Tips for Teaching English to Very Young Learners

Teaching very young learners, those considered to be between three and five years old, may be a challenge because of many reasons. To start with, it is usually very hard to keep these learners 100% concentrated. They may easily feel bored and you will have to find a way to keep them focused.  In addition, an EFL or ESL teacher will find it daunting teaching a language to very young learners in the same way older learners are taught.

Characteristics of very young learners

  • They need to feel safe.
  • They have short concentration span.
  • They need concrete experiences in order to understand.
  • Their first language is still developing.
  • Their writing and reading skills are still rudimentary.
  • They are readily engaged in play.

Tips to teach very young learners

  • Young learners need a lot of recycling and repetition.
  • They cannot comprehend abstract ideas, so go for concrete examples, practical instances of language in use to be able to understand them and reproduce them.
  • Younger learners need to be taught meaningful English.
  • It is useless to teach them grammar since they still struggle with grammar in their mother tongue.
  • It is preferable to help very young learners to memorize whole chunks rather than go into detailed descriptions of structures.
  • Teaching chunks of language in context may be a great idea.
  • Using songs, games, fairy tales, stories, short conversations, dance, play… provide good exposure to language.
  • Using a lot of visual aids, colors and music can be fun and enhance retention.
  • Focus must be on fluency rather on accuracy.
  • Very young learners need to learn by doing.  Use of their motor skills to cut out shapes and glue them might be fun and helpful to L2 acquisition.