Published 22nd May 2018

excited young learners in a classroom

Young Learners are cute, adorable, precious – until you put them in a classroom! Then they become little firecrackers just waiting to go off! Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Young Learners brings with it a host of challenges but also a load of rewards.

Probably one of the most difficult parts of teaching Young Learners is keeping their attention. Children have short attention spans and need activities which are short, sweet and, above all, interesting. Once you have their attention, it’s a whole ‘other ball game to maintain that attention.

Four ways to keep young learners interested

Have a routine

Children thrive on predictability. That may sound like a killer of fun, but in fact it works wonders for motivation. Young Learners need to know when they are starting an activity, what that activity will entail and what is expected of them. If they know there is storytelling first thing in the morning, they can prepare themselves mentally for how they should act and react.


Your Young Learners may lose concentration if they don’t understand the activity or are not sure what to do. They may struggle to understand instructions and may not be able to ask for clarification. Take your time when introducing an activity and make sure all your learners understand each step before moving on to the next one. Use images and physical demonstrations to supplement verbal instructions. This is another reason routine works well. If your lessons follow a routine your learners will already know what to do because they will have done it before.

Plan your lessons smartly

Young Learners are easily distracted if they are tired or hungry. When planning your lessons bear in mind the time of day of the lesson. An activity before lunch may need to be active and high energy to keep their minds off their hungry tummies. Activities after lunch (or naptime) can be quieter and more studious. At the end of the day you may need to be more lenient and easygoing to take into account the fact that they are probably tired.

Keep their age in mind

If you notice that it is just one child that is misbehaving or being distracted, consider the student as an individual. Maybe that particular Young Learner didn’t sleep well the night before, is not feeling well or needs to go to the bathroom. Deal with that student on an individual basis to prevent them from being a distraction to other students.

Young Learners are at a distinct advantage when it comes to learning a language in terms of their age. Young Learners are sponges who will readily absorb language during your lessons. Being young does have its limitations, though, so be sure to bear those in mind when teaching a Young Learner classroom.