As well as teaching English to our young learners, we can help them reach their full potential as language learners. Here are some tips and ideas on how to use materials on the LearnEnglish Kids website to help your pupils learn more effectively.
Engaging young learners
If learners are engaged in what they are doing they are more likely to learn. Small children need lots of short activities to keep them interested. Alternate lively ‘stirring’ activities with calm ‘settling’ ones to harness the learners’ energy while avoiding over-excitement and providing variety. A lesson on the topic of ‘jobs’ alternating stirring and calming activities might look something like this:
- Have a lively game of run and touch to practise ‘jobs’ vocabulary. The teacher shouts out a word and the learners run to touch a picture or word card stuck on the wall. Find a list of flash cards that you can use for this game here: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/practise-your-english/jobs.... (Look here for a complete list of available flash cards: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/category/attachment-type/f...)
- Follow with a calm activity such as listening to a story about jobs: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/short-stories/what-will-i-...
- Get the children moving again by singing an action song (mime the jobs): http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/songs/people-work
- Have another calming activity using the same flashcards you used for ‘run and touch’. Sit on the floor and play a game of memory in groups.
Read an article on stirrers and settlers here:
With a very lively class it can help to keep the learners’ attention mainly on the teacher and board (e.g. lots of vocabulary input, speaking, listening or reading tasks from the learner’s book, talking about posters, demonstrating how to make and use a craft activity). Do this for the first part of the lesson then change to more individual or group work (writing in the workbook, making posters, making and using craft activities) when they have calmed down. Bear in mind when choosing and implementing your craft activity that with very young learners the classroom can become disorganised, especially if the craft is too challenging or doesn’t have a clear learning objective. Find printable craft activities here: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/craft-downloads
For longer classes where learners’ ability to focus may dwindle towards the end of the lesson, get the main language input done at the start of the lesson then move on to ‘lighter’ tasks that don’t require as much concentration. Keep them interested right to the end by finishing with a game. You could display the most popular games on LearnEnglish Kids: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/games and have a class vote on which one to choose.
Have a selection of challenging activities ready for early finishers to ensure they can continue learning and avoid learners who haven’t finished the task being disturbed.
- Find a topic-based list of printable worksheets here: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/category/resource-type/wor....
- Give them a short story to read in English. You can find several links to story related websites here: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/fr/short-stories
Set goals and see progress
Write up simple lesson aims on the board at the start of the class. Cross off items as you complete them in class. This way your learners know what they have to do that day and can feel a sense of achievement when they have done them. You should also ask learners to tell you what they have done that lesson at the end of the class. Even very young learners are capable of saying what they have done and why. As long as you give them lots of guidance to begin with, they will soon understand the purpose.
Routine and variety
Young learners like the security of class routines. If playing hangman to revise vocabulary is part of your class routine, you could play a shark version of hangman to add variety and keep them interested. Draw 10 steps going down into an open and toothy shark’s mouth. For each ‘wrong’ letter draw a stick man on a step. The class lose if the stick man runs out of steps. LearnEnglish Kids has an online version of hangman called ‘monkey squash’. Find the list of monkey squash games here: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/language-games/monkey-squash
- Focus on techniques to improve reading, writing, speaking and listening but make sure your learners understand what they are doing and why.
- There are lots of great stories to practise reading here: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/short-stories Here are a couple of strategies you can teach your young learners to help them with reading skills. To set the scene and activate vocabulary you could display the first page of a short story and ask children to describe what they can see and to predict what they think will happen. You could then play the story with the sound turned off and let the children read silently. Feed in true/false statements e.g. The Lion is hungry. True or false? to check comprehension as you progress through the story. Play the story again without words or audio and see if the class can retell the story.
- Give your learners practise listening with videos of children talking about subjects that interest them: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/kids-talk
- They can also watch What’s Your News? videos where GI ANT, a cartoon news reporter, interviews children from the UK. Play the video without sound and ask learners to imagine what is being said to raise awareness of the importance of visual clues to aid understanding. Write up their ideas on the board. Repeat the video with sound and check to see if their guesses were right.
- Producing a large chunk of writing is a daunting task for young learners so keep writing tasks short. Your learners can write in to Your turn with their thoughts on lots of different topics: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/your-turn The focus here is on communication rather than accuracy allowing learners to build up confidence in their writing skills. All contributions that follow the house rules are published.
- ‘Story maker’ provides learners with a framework and helps them create their own stories. Choose from fairy story, horror or sci-fi: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/make-your-own/story-maker
- Singing songs is a great way to get better at speaking. Sing along and make up actions for songs to make them more memorable: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/songs
- Make pronunciation practice fun by listening to native speakers saying tongue twisters and then let learners have a go themselves: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/tongue-twisters
Recycle, revise, record
- Maximize repetition of language by presenting the same vocabulary in different ways. Listen to a song about a specific topic, and then read a story on the same topic. When you complete an activity on the website you will be given a selection of activities on the same subject to select from.
- Children like the familiarity of having songs and stories repeated. Repetition of language items helps them ‘stick’. Sing the same song faster, slower, louder, quieter, in a mouse voice or in a witch voice. Read the same story and encourage learners to join in more and more with repeated phrases like this:
1st reading. Teacher: There’s no such thing as a Gruffalo.
2nd reading. Teacher: There’s no such thing as a ______ Sts: Gruffalo.
3rd reading. Teacher: There’s no such thing _________ Sts: as a Gruffalo.
- Have a class word bag and let learners add new words to it on bits of paper or card each class. Very young learners can draw picture cards. You could nominate a different child to add words each class. Play quick vocabulary games with the words, e.g., pull out a word from the bag, give a short definition or mime and ask learners to guess the word. Read more about recycling vocabulary and word bags here: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/language-assistant/teaching-tips/recyc...
- Word of the week is a great way to learn new current vocabulary on a regular basis: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/word-week . Play one of the videos at the start of the class and see if anyone can remember what the word was at the end of the class. Do learners have a space specifically for recording vocabulary in their note book? If not they could use their last two pages for this. Encourage learners to tell you what new words they have learnt at the end of the class and get them to write them down on their ‘new words’ page.
Further reading about learning styles
There are several theories relating to learning styles and whether teachers should adjust their teaching to learners’ individual styles. If you would like to research the subject even further you can read about the theory of learning styles here on TeachingEnglish.
When you have used some of these ideas, why not come back to this page and leave a comment below to tell us how your class went. Let us know if you have any additional ideas!
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