A word about Young Learners

What are children like as learners?


  • are developing quickly as individuals.
  • learn in a variety of ways, for example, by watching, by listening, by imitating, by doing things.
  • are not able to understand grammatical rules and explanations about language.
  • try to make sense of situations by making use of non-verbal clues.
  • talk in their mother tongue about what they understand and do – this helps them learn.
  • can generally imitate the sounds they hear quite accurately and copy the way adults speak.
  • are naturally curious.
  • love to play and use their imagination.
  • are comfortable with routines and enjoy repetition.
  • have quite a short attention span and so need variety.

How can you as teacher help them?

  • Make learning English enjoyable and fun – Remember you are influencing their attitude to language learning.
  • Don’t worry about mistakes. Be encouraging. Make sure children feel comfortable, and not afraid to take part.
  • Use a lot of gestures, actions, pictures to demonstrate what you mean.
  • Talk a lot to them in English, especially about things they can see.
  • Play games, sing songs, say rhymes and chants together.
  • Tell simple stories in English, using pictures and acting with different voices.
  • Don’t worry when they use their mother tongue. You can answer a mother tongue question in English, and sometimes recast in English what they say in their mother tongue.
  • Constantly recycle new language but don’t be afraid to add new things or to use words they want to know.
  • Plan lessons with varied activities, some quiet, some noisy, some sitting, some standing and moving.

Reference: English for Primary Teachers By Mary Slattery & Jane Willis



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