Starters – Listening Part 4 – FRUIT!

Language exams can be taken at pretty much any age possible – very young learners included! There are many opinions for and against examining children. Some people believe that we need to prepare to take exams early on, and get ready for the adult world, filled with examinations, courses and certificates. Others believe that children shouldn’t be subjected to this type of stress and all YL education should be done through playtime and games. In my opinion, we should have the best of both worlds, and the Starters Cambridge exam proves that it’s possible to test the language level of young learners while keeping it light and fun.

Before I moved onto the digital world of teaching and started focusing on teenagers and adults, I used to teach (very) young learners in person. My groups were divided into Cambridge levels – Starters, Movers and Flyers. At the end of every trimester, I had to deliver a personalised assessment of each student, all of it supported by their final score for the Cambridge mock exam. Based on their final results, I decided which student could take the official Cambridge exam and move to a higher-level group.

For this reason, we used Cambridge exam preparation coursebooks (Fun for Starters) and Cambridge past papers. The exams are simple and relatively fun, for example, there are anagrams in the reading exam and lots of colouring in the listening exam. My favourite part of the Starters exam is Listening Part 4. I always enjoyed my students at the highest concentration levels, looking for the right colours as if their lives depended on it!

I have been working on exam-style vocabulary worksheets for Starters for some time now. When I saw free Starters Practice Papers 2 with a perfect Listening Part 4 activity, I decided to finally use my worksheets and prepare an exam preparation lesson plan for VYL.

Head to the end of the post to get a free set of worksheets focusing on fruit, or go to my TpT store to get the full version, including sixteen words related to fruit and vegetables.

Download the fruit flashcards, print them out, and if possible, laminate them! Hide the fruit flashcards/realia around the classroom. Tell students that there are eight fruits hidden in the room. Students walk around and find them. As they give them back to you, ask them to repeat their names after you. Ask them to sit down and repeat the new vocabulary after you. Finish by showing the flashcards for a split second. Students say the fruit they think they saw. Then, place flashcards on the floor and say the name of the fruit. Students race to touch the correct flashcard. You can change instructions to touch the fruit of a particular colour.

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Time for a settler. Hand out anagram worksheets. Students order the letters and write the names of fruits. You can put the flashcards on the board to help them with the spelling and the letter shape. Follow this activity by completing a picture dictionary. Students cut out the pictures of fruit and stick them on top of the corresponding names. It’s also a good activity to practise reading aloud.

It’s time to prepare students for the listening part of the lesson. Give each student five coloured pineapples (green, purple, orange, blue, red). If you have more time, you can ask students to colour them instead. Say the colour of the pineapple and ask students to put them in different places, for example, Put the orange pineapple under the table. This exercise should serve as a revision of colours, prepositions of place and prepare students to follow instructions correctly.

Students come back to their places. Hand out the Cambridge Starters Listening Part 4. Before you start the task, ask them to name all the fruits that they can see. Count all the pineapples and elicit where they are. You can also ask them about the colour of the pineapple on the clock. Students take out their coloured pencils. Play the recording and give them time to colour the pineapples as instructed by the recording. Check and correct the answers.

Finish by asking students to stand in line. Stand in front of your students, facing them. Show the flashcards of fruit and repeat their names. Ask if students like that fruit or not. If they do, they run to the right, if not, they run to the left. Clean the working stations and give some time to pack the backpacks. Before leaving the classroom, show a flashcard to each student and elicit vocabulary. If the answer is correct, they can leave.

If you enjoyed my idea for the listening part 4 lesson, click the files below to get your copies. If you want the full version, or worksheets focusing on another vocabulary (body parts, domestic animals, wild animals and food), go to my TpT store.

Click below to get the full versions of the full version of the worksheets for Starters (Fruit and Vegetables).

What fills your heart?

The day of love is swiftly coming our way and there’s no way but celebrate it – especially with the young students! The trick is that young learners don’t think about love romantically, and I think that there is no better day to show them that there are so many different types of love. All need to be celebrated equally.

A year ago, I entered my Movers class and asked them if they were excited about the upcoming Valentine’s Day. To my surprise, they couldn’t care less and were almost disgusted by it. That’s because they thought about it as a holiday you celebrate with your boyfriend/girlfriend. I couldn’t disagree more! I started researching activities that we could do to celebrate this occasion and take some rest from the coursebook. Let me show you a few of the activities that we did that day, and let’s hope that they’ll serve as inspiration for your classes this year.

The mystery sentence

This activity can be done in person, online, or hybrid. Show students a mystery picture covered by fifteen numbered boxes. Each box has a Valentine’s Day vocabulary definition attached to it. If students answer correctly, click on the box to remove it. You can make it into a game by dividing students into pairs or small groups. The first group to decipher the mystery sentence hiding behind the picture wins!

If you want to make this game a bit more random, you can put the numbers on a wheel of fortune (Wheel of names is an excellent and free online tool to do that), or cut them out and put the numbers in a box, so the students have no way of choosing the number they want! You can also keep a tally of correct answers and determine the winner in this way.

You can follow up this activity with a short discussion on Valentine’s Day. Ask about the date when we celebrate this day and what we normally do (give presents or flowers, say I love you to people we love, spend this day with people we care about). Ensure that students understand that this is the day to show our appreciation for everyone and everything we love.

Match the halves of broken hearts

You can do this activity after the first one, or it can be a stand-alone exercise. Print out the worksheet with pictures of broken hearts on it. Each piece has a part of a word that needs to be matched with the other half. Cut them out and give them to each student or pair. Students put the words together and glue them in an appropriate order. If they love arts and crafts, they can also colour and decorate their hearts. Additionally, you can ask them to put them in alphabetical order before sticking them onto the paper.

Reinforce the meanings of the words by filling the gaps in the sentences with these words. Students work individually and write down the words. Practise reading and pronunciation while checking the answers. Optionally, ask your students to write two or three other sentences if you feel that they need some more writing practice.

What fills your heart?

As I said before, I wanted to prove to my students that Valentine’s Day isn’t only about a romantic type of love. After endless research for the perfect activity, I found a Heart Map Writing Activity by Elisabeth Montgomery. Click the link to download the worksheet for free! You can approach this activity in a few ways, depending on how much time you’ve got on your hands.

  1. Print out My Heart Maps and in each piece write things that they love (people, things, animals, activities, places, etc.) Anything that comes to their minds! Students draw the things and decorate the hearts.
  2. Print out My Heart Maps and cut out the pieces. Each student receives nine pieces of the heart and writes down in each one the things they love. Once everyone completes the writing part, ask them to put the puzzle together in the shape of the heart. Students put the puzzle and glue it onto a separate piece of paper. Complete the project by drawing the things they love and decorating their hearts.
  3. If you work online, you can create a google drive document, or a jamboard and put the name of each student on top of each slide. Students write the things they love and decorate their hearts by drawing them or finding appropriate pictures on the internet and pasting them onto their hearts.

The PDF by Elisabeth Montgomery also gives a short follow-up idea for a writing activity. Students write a few sentences describing people, things, places and activities they drew in their Heart Maps. Monitor the activity and help with any grammar problems. You can finish the class by displaying their Map Hearts and writings.

Last year, I was teaching a hybrid class, so I had to approach it a bit differently. Firstly, I drew a big heart on the board and asked students what fills their hearts. I collected their answers and wrote them inside of the heart. Then I asked them to personalize their projects. My in-class students got a printed out version of the heart, pencils, crayons and markers to write down their words and decorate the hearts. My online students (I had two at the time), were shown a presentation split into two parts. Each part had a heart on one side and their names on top to avoid confusion. They used an annotation tool on Zoom to write the things and then drew and coloured each part.

All the activities can be downloaded directly from this post or the Teachers pay teachers store – Valentine’s Day – a set of three activities and Valentine’s Day – A mystery sentence PPT.

Here are some ideas that you can use in your young learners class! Your kids will definitely appreciate a much-needed break from using their textbooks and thinking about what they truly love and enjoy in their lives. How are you going to celebrate Valentine’s Day in your class?

The horror of teaching Young Learners

I feel like this post needs a little disclaimer, so here it goes. Disclaimer: all the stories and opinions written below are my own and come from my personal experience teaching in Spain. Teaching (very) young learners can be rewarding and a lot of fun, but it’s not for everyone! We need to remember that even the youngest students are still students, should be treated with respect and be surrounded by professionals who know how to give them what they need.

Teaching young learners comes with a stigma. During my time teaching ESL in Spain, I have met only ONE person who truly loved teaching young learners. All the other teachers treated those lessons as a chore, this thing that you do twice a week and forget about it as soon as it ends. This thing that you don’t teach – you survive.

I’m not proud to say this, but I was the same. When I first started teaching ESL, I was excited to teach English to adults and teenagers. I was able to discuss many things, play adult games, joke around…with kids it was a different story. Every week, I struggled thinking about the types of activities we could do. I tried to keep it fresh and entertaining, bring a lot of games, research crafts that we could do as a group. I spent hours looking for the perfect tasks. There were times when all my efforts paid off, and the students loved everything we did. However, more often than not, that just wasn’t the case, and I’d finish the class feeling disappointed and stressed thinking about next week. I had six hours teaching non-stop, starting with a group of VYL and ending with adults, and I’d always tell myself, If you survive the first hour, the rest will be a breeze.

I tried to think of the reasons why I felt this way and different ways in which I could improve. Here are some things that came to my mind.

Going outside your comfort zone

I think that this sentiment is shared by so many of my fellow ESL teachers for one common reason – language academies expect ESL teachers to go out of their comfort and expertise zones. I can’t think of a situation in which a public school teacher has such a variety of students, level and age-wise. A kindergarten teacher focuses on VYL, and a high school teacher deals with teenagers. Then why do ESL teachers need to know how to cater for 3 year-olds and an hour later have a business class? One hour you do the Hockey-Pokey and the next you discuss the socio-economic problems of your country.

I remember having a YL class sandwiched in between two adult lessons. Let me tell you, that wasn’t fun. I’d quite literally roll on the floor with the kids, dust off my pants, fix my hair and suddenly act all professional. It was ridiculous. I asked my boss if I could wear more comfortable clothes for the YL classes and I wasn’t allowed to do that, because I had an adult class right after and there was no time to change. Plus, when we did crafts…let’s not talk about the chaotic cleanup and table moving.

I understand that ESL teachers often need to educate themselves on different topics, sometimes the ones that they’re not even interested in, just to provide a topical and engaging class. But this seems to be somewhat extensive, hence mentally exhausting.

Hiring non-professionals to teach children

Another thing that quite literally drives me crazy, is hiring non-professionals to teach young learners. I’m CELTA certified and feel best surrounded by students aged 12 years old and up. However, there is a belief that adult students need to be treated with respect and require a professional (at least professional-looking) teacher to keep them satisfied. The children don’t need that because they don’t know any better.

I strongly believe that kids need to be in the presence of a professionally trained teacher more than adults for many different reasons. First of all, children may need your assistance with most basic tasks like going to the toilet. In my first year of teaching, I had a group of eleven 3 year-olds, and at least two of them had to go and usually needed me to help them out. This meant that I had to leave the other children alone in the class while assisting the one child (I didn’t have an assistant).

Secondly, I knew how to plan an engaging lesson for adults, but I struggled with thinking of new ideas for the children. I was aware that they needed a lot of repetition, so I’d start every class with vocabulary revision. However, I couldn’t think of any new material, which kept me busy all weekends, researching and worrying about the classes. On the flip side, once I got more comfortable, I found a bunch of useful websites that provide ready lessons plans and games. I frequently visited ESL Kids Stuff which offers over 60 free lessons plans! WOW English YouTube channel has many interesting ideas for classroom games. I always tried to use some of their activities to make my classes more engaging and fun. If you spend some time going over their videos, you’ll find some gems that became my all-time favourite.

Another issue is that children often can’t control their behaviour and you need to know how to deal with it. This problem doesn’t come up (at least not that often) in adult classes. I believe that going to university and learning about the psychology, emotions and behaviour of children is difficult to learn on your own. There are so many different tricks that you are taught when you are prepared to work with kids. It’s something that only professionals can control.

Dealing with the parents

The behaviour problems tie in nicely with building a healthy relationship with the parents. In my opinion, constantly reporting about the classes is possibly one of the worst parts of teaching YLs. Parents will be always watching you and getting information on you. It can be a bit annoying, but my advice is to introduce yourself on the first day and get used to talking to them regularly. Once the parents see that the kids are comfortable around you, you are golden. I had a great relationship with all of the parents of my students. It wasn’t an easy task and I put a lot of effort into this, but it was worthwhile.

I was worried that if there were any problems, I’d be the one to blame. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Well, it became an issue only once. I was a short-term substitute in a private school and got to teach a group of VYLs. The kids behaved well with one exception. One of the students didn’t want to participate and made it clear by screaming and hitting everyone around. One time she just got up and ran outside of the classroom. I was shocked and frankly, didn’t know what to do. I told the kids to stay where they were and ran after her. I managed to catch her and in return, she bit me. I immediately called the coordinator and reported this. After the class, I went to speak to her father who didn’t scold her just said Oh, Maria! You can’t bite people! And that’s it. The problem wasn’t solved, and from what I heard she bit the coordinator, too. Just on a different day. It was just a one-time thing, but it left me mentally scarred (physically, I was okay).

Non-natives to teach children

I’m very sad to say this, but I have noticed this pattern and was affected by it, too. Native speakers (even those without any experience or qualifications) are given more advanced classes, while certified non-natives get to teach the kids because, as I said before, the children don’t know any better. Just have a class and then do some crafts. It’s good enough.

Being close

Children need to be close to other people, and you need to be ready for that. Mentalize that kids may randomly hug you, will try to sit on your lap and at times try to kiss you! It happens a lot, especially in Spain. My advice is to go with it, obviously don’t cross any lines, but don’t make it weird either. Kids don’t see it as a bad thing. They get to spend two hours a week with you, they have fun with you and want you to know that you matter to them.

As I mentioned before, I assisted children in the toilet. I didn’t think it was a part of my job, but at the same time, I didn’t mind that. However, one of my colleagues felt it was wrong and refused to do that, to avoid any problems. To that I say, it’s only weird because you make it weird. Act cool and everything’s going to be fine. If it worries you that much, maybe talk about it with your DOS or the parents.

Learning how to plan for YL

I have talked about this before in Is it possible to plan for very young learners. Planning for kids is so much different from planning for adults. For starters, you need to over-plan just in case. Children will give you immediate feedback on any activity they love or hate. And oh boy, if they hate what they are doing, it feels awful. Especially, if you had spent hours thinking about it. However, you need to go with the flow and adapt your plans as you go. With adults, the situation is a bit different, as they normally won’t complain to you about an activity that turned out to be a flop. It makes it a bit less stressful.

It’s good to prepare a range of activities, a mix of stirrers and settlers, to give the appropriate amount of stimulus for YL to learn. It’s good to have some reading and colouring time, mixed in with some singing and dancing, maybe some crafts, followed by some kinesthetic tasks. It’s a journey, but the truth be told, a successful YL class will pass quicker than you expect! And if you over-plan, don’t worry about it. You can use those activities in the next class.

Lack of resources

Once I had it all figured out and I knew how to prepare a class for the YLs, other problems started showing up. One of them was a lack of resources. I needed plenty of materials to make classes engaging and memorable. Unfortunately, I was teaching in a village that was far away from the academy (where all the resources were), so if I had to improvise, I couldn’t. I started buying a lot of materials and paying for them out of my pocket, a practice that I don’t do anymore. So if you ever find yourself teaching children, ask for the basics – coloured paper, crayons, markers, glue, scissors, pencils and rubbers. That’s the minimum that you need to have!

Despite all the negatives, teaching YLs can be very satisfying. Once you get to know the little ones, they will show you affection and gratitude like no one else. I can’t tell you the number of drawings and little gifts I received over my time teaching kids. Plus the biggest advantage of teaching children is the fact that you can go completely crazy, let loose and play so many cool games that you are otherwise too old to play!

If you feel like you need more practice on teaching YLs, you should look into IH Certificate in Teaching Young Learners and Teenagers. I haven’t done it myself, but I heard that it’s quite useful. You learn some theory and at the same time, you are being assessed on your teaching. You finish the course with a certificate that will give you leverage when looking for new jobs. Remember that in Spain, ESL teachers will have to teach YLs 99% of the time!

The Christmas Countdown

If you live and teach in one of the European countries, it’s almost impossible to avoid Christmas-themed lessons. A year ago, when I worked at an academy in Alicante, I was asked to prepare a short Christmas video or project with some of my younger groups. With my Movers group (ages 7-9), we spent about 5 or 6 hours talking about Christmas and preparing for the big video.

Children love Christmas, and no matter how much you try to avoid it, you will have to devote some time to it. What’s a better joy than counting down the days to Christmas? I thought that maybe it’s possible to keep this holiday excitement while learning English. Why don’t you try using an advent calendar that helps you focus on different exercises in each class?

In this free to download version, there are four classroom activities, each one of them written down on a festive card. You can either print out the numbers and glue them to the back of the cards, or you can put them in festive envelopes! If you have a Christmas tree in your classroom, you can hang them and remove one card daily! Ask your students to uncover the task at the beginning of the class and follow this Christmas activity.

As mentioned before, there are four different festive tasks. Let me present them to you and give you my idea of how to use them in class.

Write a letter to Santa

There is no better way of starting December than thinking about the presents! You can ask the kids whether they’ve been naughty or nice this year. If they believe that they’ve been nice, elicit what kind of good things they’ve done. Think of a list of good deeds and move on to the fun part – the presents. You can then put the letters in the envelopes and send them to the North Pole!

Read a Christmas story

Ask your students to read this Christmas classic written by Clement Clark Moore. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is an interesting choice, but fit it to your kids’ needs and abilities. If you find it to be too long, use only one page and move on! Another way of using this poem is asking your students to work in groups and fill in the gaps with the missing words. You can also try choral reading to keep everyone engaged in the activity. The poem is well-known, so you may also want to use a recording to listen to someone else reading it while filling out the missing words.

Make a Christmas ornament

Your classes shouldn’t be only about learning. Aim to bring the students closer together and build a good classroom community. It’s as necessary as studying! Let each of your students choose one out of six available patterns and give them the freedom to decorate them. If you bring markers and glitter, then you can count on having a great time. In the end, decorate your Christmas tree or a classroom. Students love seeing their projects on display.

Listen to Christmas carols

I chose my all-time favourite kids Christmas carol – Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. First, ask the students to match the vocabulary with the pictures to make sure that everyone knows what words we are looking for. Once everyone is clear, use these words to fill in the gaps while listening to the song. Play this Christmas carol, write the missing words and if you have some more time or need to record a video – why don’t you learn it and perform it for the parents?

Here are some of my ideas for an ESL Christmas advent calendar for kids. It’s easy, low-prep, and most importantly, your YL will love choosing the numbers and seeing what kind of fun surprise they’ve got ahead of them. If you are an after-school ESL teacher with two hours a week, this should give you content for two weeks of classes! If you are looking for something longer and more engaging, head to my TpT store to download the full version with eight more activities and over 60 pages of PDF. The activities include the four previously explained and additionally, the Christmas alphabet, solve and create a Christmas jigsaw, design your perfect gingerbread house, write and design a Christmas card, write a Christmas cookie recipe, roll and colour the ornaments, watch and answer questions about Frosty the Snowman and design and hang your own Christmas stocking!

How are you going to celebrate ESL Christmas this year? Click below to download four activities for free!

Adapting lesson plans to other levels

I used to work at an academy that required all plans to be posted onto the server by Monday. At first, it’s fine, you do it, full of energy and happiness. However, then comes the time when you reach the limit and you start thinking about how you can prepare one lesson plan that can be used for different levels.

It starts to resemble an investigation board. You think about the topics that you can teach at the same time, the activities that you need to tweak just a bit to have a good fit for the other group and the worksheets that need little to no changes. My last post focused on Compound Words for Starters. Using this plan, I would like to show what changes need to be made for Starters (A1), Mover (A1+) and Flyers (A2) levels.

Let’s start with a list of things that needs to be taken into consideration while adjusting lesson plans.

Age

Starters are the youngest ones and they are normally between 4-6 years old. Movers are the transitioning period with 7-9 years old and Flyers are the oldest ones with 10-12 years old. Remember that this is just a rule of thumb and the age can vary. Based on the age you need to choose appropriate activities for each group. That means that Starters and Movers will be very excited about colouring meanwhile, Flyers may already ask for a different type of activity.

Motor skills

It’s perfectly fine to add cutting and glueing to your lesson plan for Starters. It’s a type of activity that allows them to follow English instructions while developing their motor skills. It’s also a type of activity that will take some time to be completed. Movers may also be interested in this activity but it will be done in a much shorter time. You shouldn’t really bother Flyers with their motor skills development. They may find this activity fun but in small doses.

Energy level

Starters will be hyped up and need to run around, jump, dance and sing. Movers have a very similar level of energy (at least in my experience) and may actually enjoy some of the similar activities. Flyers are more relaxed and can sit down for a longer period of time. They may enjoy a kinetic activity every now and then but they do not like to sweat.

Reading and writing skills

When choosing activities for the little ones, it’s best to limit reading activities to a minimum. I like to ask them to read the tasks or flashcard names but longer pieces of reading will put them off. Movers on the other hand are quite excited about reading (especially role-play comics). However, limit the tasks to a minimum as reading can be quite tiring in big amounts. In my opinion, a text with fives sentences should be more than enough. Flyers are perfectly fine with longer texts. They may not enjoy them but they can do longer pieces of reading without any issues.

The same goes for writing. My group of Starters only started enjoying writing in the second semester when they got a bit more familiar with the letters. Even then, there are plenty of errors and they need help with showing them how certain letters look like, so limit writing to one-word answers. Movers can write well! They will take their time to show you their calligraphy but you can already ask for one-sentence answers. Flyers have no problems with writing but just like with reading, you may hear complaints.

Okay, so now let’s look at three different lesson plan outlines depending on the level you’re teaching.

STARTERSMOVERSFLYERS
Lead in: Draw a picture of a raincloud and a bow in a form of a math equation. Elicit the words and put them together to make a rainbow. Draw a rainbow and revise colours.Lead in: Students read a short text with compound words. Highlight one word and divide it into two separate words (e.g. ____ + ____ = rainbow). Following this example, students work in pairs to find more compound words.Lead in: Read a short text containing compound words. Tell students that in this text there are 8 words that have something in common. Students work in pairs to find the common factor. If it’s too difficult you can give a hint until students know what they are looking for.
Song: As a part of revision you can sing a song about a rainbow or maybe you can find a song about compound words to introduce your students to the topic.Vocabulary revision: Students use the words from reading to label the pictures.Teach compound words: Explain the meaning of compound words. Students write and divide the words into two single words. The activity ends with students naming these words.
Flashcards: Take flashcards of two words that make compound words and revise them. This is a form of vocabulary revision. Use 6 separate words that make 3 compound words.Teach compound words: Explain the meaning of compound words. Students divide the words into two separate words.Vocabulary revision: Students use the words from reading to label the pictures.
Teach compound words: Take the flashcards and put two words together. Following the lead in, display the words on the board in the form of a math equation.Flashcard game: Do it in pairs and treat it like a competitive activity. Students get flashcards of compound words and single words. Students race to put two words and the compound word they make. Additionally, you can ask them to match pictures with labels.Flashcard game: Do it in pairs and treat it like a competitive activity. Students get flashcards of compound words and single words. Students race to put two words and the compound word they make. Additionally, you can ask them to match pictures with labels.
Follow instructions: Ask your students to sit down and read short few words sentences. Students take turns reading instructions and colour the objects on the worksheet.Anagrams: Students solve the anagrams of single words.Anagrams: Students solve the anagrams of single words.
Match compound words: Using the coloured pictures, students draw arrows to match the words together. They can use the flashcards on the whiteboard to help them.Match compound words: Students match the words from the previous exercise and write them below corresponding pictures.Match compound words: Students match the words from the previous exercise and write them below corresponding pictures.
Writing practice: Students write three compound words and then draw the new words in the boxes.Optional video: Students watch a video on compound words and guess the words. Click here for an example of an interactive video.Writing practice: Students write five sentences using compound words.
Game: Play a memory game. You can preface this game by hiding the cards around the classroom and finding them to match them in pairs first. Put the cards face down and find pairs that make compound words.Game: Play a memory game. Put the cards face down and find pairs that together form compound words.Game: Play a memory game. Put the cards face down and find pairs that together form compound words.
Free time project: To help your students cool down, ask them to sit down and pick two words at random. Students write the words down and draw the new object.Free time project: Ask your students to sit down and pick two words at random. Students write the words down and draw the new object.Free time project: Ask your students to sit down and pick two words at random. Students write the words down and draw the new object.

As you can see a lot of the activities are the same and the only differences are the wordlists used for these exercises. Starters level reading is limited to reading and following instructions. Movers and Flyers start by reading a short text and in the case of Flyers, they are the ones who need to guess the topic of the class. It’ll make them a bit more excited about the reading exercise and will encourage them to read it more than once.

Another difference is in the teaching of compound words. The concept is introduced much later for Starters and Movers than for Flyers. Flyers also get a full explanation of compound words and will use this phrase in class.

Flashcards are used at all levels, but in the case of Starters and Movers, you can play certain flashcard games like flashcard race, jumping on named words or showing flashcards for split second to hear the pronunciation and check their understanding. In case of Flyers you can play games to put flashcards together in a form of math equations (____ + ___ = ____). This is enough to check their vocabulary knowledge.

It’s also a good idea to play a song or show a video of compound words. Starters and Movers will definitely enjoy that part of the class. Flyers may find it a bit childish and boring already. You can check their speaking and writing skills instead.

The common factor for all three levels are the memory card game and the final project. Even though Flyers aren’t very keen on drawing, they may find this task quite fun, especially if you stay away and let their creative juices flowing.

So as you can see, it’s possible to adapt the topic and certain activities across all the levels. You need to model your language accordingly and make sure that all the activities are age-appropriate. Below you can download the flashcards, memory cards and worksheets that you can use with three levels.

DISCLAIMER: Remember that these are only my suggestions for the activities and their order! It’s based on my experience with the young learners and depending on your students and their level you may use a completely different approach.

Compound words for Starters

If there is one thing that I enjoy teaching to my YL is definitely compound nouns. I like to think about them as two pieces of a jigsaw that when you put them together, you can create a new word. Here is a lesson plan and a set of worksheets that I came up with for Cambridge Starters.

It’s been some time since I posted a lesson plan for YL and this one feels more like a treat than a chore. I’ve made a list of 12 compound nouns that your little starters should know by the end of the course. All of the words were gathered from the official Cambridge wordlist for Starters. This is why this lesson plan is probably the best to do in the second year of teaching Starters or towards the end of the course when all the vocabulary is already presented.

This lesson consists of a lesson plan, compound nouns worksheet, compound nouns flashcards and a memory card game. All of them are available to download for free below at the end of the post. If you are interested in a complete set of worksheets on compound words for Starters, you can download them from my Teachers pay Teachers store.

The class can be started by drawing a raincloud and a bow. Students should be able to guess the meaning of the two words and put them together in a math equation style to create a rainbow. As a revision, you can play The rainbow song (or any other that your students are familiar with) and go over the colours. If you have more time to spend, you can ask your students to draw their own rainbows and decorate the classroom!

Then you can move on to the flashcards. There are so many different games that you can play with flashcards! My all-time favourite is starting by modelling and drilling the pronunciation. Then I move on to the flashcard flash race! I show the flashcards for less than one second at a time and my students need to race to name the flashcards in the shortest time possible. It is quite competitive so you must be careful and play it only with the kids who know how to lose.

The first game was without the compound words. Now you can add the compound words and using the math equations put two words that make the ultimate word. You can put these words on the board and either use the labels or label them yourself. This will be useful to have on display for the next part of the class.

Your students can sit down now for a bit and do just a little bit of reading and writing. The first exercise deals with reading instructions and colouring the objects accordingly. By using the example from the board (if necessary), ask your students to connect two words that make compound words. In the end, ask your students to write the new words and draw them!

Then it’s time for a stirrer! You can hide some of the memory cards and ask your students to walk around the classroom, find and name them. Just make sure that you didn’t lose any pieces along the way! (If you’re worried that this may happen, either skip this part or have a second set of cards on you.) Once all the cards are found, put them on a table or the floor face down. Now it’s time to play some memory. Students should match two words that make a compound noun. They’re colour-coded making it easier to locate and remember the cards.

The class ends with each student taking two words at random (flashcards or memory cards) and putting them together to make their own compound words that they can write down and draw! This can be a creative task that can yield interesting results worth sharing with the rest of the school.

Hope you enjoyed some of my ideas and you’ll find them helpful for your lesson on compound words. Click the link below to download the files for free. Happy teaching!

Is it possible to plan for very young learners?

So you’ve spent the whole weekend crafting an ideal plan for your young learners. You are confident and excited to have this class but the second you enter the classroom, you feel that something is off. Does it mean you’ve wasted your time?

I have immense admiration for all teachers who are truly passionate about working with (very) young children. They spend their entire days in a class full of energy and oh so many unexpected turns. I remember my first time teaching a group of eleven three-year-olds. I started off well, very hyped when suddenly everything collapsed. Until this day I don’t know what had happened. Needless to say, I left this classroom sweaty, exhausted and with the feeling that I don’t want to do this ever again.

I somehow managed to survive one full year teaching this group but the feeling of dread before every single class never changed. Luckily, it was only one year and since then I taught very young learners but in smaller groups and with more resources. This taught me one important thing – there’s a huge difference in class preparation between teenagers/adults and young learners!

Last week I talked about the importance of planning. While I still believe that it is important to at least think about your lessons, look at the textbooks, maybe prepare some CCQs and refresh some grammar points, I think that having a detailed plan for VYL doesn’t make much sense. Instead, we should have a general draft of the lesson that can be easily manipulated depending on how the lesson goes.

The reason for having an outline rather than a plan is that classes with young learners are a bit more unpredictable. I can think of so many times when all my kids got distracted so I had to scrap my plan and just go with the flow. To give you some examples of great distractions: a fallen and then lost tooth (we all had to go on a tooth search – without it, the Tooth Fairy wouldn’t come at night), a lost pencil (I tried giving one of my pencils but it just wasn’t the same), someone’s birthday (it doesn’t even have to be your student’s birthday, apparently a cousin’s birthday is as distracting), Halloween, Christmas, a car outside…or worst out of all of them – a boring activity.

Plan more than necessary

When you prepare an activity for a group of adults, even if it isn’t your best work, they’ll follow and most likely you won’t hear much complaining. In the case of VYL, you hear immediate feedback. Now it’s up to you to either listen to your learners and tweak the activity based on their likes or just abandon it altogether and move on to something else. For this reason, it is essential to plan more than necessary. Worst case scenario is that you used all your planned activities, the best case scenario – you have some ideas that you can use next time! Most importantly, don’t feel bad that your students don’t enjoy your task. It’s hard to predict a good activity, especially that the exact same one can work just fine some other day!

Create learning stations

On a similar note, imagine that you have a craft idea prepared but not everyone wants to do it. You have some kids who can’t wait to be a part of it and others who prefer something else. In the case of larger groups, you may benefit from creating learning stations. You can start by learning vocabulary and grammar together but then you can send your students to do the tasks that they enjoy at the moment. It requires a lot of preparation and you need to be everywhere at the same time but your students enjoy the class and that’s what matters the most.

Listen to your students

Now, hear me out. Sometimes your students enter the classroom and they know what they want to do. It’s normally a game or an activity that they’d done at school and enjoyed it. There are times that the ideas are not great but more often than not I learnt new games that I adapted to my lessons. At the end of the day, you show that you have trust and respect for your students as their opinion matters to you. The same goes for some of your activities. If the activity is a bit off and you can see that students don’t really enjoy it but have an idea how they can change it, then give it a go! You may have a hidden gem on your hands and you just need some courage to try it out. Again – if it’s not working, you can always stop it.

From the top of my head, I can think of one example from my own class. I wanted to do a flashcard race but the kids were not having it that day. Instead, they were really distracted by…chairs. So I got up and without saying anything, put the chairs in a straight line. This already created some interest and brought back attention to me. I asked them to form a queue and we had a crawling race. Students crawled under the chairs and named the flashcards that they found on their way. At the end of the task, I had reached my objective and everyone was happy (and a bit dusty but you can’t have it all…)

Have a treasure box

Let’s imagine that you came to the class really under planned and you are running low on activities and ideas. In that case, try to have something up your sleeve. Maybe there’s a game, a song, or a dance that your students really love and you don’t do that often. In general, keep the best and most exciting activities on the low, so when you do them, you immediately get everyone on board.

By no means I’m a (V)YL expert. These are only some of my thoughts and ideas based on observation and experimentation. Keep in mind that all the groups are different and that just because one activity didn’t work one day, it may work perfectly fine next time! My only advice is to keep the lesson planning as flexible as possible and most importantly just have fun with it!

What are your thoughts on teaching and planning for VYLs?

Creating a classroom community

There’s nothing better than having a group of students who enjoy each other’s company. On the first day it is essential to build a safe space and create the feeling of community.

Last year when I was combing through the internet for the perfect first class activity for young learners. I wanted something that will help them get to know me, at the same time demonstrating their speaking and grammar skills. I found a perfect activity on ESL Kid Stuff (a great website with so many lesson plans and a range of activities!) I decided to go through their intro lesson plans for kids aged 8-12 years old. One of the activities describes drawing a stickfigure and writing one word answers around it. The stickfigure is a representation of a teacher and the answers are basic facts about you!

I decided to take a spin on this activity. My end goal is to create an arts and crafts corner for my YL groups. Instead of drawing ourselves, students can trace their hands and write the answers to these questions inside! I think that it gives a personal touch to it and students will definitely look at their classmates’ projects at least to compare their hand sizes! It also gives a sense of belonging as you create something as a group and no one from outside of it is allowed to be a part of your little family.

You can start the class by drawing a big hand on the board (or use a ppt for online classes) with certain words written inside, as seen below.

An example of a handprint with information about me – the teacher.

Now students need to predict the questions to the answers – they are quite obvious, so focus on reviewing correct word order and tenses instead! You can even ask your young learners to come to the board and write them next to the corresponding fingers. I focused on name, age, birthday, favourite pet and colour, and best friend’s name. Of course, you can and maybe even should adapt the activity based on your group! I wanted to include the birthday dates as it may help you with planning a special activity, a song or a little gift for your little ones in the future.

At the end you can either decorate the hand on the board OR show them the real craft you’d done yourself prior. As it normally goes with the little ones, you have to do some of the crafts at home to show them the visual example. So trace your hand, write the answers to your questions and decorate it! If you know that at your academy/school there are plenty of materials that you can use (markers, stickers, glitter…) then of course, use them on your project. If not, better stay away from it. It’ll save you a lot of questions and comments about your materials.

Once everyone is done you can go around asking and answering the questions. At the end dedicate one section of your classroom just for this group and display their work! Young learners LOVE looking at their art and at the end of the year they will definitely want to take them down and keep it as a souvenir. It is also an incredible way to check their progress and physical development at the end of the year!

What do you think about my introduction craft? What do you normally do with your YL on the first day of school?

Creating routine

Are you a creature of habit? What about your students? As a teacher you don’t always have to surprise learners in fact many of them, especially the little ones, enjoy following certain routine.

You have probably realised that teaching is particularly difficult at the beginning of the school year. We all have to get to know each other, understand the way we communicate and establish our expectations. Students also need to learn about us, how we react to certain things, how we deal with new situations and, of course, what our classroom routine is.

There are so many ways in which you can start and end your class that it deserves it’s own post. I would like to focus on having certain routine that leads to culmination point at the end of the year.

I like to start my YL classes by asking about the date and the weather. It’s a great way to revise ordinal numbers, months, weather and season vocabulary. At first you should be the one asking all the questions, allow students to listen and get used to vocabulary. You may also want to write these questions down and keep them in sight. Collect the answers and write them down in the weather report worksheet (scroll down to download the file). Once everyone understands the task, you can nominate different students to ask, collect and write the answers for you! Make sure that everyone has equal opportunities to participate in this activity.

It is easy to have a routine without any end goal. The purpose of this lesson is to change it into something useful, make your students feel that everything you do in class is well-thought, organised and memorable. This lesson is fairly easy and is mostly student-centred. You can download the lesson plan and the weather report worksheet at the end of the post!

Start by drawing a circle and writing the first letters of the months. Allow your students to guess the topic of the class and figure out the meaning of the words. Once you have the answers, divide the circle into four parts – these are the seasons. Before you move on to the project part of the lesson, you can elicit students’ predictions about the average temperature in different seasons, as well as the number of sunny, rainy, cloudy… days.

It is always a good idea to give instructions by showing an example, so do the first part of the project as a group. This will eliminate a lot of questions later on. Choose one season, tally all the weather type days, e.g. 5 sunny days, 3 rainy days, etc. and calculate the average temperature. Write the results down and allow the students to work in small groups on the rest of the seasons. By the end of the class put all the results together and display them in the classroom.

It’s an easy concept lesson that requires quite a lot of commitment, but your YL will love it. The class doesn’t feel like a typical ESL lesson and it gives the feeling of achievement and closure as students used and analysed their own data. At the end of the day, you want to create memorable lessons that will inspire and shape your learners into creative and intelligent people.

Feel free to download the lesson plan and the weather report worksheet below!