10 Steps to Giving a Great ESL Lesson to Young Learners

Since I’ve started observing Kindergarten teachers I have noticed patterns in the advice that I am giving. Therefore, I’m sure that other Kindergarten or early Primary teachers may also benefit.

This structure does not have to be specific to Kindergarten, as it can be adapted for early primary school. It can also be shortened to 15 minutes or extended to 30 minutes.

Regardless, the following structure will guarantee an effective lesson.

Influence for such a structure comes from my background in Childhood Education gained in New York and this year’s experiences in Primary School and teaching Kindergarten aged students at a training school in China.

Step 1

Grab their attention

Start with an attention grabber. Begin class once you have everyone’s attention. This takes practice. Practice as much as needed, even if it takes all class. Reinforce good behavior by pointing it out.

Continue to use this attention grabber throughout the lesson as needed. Choose the one that will best fit your teaching style and your students’ language level.

Here are a few ideas. They are in order from easiest to hardest:

  • Teacher says, “Class, class.” Students respond Yes, yes.”
  • Teacher says, “One, two, three.” Students respond “A, B, C.”
  • Teacher says, “One, two.” Students respond “Eyes on you.”
  • Teacher says, “One, two, three, eyes on me.” Students respond “Three, two, one, done.”
  • Teacher says, “If you can hear my voice, touch your nose. If you can hear my voice, touch your ear, [etc.]”

Step 2

Say Hello!

Address the entire class and the entire class should address you in return. It can be as simple as: teacher says “Hello boys and girls,” and the students respond “Hello teacher.”

Step 3

Get them warmed up
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Sing a song and do a dance. Make them move. This should take no more than two minutes.

Need ideas? Check out Super Simple Songs. The attention grabber will definitely have to be used again after this to settle them back down.

Step 4

Present topic and new vocabulary words

444819119776289876Students should be introduced to about 4-6 vocabulary words (depending on level and school requirements). Show the vocabulary word with a picture on a flashcard or PPT (flashcard preferred, so they can be used for games). Better yet, have realia for the item.

Drill the words in various ways. Here are some fun ideas for drilling. Get creative with it!

  • Voices drill: Change your voice to high, low, quiet, loud, sad, angry, robot, etc.
  • Clap drill: Students clap hands/stomp feet/pat legs/snap fingers/etc. While saying the word. This one is best for words with multiple syllables or vocabulary that are two words, such as “pencil case”. Vocabulary that are two or more words should make a different sound for each word. For example, “pen-” (*clap*) “-cil” (*clap*) “case” (*snap*).
  • TPR drill: Incorporate an action with each word. Easiest for actions, animals or emotions.
  • Rising/Falling drill: Hold a flashcard low, close to the floor and slowly raise it; say the word in a quiet voice and get progressively louder as the card rises, until everyone is screaming. Then bring it back down low to bring the class back to quiet voices.
  • Fast/slow drill: Everyone pats their laps while saying the vocabulary; start very slowly and progressively get faster until it turns into unintelligible gibberish. This one’s a good laugh!
  • Slow reveal drill: Hide the flashcard or item behind something and slowly reveal what is on the card until the class is able to recognize and say it. This can become a competition between students or teams.

Steps 5,6

Practice, practice!

Play a game to practice the new words. Always demo a game clearly. If available, use another teacher to show what to do. If not, use yourself or a student that picks up on things easily.

The game should incorporate as much student talk time as possible. Typically, games include only a few students. But often times there are opportunities for the entire class to also be involved.Think: “Can I get the whole class to say or repeat this?”

If you feel like you need ideas for games, the internet is always helpful but I’ve gotten most of my ideas off of other teachers. So ask around! Or think of games you played as a child and make your own.

Play another game to practice the new words, if needed. This is based on how much time you have and if the students need more practice. It is important that the students know the words before introducing the sentence structure. Use your best judgment. And again, demo first.

Step 7

Create a dialogue

Sentences taught should always be in response to a question. This makes it more realistic and natural for the students to use in everyday life.

Keep in mind your students’ level. For the youngest, the question-and-answer could be as simple as: “What’s this?” “It’s a….

Sentence structures should always be modeled, which is easily done with a puppet. Don’t have a puppet? I’m sure there’s a spare sock in your drawer. The kids will love it!

Step 8

Practice the dialogue

Play a game to practice the question-and-answer sentence structure. Demo. Rotate “student-as-teacher” to incorporate more student talk time. This way you are not always the one asking the question.

Ask yourself: “How can I reduce how much I talk?”

Step 9

Finish up with a review game

Play another game to practice sentence structure in combination with words the students have already learned. Do this if it is suitable and if there is time. Be sure to use words that you have taught or reviewed with them.

At this age, you cannot assume the students know even simple vocabulary, such as colors and numbers. Don’t forget to… you’ve guessed it, demo first! Demo. Demo. Demo.

Step 10

Say Goodbye!

This could be a song or response with movement. Make it a clear ending to your lesson.

This is not the end-all-be-all of lesson structures. I must also note that this structure is hard to do within 20 minutes until you and your students are comfortable and know what to expect.

Use this structure as a guide. Practice pieces at a time and build it at your own pace. Happy teaching!

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