Published 27th November 2017

In many TEFL jobs you may be required to teach English as a Foreign Language to Young Learners. Young Learners are learners who are younger than 15 years of age. If you have never had any experience teaching Young Learners (and if you don’t have any kids of your own!) you may be a bit daunted by the challenge, but there is so much information available on teaching Young Learners that if you do some background reading – or even a course on Young Learners – you will soon feel more comfortable with the challenge.

As is always the case in TEFL, if you do some research before you tackle a new TEFL situation, you will be better prepared and more effective. To get you started, here are a few terms you may come across when preparing to teach a Young Learner classroom.

Stirrers and Settlers

A Young Learner classroom needs to have a variety and action. Activities need to be varied and there needs to be plenty of them. Stirrers are activities which will wake your students up and get them excited and active. Settlers are activities which calm students down and prepare them to focus and concentrate. Your lessons should have both stirrers and settlers as they are both needed at different stages of the lesson for different purposes.


CLIL is Content and Language Integrated Learning, which basically means teaching a subject through English. Some schools adopt CLIL by utilising a bilingual approach to education, in that entire subjects – such as Science or History – are taught in English, while others prefer to introduce CLIL lessons into their English lessons. Either way, CLIL provides a great way to incorporate a language focus into a lesson which otherwise deals with a specific subject-related topic.


Scaffolding is the support given to students to help them achieve a task. Instead of a teacher explaining exactly how to complete a task, scaffolding gives the learners help but lets them accomplish the task on their own. With Young Learners, it is useful to provide a lot of scaffolding in the beginning but provide less and less scaffolding as they become more independent.


Gamification means making learning activities more like games to maintain interest. Turning class activities into competitions encourages learner participation and increases motivation, especially for Young Learners. Bear in mind, this is not the same as just playing games in the classroom (though that can also have its place).

Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is something we should encourage in our Young Learners. A growth mindset means not freaking out over your mistakes but rather realising that you can learn from them. It means understanding that success is not only based on talent but also on hard work and determination. Encouraging a growth mindset will give confidence to our Young Learners so they are not afraid to speak up even if they may make a mistake, and they won’t get too demotivated if they do badly on a test.

These are just a few terms you will hear when you are immersing yourself in the world of teaching English as a Foreign Language to Young Learners. Hopefully you will find teaching Young Learners to be a fun and enriching experience.