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Teaching English to Young Learners

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Vanja Ilic

on 22 October 2015

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Transcript of Teaching English to Young Learners

They are typically very curious and learn by exploring, often with the use of all of their senses.

They speak in short sentences (4 to 6 words).
They use personal pronouns correctly.
They are able to describe action in pictures.
They are good at naming and labeling.
"Teaching preschoolers may seem like a daunting task. But it is well worth the effort."
You need to have tons of toys and realia to use in games and activities:
cars, planes and all types of transport
tea sets and cooking utensils
plastic fruits and vegetables
flashcards of varying sizes
Example #1
Take a flashcard, hold it up, and tell your student to read it (if he/she can), and to mime it, or the teacher can mime it and the student can guess. Next time you can repeat and pronounce the word, and the student can draw it for you.
Example #2
Memorising the picture

Teacher shows a picture for a while, then hides it and asks true and false questions about the picture. Adjust the questions to child’s age- for example: for very young learners, you can ask: 'Is this BIG or SMALL?', or 'Is it GREEN or PURPLE?'. For a bit older students, you can ask to give you Yes and No answers, like - 'Does it have lines?'-'Yes, it does'/'No, it doesn’t.'

: have/has, there is/are, numbers, prepositions, colours, how many
Picture cover up

Teacher covers one part of the photo, and has his student guess which part of the photo is missing.

good for visual students, for practicing new words, way of activating words, have/has

Example #3
Example #4
Feeling jar

Teacher writes some feeling adjectives on a piece of paper and puts it in a box or plastic bag, pulls out one by one (there shouldn’t be more than 4-5) and tries to mime or act out that feeling; after that writes it in the chat box, and makes the sentence which will student repeat after the teacher.

revision of adjectives and learning new adjectives.

What is in my hand?

Put something in your hand, and let them ask questions to find the object in your hand. You can pre-teach the short sentences and questions. ‘Is it big/small?’, ‘Is it a/an ____?’

Language focus/aims:
practice of asking questions, activate curiosity.
Example #6
Expressing feeling

Give a sound for adjectives (e.g. shocked, tired, sad, happy, sleepy, etc.) and have your student repeat after you - first just the words and then sentences as well. Of course, exaggerating and emphasis is very important here.

Language focus/aims:
Fun, positive learning environment, unconscious learning of adjectives
Example #7
Repetition is the key.

Greet them every day with the same song, or greeting till they naturally say it back. It doesn’t matter if you spend an entire class only asking questions with 'Do you like…?', as long as they spontaneously answer, 'Yes, I do', or 'No, I don’t.'

Example #8
Here are the links where you can find more drilling activities:

Example #5
Ready made pictures

Prepare some pictures (e.g. brushing teeth, having breakfast etc.) and ask them: ‘What do you do after breakfast?' etc.. They respond by the help of pictures and you miming.

Language focus/aims:
Everyday activities
They have a vocabulary of around 300-500 words.
They listen to short stories and are able to follow instructions.
There are a few links you can use to make your own flashcards:
Chain drills (backchaining)

Get the student to repeat long sentences loudly beginning from backward. ('What is/the weather/like today?')

Language focus/aims:
Facilitates memorisation and help students form a sentence.

You can also use this slide with a lot of very simple and colorful photos(flashcards) and print it out:
( http://www.slideshare.net/sompladoka/picture-english-cards?related=8 )
Play games
But don’t play a game for too long because they will lose interest. Each game or activity you propose should target a specific learning goal. It’s not about coming to class to play. ESL games are highly effective teaching strategies as long as you know how to fully utilize their potential.
Saymon says

Teacher names an activity that a student needs to show, mime or do.

Imperatives, good for revision of what you did
on the class; fun

Activity #1
Activity #2
Alphabet game:

Try to make the child repeat first just the letter after you, then the sentence, This is A for example, and then make an easy word with that letter. A is for apple and have the child draw an apple for you.

Activity #3
Gesture Game

This is a gesture game using previously learnt verbs and emotions. Give them examples like angry / swimming, happy / hairbrushing ,sleepy / dancing, afraid / cleaning, surprised / playing a guitar and have them repeat sentences with these words after you.

Language focus/aims:
allows for creativity-fun-revision

Activity #4
You can also use this site for more vocabulary games:

Get physical:

You’ll need to, move your arms, and clap your hands, which means you’ll end up exhausted, but oh, so exhilarated.

Sites to visit:



Role plays

Act out role plays with puppets. Children enjoy them, and it's a very effective way to teach ways to answer a question or replies to greetings.

Activity #5
Useful links:



Activity #6


Use a simple dialogue and have the characters do it in different ways: nervously, fearfully, happily, laughing, angrily, and naturally, of course!

The director’s cut
: The teacher can act like the director of a movie and say, “Cut! Cut! No, that’s not right. I want to see more emotion. Do it with anger this time!" :)

Activity #8
Hidden word

This activity is designed to challenge children’s ability to read sentences and find the names of animals hiding in the sentences. They can use their imagination to write their own sentences and practice the pronunciation of different sounds.

Age range: 7-9
Explain to the children that they are going to read more sentences with animals hidden in them. They have to find the animals in the sentences.

Example sentences:

1. He arrived in Ameri
ca t
oday. (cat)
2. Eri
c ow
es me 10 cents. (cow)
3. That will
be a r
eal help. (bear)
4. She
came l
ate every day. (camel)
5. We ma
de er
rors in each exercise. (deer)
6. I
f I sh
out, he’ll hear me. (fish)
7. She dresse
s nake
d dolls. (snake)
8. At las
t, I, Ge
rald, had won. (tiger)
9. He called Nik
ko a la
zy boy. (koala)
10. In Apri
l I on
ly called once (lion)

1. She has a blue koala dress.
2. This is a red cat balloon.
Activity #9
Making a story of your own

The children write texts about animals and then record their texts on the Blabberize website***.

Or we can simply take a sock from our drawer, give it a name and try to make a story with our student, he or she can ask questions. We can teach food, colors, or even basic introduction starting with ‘Hello, how are you?’
* Preparation:
You will need digital pictures of all the animals you use for the activity. If you need some pictures of wild animals, try:

or Google images:

It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the website and how it works before class.

: To describe characteristics of different animals.


Activity #7
Repetition is the key
Not Being Prepared
Being Disorganized
Taking Things Personally
Not Delivering What You Promised
Confessing You’re a Newbie
Underestimating Your Students

What to avoid?
Teaching English to young learners
"One child, one teacher, one book, one pen - CAN CHANGE THE WORLD."
Be visual
Build up a context
Teach through songs and chants
Show them different things
Use your body
Keep them busy

Repeat, repeat, repeat
Repeat, repeat, repeat
Repeat, repeat, repeat
Repeat, repeat, repeat
Repeat, repeat, repeat
Have them move

Have them draw

Have them create

Be aware of their emotions
Teach them in a natural way
Think, speak, do

Things to have in mind:
There are novice teachers and old timers here, and we would all like the same thing - to look professional, because we are all in the same boat together. So, if we want to be taken seriously we should try and avoid the following:
Well done!
Keep it fast paced and engaging. Switch from one activity to another and use fillers if needed. There are a lot of warmer activities that you can use here:


One of the warm up activities can be :

Write "WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE" in the chat box. Explain to the student that you are looking for two very strange twins. On a piece of paper hand draw two funny looking brothers, or any kind of characters very different one from the other. Describe them slowly as your students draw, then have your student show you his/her drawing and see if he/she did follow your instructions.
Don’t worry about what they can’t do (read or write). Focus on what they CAN DO and make use of their abilities.
Most under 5 can count to ten or recognize basic colors, so you can play this game:
Pictures of animals with numbers at the back
Aim: To practise or revise animal vocabulary and to produce simple descriptions.
Show some zoo animals to your student, revise their names and then turn the pictures backward where numbers are. Ask your student to choose one number and then when you show the picture of the animal the student should help you describe it, using of course simple language.
Try to cater to multiple intelligences
Young ESL students have strengths and weaknesses and the best way to take advantage of their strengths and help them learn effectively is to cater to their learning styles or multiples intelligences, namely Visual – Spatial, Logical – Mathematical, Bodily – Kinesthetic, Musical – Rhythmic, Intra-Personal, Inter-Personal, Naturalist, and Spiritual.
How can we accomplish this?

I Caught a Fish

Language Target
: Learning numbers from one to ten.

Question-answer format,/.

One, two, three, four, five,
I caught a fish alive.
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
I let it go again.
Why did you let it go?
'Cause it bit my finger so.
Which finger did it bite?
This little finger on my right.
For musical:
rhythmic intelligence learners
Teach an ESL element with a song, like

Rock Around the Clock
, or

Hickory dickory dock
For bodily:

kinesthetic intelligence learners
Teach body parts with a game of
Simon Says
, or sing
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
Head and Shoulders

Language goal:
learning parts of the human body

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Knees and Toes (x2)
And Eyes, and Ears, and Mouth and Nose
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Knees and Toes.

Teaching Activity:
You and the child point to the body parts as you sing the song.

For visual:

spatial intelligence learners
Use maps, charts, and all types of visual aids. Teach them the different types of stores and locations they may find around town
Teaching activities
: This song is also a finger play.

Build meaning by having the children act out the song. One, two, three, four, five, I caught a fish alive. (Count on the right hand; hold a fish with your hands.) Six, seven, eight, nine, ten, I let it go again. (Count the fingers on your left hand; let the fish go.) Why did you let it go? 'Cause it bit my finger so. (Shake finger) Which finger did it bite? This little finger on my right.
Mix of activities

It is the best way to teach children. Switch between quiet, independent tasks to those that require action and movement.
Teach in context

For example, when teaching children foods in English, it should be within a meal context, like - breakfast, lunch or dinner, and should never be a list of items they must study or memorize.
Approach to grammar

When it comes to grammar - don’t teach grammar explicitly!

Grammar activity:
Find a picture with a lot of toys for example, first ask the child to tell you what he/she can see in the picture, then write the words with some missing letters in the chat box. After doing that tell them to tell you which ones do they have, and they will need to repeat sentences with ‘have’ after you.
Thank you!
You can also create your own activities and stories using Presentation of target language using
Little Bird Tales
Praise them:
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