Teaching English to young learners is very different to other types of teaching English and yet it is rarely covered in TEFL courses. Therefore, teachers who are required to teach young learners often lack the knowledge or resources to adapt their skills to this environment. This post highlights some of the key points to consider when teaching young learners and provides a list of resources of where to get extra help.
Key points when teaching English to young learners
When teaching young learners it is important to think about the specific characteristics of that age group and plan activities accordingly.
Here are 5 key points to remember:
1. Vary activities
Children tend to have shorter attention spans so it is important to have lots of shorter activities to keep children engaged. Songs, stories, games and crafts all work well.
2. Use realia and visuals
Children are much more connected to the physical world and so real-life items or colourful/playful visuals help maintain childrens’ interest and engagement with activities. Use bright colours, puppets, real-life objects and involve children in creating their own visuals.
Children have lots of energy so get them moving around with interactive activities and games. TPR activities work really well with children, such as songs with actions.
4. Avoid grammar
Children are still learning language skills in L1 and cannot analyse language. Teaching grammar should be avoided and instead lessons should focus on themes and topics and have children pick up lexical chunks from songs, stories etc.
5. Be consistent
Children feel more relaxed if they understand what is expected of them in the classroom. Rules need to be enforced consistently so that children know how they should behave in the classroom. A similar routine (with varied activities) for each lesson works well in the class e.g. sing the same song to start the lesson and another to end the lesson.
Links to useful resources
Here are some resources to help Teach English to Young Learners
Professional Development course review
OUP: Teaching English to Young Learners: Online Professional Development
- Format: Online, self-study
- Duration: About 30 hours
- Age focus: Primary age
- Price*: GBP 74.16 + Sales Tax
FutureLearn: Teaching Young Learners online
- Format: Online, self-study
- Duration: 3 weeks (3 hours per week)
- Age focus: 5-17
- Price*: Free (£32 for certificate)
IH: Teaching Very Young Learners
- Format: In person (London)
- Duration: 2 weeks (15 hours per week)
- Age focus: 3-6
- Price*: £760
ELT Campus: Teaching English to Young Learners
- Format: Online, self-study
- Duration: 25+ hours
- Age focus: 4-10
- Price*: £95 for 8 modules or £25 per module
* Prices as of February 2021
Lesson plans and resources
ESL Kids Stuff – loads of really thorough lesson plans with lots of great activities. The lesson plans are all free to download but you do need a membership account if you want to download the songs, flashcards etc. Prices seem reasonable especially for the amount of content you gain access to.
Baamboozle – a quiz tool for engaging all learners. You can instantly use some of the pre-made quizzes with a search tool to go through the huge number of resources. The option to have different teams makes this another great tool for the competitive class and has worked really well at injecting some energy into our online lessons!
Go Noodle – a great way to bring movement into the classroom! These videos are designed for native English speakers but there’s a lot of repetition and they are very visual so could work well at bringing variety to the classroom.
View more free tools for teaching English online.
This article from the British Council website offers tips and insights into the following:
- Classroom management and discipline
- Using the board
- Routines and activities
Another article from the British Council’s website, this delves deeper into specific issues affecting very young learners and how to address these.
Ten helpful ideas for Teaching English to Young Learners
This 8-page article collates the ideas from many different professionals who are working with young learners. It is divided into 10 areas and is very accessible.
Here are some of the best blogs for ideas and resources for teaching children:
Carol Read’s ABC of Teaching Children
Jane-Maria Harding da Rosa’s TEYL Blog
Please note that the sites linked to above are not associated with the Virtual School of English in any way and do not endorse us.
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