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What are ‘young learners’? In methods there is no concord as to the age limits – it could be anything from 5 to 12. In practice there are attempts to train in a language at the age of 4, and even 3. If we are to take a traditional classroom mode 5 is as early as could be. The techniques and tips I’m about to provide can be used in the first year of language schools and for 8-year-olds in regular schools.

With any other group of learners who form a newly assimilated group entry testing is a must. Should it be applied to young learners if we know that they are absolute beginners. The answer is ‘yes’ as no other group would differ so greatly in physical, psychic and mental development. Developmental objectives are focus in such classes anyway. But it is to be decided how much of a focus. There should be diagnostic testing for: ~ ability to grasp meaning by full use of gesture, intonation, demonstration, actions and parallel instructions whether young learners are trained in listening and are able to follow instructions and imitate;

~children’s creative use of limited language resources: activities should be encouraging to use the language actively for themselves/ Do they invent words?

~ children’s capacity for indirect learning (not focused) – whether they can pick up things easily;

~ children’s instinct for play and fun; how imaginative they are with toy playing; imitating sounds? Telling stories, inventing them; even child’s lies; can they invent a character, see pictures in an ink blot, plan ahead?

~the instinct for interaction and talk: how easily they interact among themselves and adults. If present, these qualities testify for readiness to ELT courses. If absent, these qualities become prime targets for developing, but language acquisition in this case will be impeded. In any case, with ELT for young learners there should be a focus on content and attitude goals, with the latter having priority. Attitude goals comprise building up pleasure and confidence in exploring the language, willingness to have a ‘go’ – the children should want and dare to communicate. I.L. Bim, for example speaks anbout subject and its processing+ experience – emotional and assessment experience of learning-teaching interaction participants.

What language is to be used in class? English can be counter-productive in giving complicated instructions; in a feedback session where the aim is for children to express their feelings and attitudes it would be counter-productive as well. There should be clear guidelines when to use English and where the first language is permissible. English should be used for classroom routines, but it should be accompanied by gesturing.

What textbooks are to be used? In Russia there are 2 course-packs which are complete and allow for continuity: for 1-4 grades and 2-4 grades One teaching technique constructed makes it unique: a ‘problem story’ which is told in one’s native tongue and aims at conscious awareness of lexis and grammar; kids ‘discover’ rules themselves in the course of this story (How plural forms are built? What is ‘and’ for, find mistakes, etc. “Enjoy English” for 1-4 and 2-4 grades is learner-oriented and task-oriented. It extensively uses role-play, group and team work, differentiated tasks etc.

Classroom organization and planning a lesson: Classroom management and discipline: When children arrive, they put their coats on pegs, bags on the floor at their table places and then join you round the board. Only books and pencil cases on the tables. Avoid clutter - very young learner classrooms need to be very organised.

Use two areas of the classroom. For presentation of new language, practice activities using individual children, storytelling and opening and closing of lesson, the teacher sits on a stool next to the board and half-faces the children. Children should sit on the floor at their teacher's feet, with a further row of children behind on chairs to form a closed circle. This avoids sitting on the floor and makes you feel more in charge. For activities, three or four children should sit at each table. Colour-code the tables. When children move from the board to the tables, get them to move group by group, not all at once. Children keep to the same places.

Present new language at the board. Use lots of flashcards. Involve all pupils - ask individuals to perform a small task: pointing to something, choosing a picture or sticking it on the board. Children like to be picked, so make it fair. Ask the whole class a question, get them to repeat or drill.

When changing activity, try using a rattle (e.g. rice in a box) rather than raising your voice to attract attention. This becomes a signal that children recognise. Start the activity, even if not all children are attentive. They will eventually join in with the others.

Be aware of what sort of work children are doing at school. The teacher I observed worked on the skills of matching, comparing and classifying. These are all things we can develop and adapt.

When children are working at tables let them finish as much as possible. Fast finishers can do another drawing, or colour in. As children finish, write on their worksheets to explain what they have drawn, stuck or classified etc. questioning them at the same time.

Use ‘open pairs’; select 2 children to do part of the activity while the rest of the class watches. Physical organization of the classroom is important: there should be a display section for students to take pride and interest in what they do. You may introduce a system where each week a group of children summarizes the week’s work on a poster on the ‘English’ wall. As to planning, adhere to a rule: keep the lesson simple. Sometimes we think that a lesson is varied when we begin with 5 minutes of greetings, then revise numbers, then do a quick introduction of colours and finish with a song about 7 days of the week. This is not helpful, since children’s minds are required to jump from one theme to another with little time to let things sink in: we don’t help children to develop their capacity to concentrate, rather the contrary. As to integration of 4 skills, if your group cannot write, there are other types of paper and pencil activities they can do (developing special skills, managing a copybook systematically, numbering, sorting out, differentiating, drawing, colouring by numbers, making use of the ruler). There is an important principle connected with lesson planning – to reuse materials. For instance two sets of pictures can be used as basis for a grid:

  Apples Bananas Grapes Oranges
Pete +      
Jane     +  
Kate       +

The table, in its turn, can be used for listening activities (marking true-false), for simultaneous pair work and as a story-telling prop. Second principle is to create routines that the children recognize; they help the children to feel secure and at the same time save a lot of time and explanation. The core of the lesson will vary, but there should be routines for finishing activities. Early finishers should always have some reserve activity to do, e.g. an extra worksheet with a word game or a puzzle. If they are doing a messy activity, there should be some time left for a clear-up. You might appoint different children to be responsible for pencils, colours, scissors, etc. In general it is better to present new language in the first part of the lesson and dedicate the last part of the lesson to quieter, individual activities. Recycle the language as much as possible in different activities, contexts and using different skills.

You should realize that no textbook covers your children’s needs exactly, its necessary to supplement it with other related activities (handicraft, physical education, gaming, etc.) The core principle here is integrating and different entry points; theme can be ‘entered’ through maths, geography, art, craft, music, history, technology, drama, PE + other ideas. What topics are suitable for young learners? E.g.: insects, vegetables, fruits and plants, islands, cars, fairy tales, festivals, houses, institutions (school, hospital, police, circus,shop) – in fact, anything at all so long as it is concrete enough, has a fascination for young learners and can cement various activities together.

Forming the 4 skills. Listening: For young learners it is a dominant skill and first to be trained in; kids should be trained to respond non-verbally or use minimum of the language, e.g. listen and arrange action dictation (go to the door, take the picture and give it to Jane)Other suggestions as to what can be dictated: classroom commands, body parts, verbs in general (for miming, prepositions, abilities (if you can swim, clap once); physical descriptions can be dictated for drawing what you hear; also general knowledge (if a spider has 8 legs, clap eight times); or ‘battleships’ based grids, which are to be dictated and entered (have a stack of simple images: cars, flowers, trees, etc.); the above said grids with likes and dislikes, that can be cross-dictated.

C     + + +      
D + + + + + + +  
E + + + + + + +  
F   +       +    


As to telling a story, there are many with a spiral structure, like ‘Gingerbread’; they can be supplied with pictures which reflect part of the story; the children describe the pictures to each other and put them in order; also use miming and dramatizing a story. The next useful tip is imitation listening activities when you show children what to

Speaking: first thing to bear in mind is that children need to see the reason for doing the activity, e.g. to complete a picture, to find information in order to make a graph, to put on a performance. The end product is an important motivating factor, often more important than the topic itself. If the children know that at the end if the task they will be able to have a couple of minutes’ ‘relaxation’ in their language, they are more likely to try to do the task in English. Tips to suit many occasions here are: tongue-twisters, based upon repetition of the last consonant; children compose them by themselves by using rhyming groups of words:

Sad black mad bad

Fat bat man cat

Each student should say his tongue-twister to the class for everyone to try. The tongue-twisters can later be displayed on a poster. The idea of interview grids is that all children in the class conduct a class survey by interviewing each other. Children can exchange information about likes and dislikes, have’s and have nots, hobbies, times and events, seasons, asking for personal details. If a question and answer on that is forever done by a teacher, it is unsatisfactory, because: a) only one child at a time is involved in answering; b)children only produce the answers; c) a child is only likely to answer once at the most. Interview grids on conducting a class survey go through certain steps:

1. Build and fill in a grid on the board interviewing one child;

2. Interview a second child;

3. Do a third interview, this time getting one of the children to ask the questions and fill the answers;

4. Get kids to draw their own grids;

5. Let them interview each other. To avoid confusion, each child is allowed to interview 3 classmates and then he sits down.

“Can you remember” games are intended to show that we can use memory to create real communication. The main concern is to increase mental engagement by giving children a good reason to remember what we are saying, hearing, reading or writing. Create a sequence of prompt cards for which the children say the appropriate phrases (e.g.: Bu, Su, F, Gr – it is to do with shopping; try to guess what it might mean). Make children write sequence prompts by memory. Fantasizing with pictures (photos)-Who? When? Why? Family? Hobbies? Pets? is one more useful tip. You can also encourage imagining a conversation or the forthcoming events (When? Why? What is going to happen). Flashcards can prove invaluable here as well. Why use flash cards?

Howard Gardener's multiple intelligence theory reminds teachers that there are many types of learners within any one class. Gardener's research

indicates that teachers should aim to appeal to all the different learner types at some point during the course. It is particularly important to appeal to visual learners, as a very high proportion of learners have this type of intelligence. Flashcards can be bright and colorful and make a real impact on visual learners. Many of the activities outlined below will also appeal to kinesthetic learners.

For children at reading age, flash cards can be used in conjunction with word cards. These are simply cards that display the written word. Word cards should be introduced well after the pictorial cards so as not to interfere with correct pronunciation.

Flashcards are a really handy resource to have and can be useful at every stage of the class. They are a great way to present, practice and recycle vocabulary and when students become familiar with the activities used in class, they can be given out to early-finishers to use in small groups. Sometimes get the students to make their own sets of mini flash cards that can be taken home for them to play with, with parents and siblings.

Activities for using flash cards

I have divided the activities into the following categories: Memory, drilling, identification and TPR activities.

Memory Activities: Memory Tester

Place a selection of flash cards on the floor in a circle. Students have one minute to memorize the cards. In groups, they have two minutes to write as many of the names as they can remember.

Drilling Activities : Invisible Flashcards

Stick 9 flash cards on the board and draw a grid around them. Use a pen or a pointer to drill the 9 words. Always point to the flash card you are drilling. Gradually remove the flash cards but continue to drill and point to the grid where the flash card was. When the first card is removed and you point to the blank space, nod your head to encourage children to say the word of the removed flash card. Students should remember and continue as if the flash cards were still there. They seem to be amazed that they can remember the pictures.

Depending on the age group I then put the flash cards back in the right place on the grid, asking the children where they go, or I ask students to come up and write the word in the correct place on the grid. This activity highlights the impact of visual aids. It really proves that the images 'stick' in students' minds.

Identification Activities: Reveal the word

Cover the flash card or word card with a piece of card and slowly reveal it. Students guess which one it is. Once the card is shown, chorally drill the word with the group using different intonation and silly voices to keep it fun. Vary the volume too, whisper and shout the words. Children will automatically copy your voice. Alternatively, flip the card over very quickly so the children just get a quick glimpse. Repeat until they have guessed the word.

TPR activities : Point or race to the flash cards. Stick flash cards around the class. Say one of them and students point or race to it. Students can then give the instructions to classmates. You can extend this by saying "hop to the cat" or even "if you have blonde hair, swim to the fish" etc. You can also incorporate flash cards into a game of Simon Says. "Simon says, jump to the T-shirt" etc.

Reading tasks should be if possible interconnected with problem solving; you might prepare some mathematical problems in English like: Ann has got 10 sweets; she gives 3 to her friend Sally. Now she has got --- sweets. Sorting things out strategies are aimed at building up reader’s competence and will include things like: looking for the story line noting names and pronouns; noting connectors like ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘because’, noting sequencers like ‘first’, ‘then’, next’; noting punctuation; you could ask kids to underline pronouns referring to one person in one colour, and to a second person in another colour. Or you can mix up two texts or put 3-4 nonsense sentences into a text and ask the children to find them.

Writing at the stage when children cannot yet write in their mother tongue has a simple enough solution: you can ask them to write down the number of what they hear; story telling or giving directions can be made and registerd by means of arrows; play-maps and schematic drawings. You can practice parts of body in the same way: draw a pin man and write numbers on the appropriate parts. You can ask kids to listen and put prepositions in the grid (The cat is on the table; the ball is under the table); putting numbers into a grid makes it an entirely new activity. You can combine: colours and clothes; times and activities; people and places, rooms and furniture, shops and things bought; places and directions.

A silent dictation is a transition between reading and writing; the children are briefly shown a phrase, a word or a sentence they have to write by memory. They are to understand and remember the message, or they can write opposites. Most children seem to love badges and stickers. Why not get them to design their own? All you need is a circle of plain paper, and coloured pens or pencils ( the texts or designs are in pale gray outlines which the children are simply to trace to create a lovely slogan or motto.

includes mostly variations on a gap: choose or write a description which has 7-8 adjectives in it that can be easily changed for others; the children read the description and draw a picture on it (e.g. There is a vase on the table. The vase is white. There are three roses in it. One rose is red, two roses are white. Near the vase there is a plate and a cup. The plate is big. There are 2 apples on it. The cup is blue. There is coffee in the cup). You should encourage kids composing simple poems, using themes like: Summer. Birthday. Outside the window. Name poems are also a good motivating task, like:

L ate

E evening

N ew

A partment

As to vocabulary and grammar, the rule of the thumb here is to recycle constructions over and over again; go back to the previous chapters, by including extra material children should always be given plenty of opportunities to use the language they have learned in class. Use chants to practice vocabulary, like ‘Train chant’

Coffee, Coffee

Milk and sugar, Milk and sugar,

Chockalate cakes and Chockalate biscuits,

Fish and chips, Fish and Chips


Forming pronunciation skills deserves more focus since there is no concord as to how conscious pronunciation acquisition should be: one of the approaches is teaching with the help of a phonemic chart. Although the following activities are aimed mainly at young learners many would be ideal for adult groups. Adults also enjoy kinaesthetic activities, and many of the ones described in this article are just that! The ideas are for the most part are discrete item approach activities- isolating sounds. The phoneme race : This is useful for introducing students to new phonemes and revising recently learnt sounds. Put six or so symbols on the board. Write words on cards big enough to be seen when stuck on the board. Five for each sound is enough. Drill the sounds. Be imaginative with your voice if doing it with young learners. They will remember it better if they are having fun.

Put the students in teams. One person form each team races to the teacher and is given a card. They return to the group and decide which phoneme is used in the word from the board. They write the phoneme on the back of the card and run back to the teacher. If the symbol is correct the student is given another card. They must keep the cards and try to accumulate as many as possible. The winning team is the one with the most cards at the end. Give the students blue tack and ask them to stick the symbols to the board. Then do another drilling session. Then, in the teams, the students choose two symbols and race to make a sentence for each that includes three of the words from that symbol. The sentence must make some sense! Then you can reward the most imaginative sentences.

Make your own wall charts: Put the symbols you want to learn on the board and drill them.

Then ask students to match flash cards with each symbol. For example, /i:/ can be matched with a picture of cheese. Then ask the children to draw the symbol and the picture on the top of a large piece of coloured card. These cards are then stuck to the wall for the next class. In the next class, the children are put into coloured teams. Each team is given ten words on cards which they have to stick to the posters. Play some fun music to do this! Give them a time limit. Then, check how many they got correct. (Try to use words they are familiar with, or words you want to revise.) The winners are those with most correct. Every few classes you can revise this, repeat it and add to it. So you end up with a comprehensive and colourful wall display all created by them. Much more interesting than a published phonemic chart for young learners.

Chinese whispers. Again, this is for revising individual sounds.

The teacher sits the learners in a circle and shows a student a symbol, also whispering it in their ear. The sound is passed around the class. If the sound is correct at the end for the symbol the students get a point, if not the teacher gets a point.

Using dictionaries. This should be done with students who are familiar with the script and is

suitable more for teenagers and adults. Choose five words from the dictionary and write them in phonetic script. Ask the students in pairs to write down what they think the word is. Then get the students to swap papers with a different group and ask them to look up the word to see if they were correct. The winners are the group with most correct. Then they can make a new list of five words for the other group to repeat the activity with. This can be combined with a revision of vocabulary from the course book they are using. The students look up words in the dictionary from the book and transcribe them for the other group to guess.

Going shopping. This is a communicative activity which incorporates some sounds you have been doing in class into a shopping list activity where the students have to practise dialogues buying certain items like cheese, meat, /i:/, and crisps, milk /I/.

Students can be put into two groups of shop owners and customers with a budget to make it more 'authentic'. Then they have a certain time to buy all the items they can on the list. For the shop owners, give them flash cards of food items or pieces of card with the food and prices on them. Afterwards they can decide the cheapest and most expensive shops as a class.

Gaming: games can be conducted in the class or taken outside it, like treasure hunt: looking for a hidden chest with directions (oral or written); the chest should contain candies or something else for all to get and share. For young learners body writing and finger exercises are very useful.

Circle games are a great way to encourage the whole class to work together. They also provide an often welcome change in working pattern. They are mostly used with young learners, but teenagers will play them and so will the right kind of adult class: one that doesn't take itself too seriously.

What are Circle Games? Circle games are any games or activity that involve the whole class, sitting in a circle. Many of the games recycle vocabulary and involve an element of fun.

Nowadays, in the world of EFL, pair work and work in small groups is very much in fashion. The communicative approach encourages teachers to use a lot of pair work and therefore increase 'student talking time'. I believe that for a group to gel and for a good group dynamic to prevail there are times when the class should work together as a whole. Circle games are a good opportunity to bring the group together. I tend to use them to start or end a class. They can be used as warmers at the beginning of a class or as a 'filler' at the end.

Several of the activities, such as Chain Drawings and Consequences are great for when you have to do a last minute substitution class for a colleague. Very little material is required, they're suitable for all levels and a lot of language can be generated.

Managing circle games with young learners. Circle games can be incorporated into the regular routine of a young learner class.

If students are introduced to the idea of working in a whole group from the beginning of a course it is easier to establish the rules and acceptable behavior for this type of activity.

They should be seen by the students as a normal part of the class and clear parameters should be set as to what is and isn't acceptable behavior when participating in a circle game.

If you have never used any circle games and want to start, set up the class before the students arrive and begin the class with one of the simple activities. It may make a nice change and it also gives you an opportunity to greet each student on arrival and do the register. Speak to young learners about the importance of listening to fellow students and respecting each others' talking time and turns. To calm lively students and focus them, try some basic TPR activities which demand their concentration. For example, "if you're ready to start the activity, touch your nose", "if you're ready to start the game, point to the door".

When students get to know the routine and the activities you can nominate one of them to start the game and lead it.

Chain drawings Give each student a piece of paper and some coloured pencils. Tell them that you are going to play some music and you want them to draw whatever comes into their heads. As music is playing, all students should be drawing. After 20 or 30 seconds, stop the music. Students stop drawing and pass their picture to the person to the left of them in the circle. Play the music again and they continue with the drawing the person next to them had started. Stop the music again, pass pictures on and this continues until the end of the song.

When you have finished each student will have a picture that several students contributed to. Then it's up to you what to do with the pictures. They can be used to describe to the group, to write a story about, or to pretend they were a dream the student had last night. The rest of the class can try to analyze the meaning of the dream. Use different types of music to get different types of pictures..

Change places if… This is a TPR activity with students in a closed circle, with the teacher in the middle to begin the game. There should always be one less chair than participants. Depending on what you want to revise the teacher says, "Change places if …… you're wearing trainers." All students who are wearing trainers must stand up, and move to another chair and the teacher should sit on one of the recently vacated seats. The person left without a seat stays in the middle and gives the next command, "Change places if you …… like pizza" and so it goes on.

Young learners can get very excited, so be careful to incorporate this activity in the class at an appropriate time. It is a definitely a 'warmer' as opposed to a 'cooler' and may be better at the end of a class.

Picture consequences Each student needs a piece of paper and a pencil. Make sure students have their paper in portrait (not landscape) and ask students to draw a hat at the top in the middle. When they have finished they should draw two short lines to show where the head begins and then fold over the paper leaving only the two short lines showing. Students then pass the folded paper to their right and the teacher instructs them to draw a face and neck. Students fold, leaving the two lines of the neck peeping out from the fold. Instruct students to draw the body, to the waist. Fold and pass as before.

Then they draw to the knees, then fold and pass, then to the feet. It's important to tell students not to cheat and peep at the folded part of the body. That will spoil the fun! Students then unfold the paper and reveal the misfit type character they have created between them. Use the pictures to practice describing people, revise clothes vocabulary or to create role plays.

Written consequences

Similar to picture consequences in the way the activity is conducted but this one creates a story. At each stage, before folding and passing to the student on the right, give these instructions.

1) Write the name of a man. It can be a famous man or a man everyone in the class knows. (Depending on the group, allow them to put the names of class mates)

2) Write the name of a woman. It can be a famous woman or a woman everyone in the class knows. (Depending on the group, allow them to put the names of class mates)

3) Write the name of a place where the two people meet.

4) When they meet, he says something to her. What does he say?

Students write what he says to her.

5) She replies to the man. What does she say?

6) What's the consequence of this encounter? What happens?

7) What's the opinion of the whole story. What does the world say as a comment?

The end result is a mixed up story that can often be amusing. Read yours as an example of how you want the students to tell the story.

Then invite students one by one to unfold their stories and read them to the group. Depending on the level you can encourage use of connectors, reported speech etc.

Creative activities and crafts are an important part of general curriculum, aimed at developing hand-eye coordination. It is also an excellent opportunity for some real communication in English which should not be missed if you play a tape of songs in English for the children to work to, you will be surprised how much goes in subconsciously. Make puppets, masks, grow seeds with keeping records, make books and postcards. Products should be model ones; don’t consider handicrafts not your domain – teach for excellence.

Project work for young learners:

1. interviewing each other (statistics) – what one eats, drinks, how often does he watch TV, etc.

2. making a collage;

3. salad day (meals);

4. looking for traces of a foreign language in your country (city)

Language portfolios for young learners: they are aimed at constructing an opportunity for a child to assess his progress and feel responsible for it; a portfolio includes 3 sections: + the foreword which includes an autobiographic page (one’s photo, home address).

First section – linguistic passport (languages which I know, + experience in using the languages: read posters, watched TV, listened to the radio, read books, etc. Section Two is ‘My Progress’; here kids are given evaluation scales for Breakthrough, Waystage and Threshold, which are marked in different colours. Third section – ‘My Saving Bank’ is a special folder where kids store their products – flashcards, written works, pictures, letters and tests. The last page is meant for the language instructor and is filled in when the kid leaves junior grades or is transferred. Here the teacher marks what curricular and textbooks were used in training and how well formed the skills are (with his signature, date and seal). Work at the language portfolio should be started in the second grade; mostly kids work at their ‘Saving Bank’. 1-2 sections are started in the third grade; 1-2 classes per ‘quarter’ are enough to update the portfolio; evidently, it is not to be a hometask.


1. Answer: How should one work with interview grids?

What project tasks are recommended for young learners?

2. At the lesson we should recycle a) language; b) materials; c) both.

3. Enumerate qualities of young learners which testify for their readiness for ELT.

4. Name 3 useful activities for flashcards.




1. Answer: which course-packs are approved for young learners in this country?

What is the structure of language portfolio for young learners?

2. When instructing, we should focus on a) content; b) attitude goals more;

3. Enumerate main principles of planning a class for young learners.

4. Name three circle games for young learners.




1. Answer: How should one work with interview grids?

What project tasks are recommended for young learners?

2. At the lesson we should recycle a) language; b) materials; c) both.

3. Enumerate qualities of young learners which testify for their readiness for ELT.

4. Name 3 useful activities for flashcards.



1. Answer: which course-packs are approved for young learners in this country?

What is the structure of language portfolio for young learners?

2. When instructing, we should focus on a) content; b) attitude goals more;

3. Enumerate main principles of planning a class for young learners.

4. Name three circle games for young learners.




1. Answer: How should one work with interview grids?

What project tasks are recommended for young learners?

2. At the lesson we should recycle a) language; b) materials; c) both.

3. Enumerate qualities of young learners which testify for their readiness for ELT.

4. Name 3 useful activities for flashcards.




1. Answer: which course-packs are approved for young learners in this country?

What is the structure of language portfolio for young learners?

2. When instructing, we should focus on a) content; b) attitude goals more;

3. Enumerate main principles of planning a class for young learners.

4. Name three circle games for young learners.



Date: 2015-02-16; view: 1146

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