With school groups in middle schools I have run into similar issues as you are describing for the one group of 7th and 8th graders, as middle schoolers are often "too cool" to do kids' stuff, or just want to chat, not listen, etc. The one thing that usually works for me is to tie the exercises with possible real life situations that may have a hint of dangerous outcome, as mock practice. "Bears&Cougars" works with the younger range of Middle School, but AP journalist in a war zone works well with the older students, and pizza delivery as a student job in a foreign country in order to survive for even older students, as I associate it with making or losing money when delivering to the wrong place. For that I use the feature of the little SI school kit printer to be programmed with words (e.g. AP journalist taking cabs from safe locations=controls or unverified cabby locations=mock controls prints out "Story 1", Story 5" or "Kidnapped", overcharged"...). I build in e.g. precision navigation challenges with every control marked on the map with a nearby mock control, hopefully on a similar feature. The more "danger" in the story line, the more engagement they seem to get out of it. Some students will want to find the wording for the wrong controls, so in order to still keep them engaged rather than just punching all controls they find I say that only getting all wrong and none right will count as OK, but one right among all wrong will count as only one right. It is kind of like introducing elements of computer games, "click on the wrong thing and ...." some bad consequence. I do though keep it free of real bad "consequences", there is enough of that in video games.