Teaching Young Learners

Make learning fun

Fun, fun, fun! This is one factor that really matters to kids. And that goes for kids on the playground as well as those in the classroom. Many educators believe that kids learn best through play. And what is true of English-speaking children, in this case, will also be true of English-learning students. Here are some ways you can make learning more fun with your students:

Play Games

Not only do games play on the competitive nature of most children, but games also give them a goal to accomplish. When you win a game, you have really done something, and you can feel good about your success.

Through games, learners practice and internalize vocabulary, grammar, and structures. Motivation is enhanced, too, by the play and the competition. They acquire language unconsciously, with their whole attention engaged by the activity, in much the same way as they acquired their mother tongue. Here are a few games that require little to no preparation, and are super fun for young students.


  • Simon Says:The classic Simon Says is great for practicing listening skills. You can use it to review body parts (“Simon says touch your head“) or prepositions (“Simon says put your foot on your chair”).
  • Mother May I:Take your movement games a step further and play Mother May I. Your students can use all sorts of adjectives to describe the types of steps they would like to take as they race to the other side of the playing area.
  • Memory: Memoryis great for learning vocabulary. Try putting a vocabulary word on one card and a picture showing the word on another. Or put synonyms or antonyms on two different cards. Lay all the cards on the table and have students try to remember where the matches are.


Be Creative

Doing the same things in class all the time is boring for your students, and you’re liable to fall asleep on the job, too. So be creative with your plans.

Change things up on a regular basis. Rearrange your students’ seats so they get a different inspirational view from time to time. Give your students the test before you teach the material, and let them answer the questions as they learn. Invite guest speakers whenever you get the chance.

You can keep the same basic schedule every day, but vary the types of exercises you do. Rotate between doing exercises from the textbook, having students work on the computer on social media or EFL learning websites, and giving them real-life materials to work with.

Try a poem rather than a simple reading passage. You can also have students come up with their own games, activities, and exercises. Have your students write quiz questions for each other, or give them some simple game supplies and let them make their own review game for the latest grammar point. You might be surprised at how creative students can be.


Include Art in Your Class

Kids love to make colourful and exciting things in the classroom. Pablo Picasso observed that “every child is an artist.” Take advantage of that inborn quality and use art to teach your young students the English language. Of course, you can talk about obvious things like colours and shapes when you use art, but creative projects have so much more potential.

  • Cultural Traditions:Invite your students to make an art project based on different cultural traditions. Since kids are more concrete than adults, having a piece of art in front of them will help them make connections to culture, which is a super abstract topic for kids.
  • Collages: Art projects are also a great way to talk about prepositions of location. Collages are easy, and you can make one with just about anything. As your students work, give them instructions on where to place different items using prepositions, or let them tell you what they are doing and where items in their collage are in relation to each other. Don’t forget to give each person a chance to talk about their completed artwork after any art activity.


Take Your Class Outside

Have you ever tried taking a class outside? If not, you’d be surprised at what they can learn in the great outdoors. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Treasure Hunt:You can send your students out with clues to solve (either based on grammar or content) and have each clue lead them to another. Hide your clues outside before class, and give students plenty of time to gather all of them before heading inside and discussing the clues and their solutions.
  • Make Signs:Copy the pages of a picture book and make them into signs. Put these signs up around your school property and have students read each page and answer a question before moving on to the next station.
  • Make It Active

If there is one thing kids like more than having fun, it’s moving. In fact,  Maria Montessori suggested that young children are not able to learn unless they are also able to move. In addition, involving the whole body in language learning is a useful teaching method. The more language learners move, the better and faster they understand what you are teaching and the more easily they can retain the information.

TPR (Total Physical Response) is a teaching method that works really well with children. In essence, you associate physical movements with language instruction. Students move as they learn. They follow instructions, copy your movements and get their whole bodies involved when they practice language concepts. This is one of the most effective ways to teach EFL to children.

Using hands-on material is also a great way to get your students moving as they learn English. You can use simple items like flashcards, but you can also be more creative with what you give your students to handle.

  • Small World Play: Try collecting animal figures that show up in a book or story your class is reading, and let students retell the story using the figures. Try using this small world playwhen you do units on different subjects. Create a small scenario that includes play-sized items that represent those found in the real world.
  • Mystery Bags:Really target your students’ sense of touch by putting items in brown paper bags. Then have them reach into the bags without looking and describe what they are feeling.