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. Try alternating lively ‘stirring’ activities with calm ‘settling’ ones to harness the learners’ energy while avoiding over-excitement and providing variety. For example, on the topic of ‘jobs’, alternating stirring and calming activities might look something like this:
1. 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. You could use the jobs flashcards on LearnEnglish Kids.
2. Follow with a calm activity such as listening to a story from the website about jobs, for example What will I be when I grow up?
3. Get the children moving again by singing an action song about jobs, for example People work. Encourage children to sing and help them make up actions to mime the jobs.
4. 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 student 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:
For longer classes where learners’ ability to focus may reduce 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 games section on LearnEnglish Kids 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. You can find downloadable worksheets to challenge early finishers under activities such as the songs, stories and videos, or in the worksheets section, on LearnEnglish Kids.
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 ten 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.
Focus on techniques to improve reading, writing, speaking and listening but make sure your learners understand what they are doing and why.
- 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 a still from an online short story or video 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 the subtitles 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.
- Alternatively, play a video without sound or subtitles, 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. Learners registered on LearnEnglish Kids can write in the Your turn section with their thoughts on lots of different topics. 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 on LearnEnglish Kids provides learners with a framework and helps them create their own stories. Choose from fairy story, horror or sci-fi!
- Singing songs is a great way to get better at speaking. Sing along and make up actions for songs to make them more memorable.
- Make pronunciation practice fun by listening to tongue twisters and then let learners have a go themselves. You can find lots of tongue twisters on LearnEnglish Kids.
Recycle, revise, record
- Maximise 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 LearnEnglish Kids website you will be given a selection of activities on the same subject to select from, or find activities from all topics in the 'A - Z of Topics' on the right of any page.
- 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... Learners: Gruffalo.
3rd reading. Teacher: There’s no such thing... Learners: 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:
- Do learners have a space specifically for recording vocabulary in their notebook? 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.
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!