Young Learners: Let’s get them speaking !

24th April 2019

This is the plan for my early morning class on Saturday. To set the scene, there are about 19 students, aged around 7 or 8. It’s a standard classroom; chairs with built-in desktops, and there’s not a lot of space for movement or activities. The students, therefore, are mostly confined to their seats for the two-hour session, not conducive to a productive lesson. Add to that loud students, slow students and the (seemingly obligatory) special-needs student(s), and we have a potential catastrophe … but there are ways to mitigate these issues …

Firstly, the assignment of a class captain. I choose the loudest, toughest boy and he becomes proxy teacher. Usually, they love the responsibility, while I’ve turned a problem into an asset.

Secondly, the ‘montage of attractions’, lots of different but related activities to prevent boredom as well as promoting as much participation as possible. To this end, I try to vary the lesson plan (the first hour is activities, the second, devoted to book work where I can also check students individually).

Thirdly, I really want to break the teacher – student dynamic; I want the students talking to each other in English. Sometimes I have the top students act as teacher, ‘Thay’, and address the class, but today I want everyone speaking to their partner in English. To do this, I’ve prepared a short series of questions they have to ask and answer. But first, a review about ‘what can you see ?’ and prepositions.

I’ll show this landscape and then attach various animal flashcards, asking ‘Can you see a frog ? Where is it ?’ and so on …

Now for the speaking interaction: with all speaking exercises, it’s good to model first. The questions I’ve chosen represent language they have already learnt and should be able to use. I’ll show the following questions, then drill an appropriate reply:

To prepare, I just need to stick some flashcards around the room (food, animals).

Can you see a tiger ? IF there is a tiger picture the answer is Yes, I can, if there is no picture then No, I can’t.

Do you like pizza ? / Yes, I do or No, I don’t.

What are these ? (showing flash card of toes) These are my toes.

How many marbles are there ? (showing picture of marbles) There are seven marbles.

How old are you ? / I’m …..

What can an elephant do ? An elephant can walk and swim and run.

I will then hand out a short questionnaire and, with the invaluable aid of my TA, monitor the class, making note of those who will not or are not taking part. The questions will be:

Can you see a zebra ?

Do you like cake ?

How many puzzles are there ?

How old are you ?

What can a bear do ?

When the first partner has finished, the second will have these questions:

Can you see an ant ?

Do you like rice ?

How old are you ?

How many games are there ?

What can a zebra do ?

The next activity is a ‘run ‘n’ write’. The class is split into teams and have to run to the board and write a word that has appeared in a previous lesson:

penguin / kangaroo / giraffe / science / animals / flower

We also get to review the plural form of nouns (games, marbles) plus the ‘an’ article before a vowel noun (an elephant). Next up … music time; an old favourite:

When the band… This could be used as a background to a musical statues game, but the names of the instruments will be highlighted. They then have to identify them:

Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong … the one and only.
Kid Ory on jazz trombone
Johnny Dodds on clarinet
David Carradine as Bill playing Japanese flute.

Again, Thay Student time: a top student will ask the class:

Can you play …. trumpet ? … piano ? … guitar ?

Now a miming game. I will tell a student an instrument, and they will mime playing it. The opposite team has to guess, getting points for correct answers. Any kind of game or competition can really raise energy and motivation levels.

I want to move the lesson closer towards today’s subject (science, specifically parts of the body), so will select six students, giving each a flashcard from last week’s class. Very quickly, they will show their card to the class. Then I will ask ask which student has which card, but using the verb ‘to have’, i.e. “He has toe”, “She has arm.”

Finally, and if time allows because this already could be too long (no problem with that … a plan should be overlong in case any activity falls flat and a Plan B, C & D is needed), more ‘Thay Students’. They will review questions from last week, namely:

What are these ? These are my arms

What are these ? These are my toes

What are these ? These are my fingers

But, to stop them getting too complacent, some good old British irregularities:

What are these ? These are my feet.