Published 12th October 2015


Let’s face it: we’re not all cut out to be Young Learner teachers. Young Learners are a special breed of learner and it takes a special kind of teacher to not only deal with them and their snot noses, temper tantrums and clinginess, but to do so effectively. However, we can’t all be picky and choosy when it comes to our classes so, like it or not, you can almost be guaranteed that at some point in your career you will be teaching “a-is-for-apple”.

Fear not, for there is a whole bag of tricks which will equip even the most child-allergic teacher with the skills to carry out entertaining and fun lessons without losing the will to live. So, here we are, activities for Young Learners:

  • Simon Says – no need for explanation, this childhood staple is great for teaching action words, body parts or parts of the classroom.
  • Musical Flashcards – be prepared for tears when the last learner to reach the correct flashcard is out.
  • Fishing – watch your Young Learners struggle with their co-ordination as they try to “catch” the correct flashcard with “fishing rods” (magnets tied to sticks).
  • Sleeping Tiger – popular in Asia, the “tiger”, aka you, the teacher, sleeps on top of a row of flashcards or realia while your Young Learners try to sneak up on you to steal them from you before you chase them away. Random stretches, movements and general tiger noises are much appreciated.
  • Memory Game – with the always-useful flashcards or smaller cut-out cards.

As you can see from the nature of these games, any activity that involves movement, colour and/or music is going to be a winner. Children don’t like to sit still for very long, unless they are doing an amazing colouring-in picture, jigsaw puzzle or fun worksheet. Even the older Young Learners enjoy doing more than talking, so think of some arts and crafts to bring into your lessons. Let your students be active and have fun, but at the same time make sure there is a language element to it and not just fun and games which they can do anywhere. Luckily, incorporating language into Young Learner classes is not difficult, as it is mostly vocabulary-based.

So, while dealing with Young Learners can be exhausting, it can also be a lot of fun. Think back to your own childhood and you probably already have a stash of games which can be adapted into language learning activities.