Published 4th September 2017

Being an EFL teacher can mean many different things. You may find yourself teaching Beginner adults, teenagers, Advanced learners or businessmen and –women. One very common situation when teaching English abroad is teaching English as a foreign language to Young Learners.

Who exactly are Young Learners?

Young Learners are learners who are younger than 13 years of age. Young Leaners can be as young as two years old. As you can imagine, teaching Young Learners is a different kettle of fish to teaching any other age group.

How to teach English as a foreign language to Young Learners

If you have any experience teaching Young Learners or working with children, then you will already have an idea of how to tackle this age group. Teaching such young learners involves much more than teaching the language. Rather, you will be focussing a lot on managing their behaviour and helping their development. Plus, you will need to consider their social, emotional and physical developmental stages as well.

How Young Learners are different to other learners

  • Young Learners have short attention spans, so as the TEFL teacher you need to plan and be prepared for a range of different activities. These activities should be short and involve all the different senses.
  • Young Learners cannot be as autonomous as older learners so they will need to be closely monitored and assisted in all the activities.
  • Young Learners enjoy songs and playing games. Being an EFL teacher of Young Learners means being very energetic and creative.
  • With Young Learner classes, you don’t have the safety of being able to closely follow a textbook. Instead you will need to come up with interesting and engaging ways to expose the learners to the language.

How to keep young students focused when teaching English

Possibly the most important aspect of teaching English as a foreign language to young students is being able to balance entertaining the students and carrying out effective lessons. Luckily, if you are teaching English abroad there is a high chance that you will have the benefit of a teaching assistant or a partner teacher who will be able to help you maintain order in the classroom during the lessons. This is essential to be able to focus on the language when necessary.

Having said that, there is huge scope in the Young Learner classroom for fun and games and ensuring that your students are interested in and excited by what they are doing is sure to maintain their focus. If you find you are losing interest and their attention is waning, you can move swiftly on to appropriate stirrer or settler activities to energise them or calm them.

Teaching English abroad can often involve teaching Young Learners. If you don’t have any experience with Young Learners it can be quite a daunting task having twenty innocent faces hanging on your every word, but if you understand them for who they are and what they are capable of, you will be able to help them learn English and have fun at the same time.