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Tips for making classes fun for young learners

Analia RTEFL Contributor
ESL Lesson Handouts - Tips for making classes fun for young learners
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Many teachers have a hard time teaching young learners and see their students becoming bored or restless especially while learning English grammar patterns. Fortunately, a few modifications can turn those lessons into exciting ones, for you and your students. Avoiding lecturing, instead offer a variety of communicative and interactive activities that include movement, music, humor, or games to keep your young learners engaged.

Avoid lecturing

Nowadays, students of all ages, in particular young leaners, have limited attention spans. Avoid lecturing in a lesson that focuses on grammar patterns. Keep things moving with quick changes between activities whenever possible.

If you use a textbook in your classes, you may have noticed that activities can be repetitive and predictable and, in some cases, boring. Try something different to engage your students by catering to their learning styles in their lesson. Be creative and leave room for choice and laughter. You and your students will enjoy it.

Get students moving

Have students move around the classroom, act out roles in a role-play, or simply stand up out of their seats during the class. Not only will physical activity keep your students alert and focused, it may help them to connect new vocabulary or language patterns to movement. In addition, it prepares students for any sedentary academic work that might follow.

Movement can be incorporated into any class, even the ones in which you choose to teach grammar. Here are a few of my favorite ideas.

If you are teaching parts of speech, for example, have the class play ‘hot potato’. Students stand in a circle and pass a bean bag or small ball from one person to the next as they say a word that fits the part of speech. Watch students laugh and get excited as they become familiar with the game. Make it even more exciting by counting down from five each time a student catches the ‘hot potato’.

For punctuation, ask the class to clap, stomp, stand up, or any other suitable movement when the text you’re reading needs a comma, a period, a question mark, etc… Another activity for young learners is to read an example of the grammar pattern you are teaching and ask the students to move to the right if it is correct, to the left if it isn’t, or forward and backward, or turn around, or any movement suitable in your classroom. It doesn’t matter what they do, as long as they are moving.

Music and songs

Songs can be a great resource to use in the classroom, regardless of the age or background of the students. You can easily find a song that interests your students’ age group and level.

Choose a song that best demonstrates the grammar pattern or language form you will teach in the lesson. Start by eliciting ideas from the song title. Listen to the song and board unknown words for later discussion or try a fill in the gaps in the lyrics activity as students listen. Focus on the particular aspect of grammar you are presenting in that lesson; How many examples can you find of (the simple past) in the lyrics? Why do you think the simple past is used? As a follow-up to your grammar activities, you could work with the boarded vocabulary in the context of the song. Round things off with some creative work. My favorite is acting out a music video for the song.

Why stories?

Short stories are a great way to focus students’ attention and demonstrate language in use.

Choose stories that are exaggerated, funny, or bizarre — your students will likely remember them. As with songs, focus on the particular aspect of grammar you are presenting in that lesson and work with vocabulary in context.  Remember that some of your students enjoy reading to the class and some prefer just listening. Identify how your students learn and work with that in the lesson. Ask for volunteers to read parts of the story to the class and ask questions to those who prefer to listen. That way each student can participate in some way.

Humor and more humor

Humor is an effective way to create a relaxed classroom atmosphere and help you to bond with your students. In addition, humor helps to hold students’ attention and most importantly, to make things memorable.

Start by laughing at yourself — not at the students. Tell funny stories about your mistakes. This will show your students that you are human and that it is okay to laugh at our own mistakes. Insert funny questions or statements in homework and tests or use funny stories suitable for your students’ age and level.

Video clips are another way of bringing humor into your lesson. Watch funny television show clips or funny English educational videos. Cartoons and comic strips provide authentic language and slang.

Use games, voices, funny pictures, acting, and anything else that adds laughs to your classes.

Use games

Introducing a little competition in the classroom can help your students learn and have fun as well. You don’t need to spend money, just a bit of creativity adapting existing ones.

Do you like Truth or Dare? It is perfect for revision. Truth could be basic review questions and Dare, harder questions or silly challenges.

Why not play Charades to practice common verbs?

How about BINGO when you are presenting irregular verbs? Students fill in the BINGO grid with the set of verbs written on the board and you call the irregular past forms or past participles. The student who gets 3-in-a-row shouts out “BINGO!”

Or maybe you prefer Tic-Tac-Toe. Students take turns choosing a box on the grid and you read the infinitive form of a verb, for example. If they know the past/past participle, they can fill in the box (X or O). If not, they lose their turn.

“If you don’t enjoy it, who will?”

Remember that your students are unique and different from the ones you had last year. They have different personalities and needs, so remember to build on successful grammar lessons taught previously and make changes to the unsuccessful ones. Just like we [ESL Lesson Handouts] do, continue improving your grammar lessons to make them more enjoyable. Forget about lecturing, especially to your young learners, and get them moving, singing, playing, and laughing as much as possible. They will be ready to focus on any writing activity or test after being active and having fun.

Don’t forget that, as Paul Seligson said, “If you don’t enjoy it, who will?” Start making your grammar classes exciting, full of action, and fun. Your students will love them as much as you do.

Analia RTEFL Contributor
Analia is a recently retired EFL teacher with over 40 years of teaching experience and is now an educational writer. She has taught every age of student at every level of competence.

Disclaimer  We aim to provide useful ESL and EFL teaching resources and educational ideas. Our articles are written by educators with extension TEFL experience. They contain only general information about teaching English as a foreign language and are meant purely for informational purposes.

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