Survival Tips for Teaching Kids English: 30 Tips & Resources

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You may not know that I also teach 2 to 10 year-old students English. When I began teaching in Germany, I had a tough time acclimating. I thought I would be able to work with the children since I had taught young learners in the US English and science. I remember teaching a group of 14 seven to eight year-old students. They climbed the walls (oddly there were racks on the walls), fought a lot, and flew paper airplanes everywhere. I went home after a 9 hour day and cried. I wanted to quit. I have a fighting spirit, though, so I went online to research lessons and ideas. Throughout the four years that I have been teaching in Germany I have collected some great research, resources, and tips to make me a much better English teacher of young learners! I recently shared these tips in a Pecha Kucha (PK) presentation at the recent Virtual Round Table Language E-Conference. You can catch the rest of the recordings of all the presentations from this great event here.

What is a Pecha Kucha?

A presentation technique invented in Japan by architects Klein and Dytham. About 14 presenters or less deliver back to back PowerPoint presentations that must total 20 slides auto-advancing every 20 seconds. The PowerPoint presentation is only 6 minutes and 40 seconds so the content is highly visual and meaningful. For this reason, these events are gaining popularity at several conferences and have now entered the education conference scene! Enjoy my PK: Survival Tips for Teaching Kids English!

Glogster or The Tools I Use in My Classroom

My Survival Tips

  1. Channel in your inner child!- Can you identify the 2 members of our personal learning network in this slide?
    • Have the ability to act silly – I often dress-up when reading books, play charades, make silly voices and faces, and sing and dance!
  2. Wear the right gear! Don’t dress to impress! Dress for a mess!
  3. Children love to play pretend games!
  4. Have lively music that is easy for the children to understand and that you will enjoy singing very loudly to!
  5. TPR- Total physical response is a must for every lesson. Find out more by reading this post.
  6. Puppets are great for children, especially when you incorporate the puppet in every lesson.
  7. Play board games, physical games, and online games- We play Twister, bingo, English Raven’s games, and more!
  8. Include stories from great children’s authors and make the reading time fun. Check out my class wiki for various books and the themes they support.
  9. Use colorful flashcards and play games with the flash cards.
  10. Color with a purpose! Give children a task to see if they can follow directions, such as telling a child to draw a circle and color it yellow. Without direction, I’ve had children color on the wall and on me!
  11. Incorporate drama activities such as mime and improvisation games.
  12. Felt boards are great for having children piece together what happened in a story or to learn new vocabulary.
  13. Finger plays like the Itsy Bitsy Spider work wonders. Read this post on how to digitalize your finger plays using Blabberize.
  14. Trust kids with technology! My five year-old students complete online activities each week which I put in a wiki. Kids love technology and will repeat what they learn.
  15. Explore the outdoors with scavenger hunts.
  16. Use realia- My students play Bingo with pennies from the USA. Introduce real world objects to students from an English speaking culture. Play Show-and-Tell!
  17. When all else fails, have fun!

More Resources

These are more resources to help you teach young learners.
EFL Teacher’s Kit for Surviving Kids– In this post, I explore more tips for working with young learners.
Learning Beyond Walls- Games and Wikis!– In this post, I explore how to use wikis with young learners.
Character Development Using Voki Speaking Avatars– In this post, I explore how to use Voki speaking avatars to get young learners to think about character development for digital storytelling.
What Works: Cooperation vs. Competition– In this post, I explore how cooperative learning improved the culture and behavior of my young learners.
Getting Children Involved with Edtech– In this post, I explore using Voicethread for class collaboration projects.
Mobile Motivation: 17 Digital Storytelling & Literacy Apps/ Resources for Kids– These apps will have your young learners speaking English using a mobile device.
Parent Release Form for Publishing Student Work Online
Parent Release Form for Publishing Student Work Online PDF
VoiceThread Tutorials and Tips for Educators
Glogster Tutorials and Tips for Educators
Voki Tutorials and Tips for Educators
Digital Storytelling Tutorials and Tips for Educators


Try any of these resources with your young learners.

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What are your tips for working with young learners?

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  1. 4

    Hi Shelly,
    An absolutely fantastic post! I sent out a tweet the other day asking if anyone had blog posts which would be helpful for new teachers and this is it (already emailed the link to a couple of new teachers at my school adapting to working with kids for the first time).
    What to add to such a comprehensive list? Well, my students (10 year-olds so the upper age range of kids you work with) love the element of choice. If there are two or three activities we could do, I put the choice to the kids and we go with the majority or, if they are individual tasks, I let the students decide on the order they want to do them. They appreciate feeling involved in the learning process this way.
    Role-play is another one they love, whether from a script or adapting a story they have read. I also encourage deviations from the original story for some creative fun!
    One more: I find out what they like (cartoon characters, pop stars, computer games, TV shows) and, whether I like them myself or not, I research them and use them for examples, storytelling and guess who games.

  2. 8
    Juan Uribe

    Hi Shelly,
    I would add three to your great list:
    Embed easy tasks in the middle of more demanding ones.
    Le them change the rules of the games that are played in the class.
    Incorporate breathing exercises to increase concentration.
    Very interesting the concept of Pecha Kucha! I’ll try one myself.

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