Facilitation Techniques

Youth undergo a variety of physical, cognitive, emotional, and social changes during adolescence that affect how they interact and process health information. To make this information simple and easy to remember, it is necessary to present it in ways that will capture their attention. 

Youth Learning Styles

When developing new activities - or modifying existing ones - it is important to consider different learning styles. As described by the Praire View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program, learning styles are educational conditions that best aid in learning. There are three prominent styles - visual, auditory, and kinesthetic - and they can differ both between individuals and within individuals across time.

With multiple learning styles incorporated into lessons, youth will be able to rely on their preferred style to learn while at the same time increasing their ability to learn using other styles. With a diversity of learning styles, an audience of youth will be less likely to tire or become bored.

Type of Learner: Relies on: Preferred activities:
Visual Sight Handouts with written information, including pictures, graphs, and charts. Doodling and drawing.
Auditory Listening Demonstrations, videos, lectures, discussions, reading aloud.
Kinesthetic Touch and experience Writing or physically manipulating the information. Role plays, experiments, simulations, and other hands-on activities.



Testimonial Headshot
Our older youth, 19 to 24-year-olds, are Youth Builders. They sign on to be part of that program and co-facilitate or help train the younger youth."

Maranda - Washington, DC

Strategies to Engage Youth

Engage youth and encourage participation by using strategies that allow youth to interact with their peers. They can work in pairs, small groups, or larger classroom-sized groups.

Working in Pairs

Dividing the audience into pairs is a helpful way to encourage conversation between adolescents who do not know each other well. This strategy is particularly effective when covering personal topics or experiences that some youth might not feel comfortable discussing with a larger group. ReadWriteThink's strategy guide on the technique explains how to organize a group of adolescents and encourage participation. The technique gives every adolescent in the group the chance to think individually about a concept and then discuss their ideas in pairs before finally sharing with the larger audience. Facilitators can incorporate this activity into planned lessons or use it in informal discussions by following three steps.

Think-Pair-Share Technique

  1. Ask a high-level question and give the group time to think individually about the concept.
  2. Pair each group member with another and let them discuss their ideas and ask questions of their partner.
  3. Return to the larger group for discussion and have each pair share their thoughts and questions.

Small Group Activities

For some activities, facilitators may be more effective dividing a large classroom into smaller groups. As ACT for Youth describes, there are many reasons why youth benefit from working with a subset of the whole group. Small group activities encourage cooperation in a supportive, less intimidating environment. They are ideal for having youth practice skills, problem-solve, and analyze information together. To be effective, facilitators must explain each activity and purpose, and then check to make sure the youth understand. Then, they can divide the larger group into smaller groups and encourage everyone to participate. ACT for Youth has a video demonstrating a facilitator successfully using this technique.

Role playing works well in small groups, allowing youth to see their peers model skills and then practice those skills themselves. To learn how to use this teaching technique successfully, facilitators can watch the ACT for Youth video in which a facilitator demonstrates the process of explaining the role play, choosing volunteers, setting the scene, and wrapping up the activity.

Brainstorming is a third way to engage youth in either small and large groups. It typically is an activity that encourages everyone to think and share ideas, starting with the facilitator asking a question and then, without judgment or discussion, recording all ideas that group suggests. This ACT for Youth video shows the steps to take for successful brainstorming activities.

Large Groups

Icebreakers and energizers can help facilitate discussion by creating a positive, comfortable, and open environment. These can be used when starting out with a new group, when a group's energy seems low, or to introduce new ideas.


  • Useful at the beginning of the day or at the start of a program
  • Increase communication and comfort among adolescents who might not know each other
  • Set the tone of the environment
  • Should be non-threatening to reduce anxiety
  • Should be fun to keep participants engaged


  • Useful after breaks or after long, serious discussions when energy is low
  • Boost energy and reengage youth
  • Reset the tone of the environment
  • Should be fun, allowing participants to move around and take a mental break

Digital Tools

Since most adolescents are adept at using technology, digital techniques and social media can be effective and age appropriate. With many digital tools available, facilitators can use them for icebreakers and other activities. 

Photo of Olivia Catalano
Olivia Catalano

Remember how hard it was to talk about sex when you were young? In her current job, Olivia is committed to making these difficult conversations easier for the youth she works with.

Toolkit Resource

This Adolescent Health Initiative Spark training on being youth-friendly contains presentation slides and activities for both youth-serving organizations and health centers.

Page last updated: April 2018