Day of Class

On the first day of class, students already have ideas about what adolescence is. Use this activity to explore their ideas.

Students often begin an adolescent-focused course with a very negative view of adolescents. One way to demonstrate this is an activity that is useful on the first day of class as a discussion to get them thinking about adolescence. First, tell students that you are going to write one word on the board, and they should tell you what comes to their mind when they see this word. Then, write this word in large letters in the middle of the board: ADOLESCENT. You can verbally repeat the word “adolescent” and use other terms such as “teenager”, and “teen”, to encourage them to think about what comes to their minds when they hear these words. Wait for responses. Words that come up often are: moody, rebellious, awkward, transition, 16, hormones, puberty, friends, insecure, curious.

After covering the board with words ask students to look at the board and tell you which words are positive descriptions of adolescents. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are usually only a few. Underline those. Oftentimes there are many more negative words on the board. This exercise points out clearly how we often view adolescence in a negative light when in fact it is a time not only of awkwardness and insecurity, but of major developments in competences. Throughout the course it is helpful to bring in examples of adolescents in the news and media who are confident, generous, articulate, and caring, to counter the negative stereotypes we often hold.

By: Linda Juang, University of Potsdam

Teaching Resources Associate Editor

Image by Andy Dean/AdobeStock