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TOP tips for teaching ESL Young Learners

TOP tips for teaching ESL Young Learners | ITTT | TEFL Blog

The teaching of Young Learners forms a very large part of the ESL teaching market. It is important to keep some simple strategies in mind when teaching them. Teaching YL’s can be very rewarding as their progress can be quick, however, being young, they also present challenges. The following ideas have been tried and tested over many years and have proven to be effective.

One: Create a Positive Learning Environment

Firstly, it is crucial to establish rapport and build relationships with young learners right from the first lesson. This can be accomplished by incorporating ice-breaker games and activities, which not only serve as a fun way to engage students but also help in fostering connections. Moreover, these ice-breaker activities can be employed as a useful tool to kickstart each subsequent lesson.

Additionally, it is essential to cultivate a safe and inclusive classroom atmosphere. To achieve this, educators can explicitly communicate that only certain types of behavior are acceptable. Collaborating with students to establish a set of class rules can be an effective approach in ensuring a shared understanding of behavioral expectations.

Furthermore, the use of visual aids and props can greatly enhance student understanding. Visual stimuli tend to be easier to comprehend and remember, as the saying goes, "a picture paints a thousand words." Therefore, integrating visual elements into lessons can facilitate better comprehension and retention of information.

Lastly, incorporating games and activities can be an excellent method to engage young learners. However, it is important to ensure that these games serve an educational purpose rather than being mere time-fillers. By designing educational games and activities, educators can effectively captivate students' attention while facilitating their learning process.

Two: Employ Language Acquisition Strategies

When it comes to language acquisition strategies, employing various techniques can significantly enhance the learning process. Firstly, implementing Total Physical Response (TPR), as detailed by James Asher, can be highly effective in facilitating language learning. This approach involves integrating physical actions and gestures to aid in comprehension and retention.

Furthermore, utilizing storytelling and role-playing techniques is an excellent way to promote language comprehension in an enjoyable and relaxed manner. Incorporating these techniques frequently can create an engaging environment that encourages students to actively participate and immerse themselves in the language.

Additionally, integrating songs, chants, and rhymes can serve as powerful tools to reinforce vocabulary and grammar. Linking these musical elements with the concept of TPR can enhance the overall language learning experience.

Moreover, it is crucial to encourage active participation among students. Pair work and group activities provide opportunities for interactive speaking activities, increasing student talk time. These collaborative exercises foster engagement and allow learners to practice their language skills in a supportive and interactive setting.

Three: Individualized Instruction

When it comes to individualized instruction, it is essential to acknowledge and accommodate diverse learning styles and preferences, especially when teaching a mixed ability class. This requires recognizing the unique needs of each learner and adapting materials accordingly, rather than employing a rigid "one size fits all" approach.

Providing differentiated instruction can greatly benefit a wide range of learners. However, it is important to be mindful that this approach necessitates additional planning and resources. Despite the extra effort involved, tailoring instruction to meet the specific needs of each student promotes a more inclusive and effective learning environment.

At the same time, offering personalized feedback and guidance plays a crucial role in enhancing language development. By providing individualized support, educators can address specific areas of improvement and provide targeted assistance to help learners progress in their language skills.

Four: Integrating all four Language Skills

To ensure a well-rounded language learning experience, it is crucial to integrate all four language skills effectively. Incorporating listening activities on a regular basis can greatly enhance comprehension and pronunciation. By exposing learners to various listening exercises, they can develop their ability to understand spoken language while improving their pronunciation skills.

Next, focusing on developing speaking skills is essential. Meaningful conversations and discussions, including simple surveys, can serve as valuable tools in honing students' ability to express themselves orally. Encouraging students to engage in interactive speaking activities facilitates the development of their speaking proficiency.

Furthermore, promoting reading comprehension is vital in language acquisition. Providing age-appropriate texts and materials allows learners to enhance their reading skills while comprehending content that aligns with their level of understanding.

Lastly, fostering writing skills should not be overlooked. Guided exercises and creative writing tasks provide opportunities for students to practice and improve their written expression. Incorporating such activities whenever possible encourages the development of effective writing skills.

Five: Culturally Responsive Teaching

Culturally responsive teaching plays a crucial role in fostering an inclusive and enriching learning environment. To achieve this, it is important to familiarize young learners with different cultures and traditions. This can be accomplished by incorporating multicultural materials and resources that highlight and make use of local traditions, effectively connecting students to their own cultural heritage.

Moreover, promoting respect and appreciation for diversity is key. One way to achieve this is through engaging students in role play activities that allow them to explore and understand different perspectives, ultimately cultivating empathy and understanding.

Furthermore, encouraging cross-cultural communication and understanding is essential. Providing opportunities for students to interact with peers from diverse backgrounds promotes cultural exchange and broadens their worldview. By fostering an environment that values cross-cultural communication, students can develop a deeper appreciation for the richness and beauty of different cultures.

Six: Technology Integration

Integrating technology into language learning can greatly enhance the educational experience. To effectively leverage technology, it is important to make use of educational apps, websites, and digital resources as an integral part of each lesson. By seamlessly integrating these tools, students can engage with interactive and dynamic content that complements their learning.

Incorporating multimedia tools can further enrich language learning experiences. Utilizing audiovisual elements, such as videos, audio clips, and interactive presentations, can captivate students' attention and provide a multi-sensory approach to language acquisition.

Additionally, promoting digital literacy and responsible technology use is essential. Educators should guide students in developing the necessary skills to navigate and utilize technology effectively, while also emphasizing the importance of responsible online behavior and digital citizenship.

Finally, it is crucial to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of technology integration in lessons. Regularly assessing the impact of technology on student engagement and learning outcomes allows for ongoing improvement and adjustment of teaching strategies, ensuring that technology integration remains purposeful and beneficial.


Employing some or all of the above strategies within a series of lessons with your young learners will help increase their motivation to learn in a fun and safe environment. These strategies can also bring you as the teacher some relief from the worry of what to focus upon within your lessons.

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