пʼятниця, 19 червня 2015 р.

Inside children's development

Children: 4-6 year-olds

In this section, find out how 4-6 year-old children learn and develop.
Pre-school or just beginning schoolNot used to classroom conventionsTraining in class routines
e.g listening to teacher
Limited motor skillsClumsy control of pen / scissors etc.to develop motor control
e.g. colouring, copying
Learning holisticallyWhole child needs stimulationopportunities to move, sing, play, explore, touch etc
Cannot distinguish between different parts of languageCannot analyse languageExposure to *chunks of language e.g. chants, stories, classroom language
Limited reading/writing skills in L1Introducing reading/ writing in EnglishLots of listening, speaking activities
Fun introduction to English letters and words
See no need to communicate in EnglishStudents use L1 exclusivelyReasons to speak English
e.g. games, chants
Love stories, fantasyBored with many topicsStories, fantasy, fun
*chunks of language = words that naturally come together e.g. ‘thank you very much’, ‘glass of water’, ‘have a nice day’ –  that are easily learnt, repeated and do not need analysis. 

Chants are great as children
  • learn to work together
  • pick up chunks
  • get to listen to lots of meaningful language
  • have a reason to use English
  • find them funny
  • move their body
  • enjoy repeating them
Chants are easy to make up. I made this one up for my 5-6 year olds. They had already begun learning animals. We chanted it together and did actions for the different animals. (pretended to splash water etc)  
  • My name’s Fred and I’m a frog – jump, jump, jump
  • My name’s Kate and I’m a cat – miaow, miaow, miaow
  • My name’s Fergie and I’m a fish – splash, splash, splash
  • My name’s Micky and I’m a mouse – squeak, squeak, squeak
  • My name’s Benny and I’m a bird – flap, flap, flap
This is a lovely chant with a rhythm that children enjoy. They can stretch their arms out to show ‘big’ and bring their hands close together to show ‘little’. It also helps to develop:
Motor skills - children will enjoy colouring in the pictures that come with the chant. Colouring demands concentration, eye/hand coordination and hand control – all important pre-writing skills  
Word recognition - when beginning word recognition they can draw a line between the animal words – cat, mouse etc and the and the pictures


Classic songs like Old MacDonald had a farm (see related pages below)are very popular with young children. This is a version of the song that encourages students to produce long vowel sounds. It also practises the numbers one to four.  Farms are pretty universal. Young students enjoy making the animal noises and farm animals are a nice lexical set.

To create a nice wall display, get children to draw their favourite farm animal and the teacher (or a child who draws quickly and finishes their animal) can draw a big farm to paste the animals onto. More animals can be added later as well as a farmer etc. Once they begin writing, students can label the different animals.

There are many story books based on animals. Children love listening to stories about animals especially If there are colourful, child-friendly visuals to help them follow the story. You can also use cuddly animal toys while story-telling to get and hold the children’s attention.  

Children all love games. 4 – 6 year olds have still to develop cooperative skills, so introducing games that involve turn-taking helps to develop these skills. Do not despair if they get impatient or want to take each other’s turns – they are still learning to be less egocentric and need lots of opportunities to allow these skills to develop (see related pages The animal game below).

The first version of the game is appropriate for 4 – 6 year olds as they simply have to count out the steps of the game according to what their dice lands on and then name the animal on the spot.  

Cutting and colouring

See related pages How things work below. The students get to create a herd of elephants by cutting out an elephant and naming him/her. They can also colour it in. They can practise the ‘What’s your elephant called?’  & ‘He’s / She’s called….’

Children: 7-9 year-olds

In this section, find out how 7-9 year-old children learn and develop.
Beginning to be logical and analyticalCan see patterns, aware of language
Opportunities to experiment
e.g. making up own chants
Asking questionsNeed answersFreedom to express themselves and learn more than language
Reading and writing still minimal in L1Still need support and helpPractice and success oriented activities
Still have problems sharingGroup activities not always successful
Teacher to guide them and chances to work alone
Developing confidence to express themselvesStudents will have views on what they want to do / talk aboutChance to state opinions
Developing knowledge of the world around themKnow more than we often give them credit for
Chances to use what they know

Children at this age group still love chants, but can add their own verses too. This stimulates their creative skills and gives them a sense of achievement when they can produce their own (see Five little speckled frogs song in related pages below).

World knowledge
The quiz at the bottom of the page requires not just linguistic knowledge, but also knowledge about animals.

Wall displays
By now many children are developing their writing skills and becoming proficient drawers. They also get a great sense of achievement from seeing what they have created.
A mini-project on animals is easy to set up. Each child chooses an animal they like. They draw a picture of the animal and write sentences based on a model* provided by the teacher. The pictures are neatly mounted on the classroom walls. Invite parents in too to see these lovely displays.
  • …………… is a big/small animal
  • …………… lives in the jungle / on a farm / in my house
  • ………….. eats leaves / other animals/ …………..
  • ………….. can fly / run / swim etc etc

Games are popular with all ages and it is a shame to push children into formal book-based learning early. They will become de-motivated and maybe even stressed. A really fun game can wake them up and bring laughter back into the classroom.
In this game My animal's got....(see related pages below) children create funny composite animals e.g. one with a tiger’s head, a bear’s tummy and an elephant’s legs.
This fun game works on many levels. Children can enjoy it purely visually and can also practise their English through it. It is very good for the possessive ‘ s. 

Children: 10-12 year-olds

In this section, find out how 10-12 year-old children learn and develop.

Longer attention spanGreater range of activities possible in class
Opportunities to engage in tasks that require focus and commitment
Knowledge of the world growingMore topics can be addressedStimulation
e.g. information from internet or cross-curricular
Taking learning more seriouslyCan be given responsibilityChances to be independent
Still childrenHave need for security and pleasure
Teacher sensitive to their needs and moods
More cooperative with peersCan do more group workVariety of grouping in class i.e. work on own, in pairs, in group, as class
Intellectual, motor and social skills developingCan be challenged more
Activities that challenge them
Developing own learning strategiesChildren won’t all react in the same way to the same task/topicChance to personalise their learning experience


By now it is clear that students have very different approaches to learning and have distinct preferences and interests. A project on animals can ensure all are satisfied.

  • Students can choose to work independently or with a partner(s)
  • Get students to choose an animal, or the creative ones can create a new one!
  • Students choose whether to create a wall display, a book or a presentation on their animal
  • Their work can include illustrations, their own or ones they find
  • Their project can be a factual description about the animal including information found in books, the internet etc or it can be a story about the animal. It could also be a poster calling for conservation of a particular species
  • Give a time limit – say 2 or 3 lessons for them to prepare their work and then it can either be displayed, shared or presented
  • This is especially good in a mixed ability class. Students who are not so keen on writing can create something more visual and very enthusiastic students have more scope for their imagination and language skills

Beginning vocabulary: introduction

In this section you will find a selection of tips and activities to help students learn vocabulary using different techniques.
Words are the building blocks of language and having a good supply of them is very important for students right from the beginning of their English learning.
With young students vocabulary learning is relatively easy as the words they need (the words they would use in their mother tongue too) are concrete – things they can see, touch, taste, play with etc; so it easy for the meaning of the words to be made apparent without resorting to translation or complicated explanations. How better to teach the word ‘apple’ than to show the children an apple or a picture of an apple?
The sooner students are able to communicate ideas in English, the more motivated they will be, so giving them a bank of vocabulary to draw on is necessary – starting with nouns and adjectives.
Although children seem to learn new words very quickly, they will also forget quickly, so it is very important to give them lots of practice of vocabulary to help them remember.  

Beginning vocabulary: pronunciation and drilling

A selection of activities to help young learners practise vocabulary. This section focuses on pronunciation and drilling.
Students must hear correct models of the target vocabulary in order to copy the pronunciation and to recognise the words later. They should also have plenty of practice of saying the words in order to get the pronunciation right and also to help memorisation. Choral repetition of words is useful but can become meaningless. To keep focussed on meaning, try choral repetition like this. Put these five faces on the board:
When children repeat the words they have to do so conveying these emotions. Try it with the word chocolate. Children enjoy doing this and they do the activity meaningfully. Chants and songs are a good way to get students repeating vocabulary and by adding actions focus on meaning is not lost.
Get students moving their arms wide apart when they say big and close together when they say little to indicate meaning. Students can also make up their own verses with other animals, which they decide are big or little – or even other objects like house and cup.
The other good thing about songs and chants is that the words are part of connected speech at a reasonably fast speed, so that weak forms and sound linking occur naturally. E.g. ‘knees and toes’ if said at the speed of the song have a natural link of the ‘s’ in knees and the ‘a’ in and, also the ‘a’ in and becomes a schwa and not a long sound.Another fun way of getting children’s tongues around English sounds are tongue twisters:
Yellow lorry, yellow lorry
Sally sells sea shells on the sea shore

Beginning vocabulary: practice activities

A selection of activities to help young learners practise new vocabulary.


For food vocabulary and fun
  • Give each student a paper plate and ask them to design their favourite pizza by drawing the things they most like onto it. You can show them your own example with e.g. cheese, tomato, ham, pineapple and chocolate!
  • If they are pre-writers, they can tell you and each other what is on their pizza. If they are able to, they write the words of the ingredients next to them on the pizza. The ‘pizzas’ can be displayed on the classroom walls.

I went to market

For older students with a bigger bank of vocabulary and for all vocabulary, alphabet awareness and fun.
  • Get students into a circle.
  • Start by saying: ‘I went to market and I bought an apple’.
  • The student to your right must repeat what you said and add another thing beginning with B.
  • Keep going until the last student has to remember 26 things bought in market!


A quick and effective way of getting students to revise spelling of previously introduced words. A great warmer at the start of a lesson.
  • Think of a word students learnt last lesson e.g. mountain
  • Draw eight dashes on the board – one for each letter of the word
– – – – – – – –
One at a time students guess which letters may be in the word. If they are correct the letter is added to the word:
’N’ = _ _ _ n _ _ _ n
If they guess incorrectly, the teacher draws one part of a hangman’s noose on the board
Students can guess the whole word at any time. But the teacher wins if the whole hangman is drawn before the word is guessed.


This is a great game for concentration, reading and meaning.
    • Picture of cat: Cat
    • Picture of dog: Dog
    • Picture of horse: Horse
    • Picture of pig: Pig
    • Picture of crocodile: Crocodile
    • Picture of lion: Lion
  1. Prepare separate cards with words and pictures.
  2. Spread them on the floor or table and ask children to match the words to the pictures. Once they have done this successfully turn all the cards over and jumble them up in groups of up to six.
  3. Students take turns to pick up 2 cards and show them to everybody. If they get a picture and the word that goes with the picture they keep the cards, if their cards do not match they put them back where they find them.
  4. Students must try to remember where the cards have been put down.


To practise word recognition
Collate a list of 20+ words the students know well – they can recognise them in their written and spoken form and know the meanings. Either write the words on the board or hand out a list of the words to the students. Students must choose any 9 of the words and write them onto a piece of paper that looks like this:
Teacher chooses words form the list at random and reads them aloud. If the student has the word on their paper they cross it out. As soon as a student has crossed out three words in a line – up, down or diagonally – they shout Bingo! And are the winner.  

Label the classroom

Children learn from everything around them and need constant reinforcement of language. A fun way of reinforcing the written form of the words for classroom objects like door, board, window etc is to label them.
  • Write the words on card and as you teach the words stick them to the appropriate object or get students to label the objects themselves.  
  • One lesson jumble them up and get students to label them appropriately.  

Beginning vocabulary: presenting new vocabulary

A selection of activities to help young learners practise vocabulary. This section focuses on the presentation stage.
At the presentation stage it is vital that the meaning of new words is clear. I am a great advocate of avoiding mother tongue in the English classroom. Translation is unnecessary and indirect and also creates a dependence in students that is later hard to cure.To present concrete vocabulary: a staged approach

e.g. Fruit

  1. bring in a bag of different fruit – six to eight items at a time is plenty
  2. pick up one fruit and say the word clearly a number of times, encourage the students to repeat the word
  3. go through all the words in this way
  4. return regularly to a word they have already been introduced to and check they have remembered it e.g. pick up a banana and say ‘an apple?’ or ‘is this an apple?’, students should be able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ appropriately before you move on to check the vocabulary further
  5. to further check that students have connected the new word to the meaning ask students individually ‘show me the banana’ etc. they will get actively involved in recognising the target word and indicating the object which it describes.
NB: With vocabulary like animals pictures can be used. With verbs actions can be used – walk, sit, swim, hop etc and students encouraged to respond to the words with the appropriate actions – this is a great game.
Once children have been introduced to the alphabet and have started reading and writing words, after the introduction of the meaning and sound of new words, introduce the written form. Make flashcards with words on them, read them aloud with the students and get them to match the words to the objects or pictures.
b_ _ kc_a_rp__c_l
Get students to write the words under pictures like this.

Beginning reading and writing: introducing letters

A selection of tips and activities to help you introduce letters to young learners.
Before introducing letters, Consider how children learn their mother tongue.

Foundations - The sound system of English

Begin by teaching children to recognise, understand and produce the spoken word through games, songs and stories. Allow them to hear plenty of English from you, so try to maximise your English and minimise Mother Tongue in the classroom (you can also use videos, tapes, songs etc) so they become accustomed to the sounds of English. Encourage them to speak English by repeating you, joining in chants and songs and responding to simple questions. This foundation is vital to make meaningful links to the sound system of English. Learning sounds and letters without understanding any words is a purely mechanical and potentially off-putting experience for them. Young children will quickly learn English words if you introduce them with a picture that clearly shows the meaning or you can point to the object in the classroom e.g. chair, door, window.

Introducing letters

It is possible to introduce letters after only a few hours of English classes as long as the children have already been introduced to English vocabulary – they understand the meaning of words and are able to recognise the word when it is spoken. Doing a little regularly and incorporating reading and writing into every lesson is a good idea. It gives the lesson variety and students are not overloaded.

Some suggestions for introducing letters

  • A TPR (Total Physical Response) action game. Call out action words like swim, jump and hop while doing the actions and get the children to copy the actions moving around the classroom as they are listening to the words. This type of activity ensures that children are learning/practising the words meaningfully and by being physically involved they are enjoying the game which makes the words more memorable. Getting children to move around in the lesson helps them to use up the energy they have or energise and focus them if they are sluggish or distracted.
  • Revise new language from previous lesson e.g. children have to point at appropriate objects in the room as you call out the names. Children do pick up new words quickly, but they also forget quickly, so it’s a good idea to keep revising and recycling vocabulary. When they are able to remember the words, they will feel a sense of success and be motivated to learn more.
  • Introduce 7 letters phonically (explained below).
  • Practise the new letters along with others they have already learnt.
  • Introduce a new song or chant and practise. Or introduce new vocabulary and practise.
It is possible to have a lot of input in every lesson. Don’t underestimate what children can learn and give them plenty of opportunities to pick up new language.
  • Story: This is a great way to practise and/or introduce language meaningfully. See previous webpage on using stories with juniors for more ideas.
  • A quiet game/task based on the story - drawing and colouring in. Allow for quiet activities to allow children to process the language, have a rest, and for you to monitor them and have one-to-one dialogues with them about what they are doing. For example if they are drawing a picture which includes target vocabulary of animals, you can say ‘that’s a lovely blue tiger or ‘what a funny dog’ etc: allowing them to hear the target language in a personalised context.

Phonic approach

A phonic approach is far more useful initially than learning the names of the letters. ‘Knowing’ the alphabet, as in reciting the names of the letters in the correct order, is not useful if the children aren’t able to match the sound with the written letter.

Phonics lesson

  1. Prepare 26 flash cards, each one with a letter of the alphabet in lower case (it is also possible to buy ready-made letter flashcards, as well as cards that show common letter combinations such as ‘ow’, ‘ee’, ‘ea’ etc).
  2. Show the letters one at a time (not all at once, introduce around 7 each time) and say the sound the letter makes. For the letter ‘c’ use the ‘k’ sound as this will be more useful initially.Let the children hear the sound and encourage them to repeat it.
  1. Hold up a letter and ask ‘Is this a /b/?’ or ‘What is this?'.
  2. Pin the letters on the board and ask children to run up one at a time and ‘slap’ the letter you call out (phonically).
  3. Ask the children if they know any words that begin with this sound. This is great for using what they already know and making the strong connection between words, letters and sounds.

Beginning reading and writing: recognition games

A selection of games to help young learners practise using letters and sounds.
Games are motivating and help make language memorable, so try to think of lots of fun ways to practise the new letters and sounds that you are introducing to the children. 

Run and point

Pin up the letters that you have introduced to the class so far on the walls around the classroom at a height the children can reach. Nominate one student and say ‘Juan, run and point to /s/’. The child must look around and find the correct letter and run up to it and touch it or point to it. (Model the activity so that the children are clear about what they have to do).
You could then turn this into a race. Divide the class into two groups. They stand in two lines at the front of the class or down the centre of the room (it’s great if you can move furniture to the sides of the room). The children at the front of each line are the runners. You say the sound of the letter and the one to reach and touch it first is the winner. They then go to the back of the line and the next two children are the runners for the next letter. It is fine if other children in the team help the runner – it’s not a test but a means of helping children learn the sound-letter link.

What begins with /b/?

Ask the question with all the letters the children have been introduced to. They can tell you any words they know that begin with that sound. This is great for them to make their own connections between the letter and the sound. You may be surprised at how many words they know – even ones you haven’t introduced in class.

Hold up the letter

Get the children to make cards with the letters they know. Call out a sound and the children have to hold up the corresponding letter. This game allows all the children to join in and to focus on processing the sound-letter link without having to produce any language.

Recognising the letters

Produce handouts like this:
nh n m
oa o d g
Children have to recognise which is the same letter and simply circle it or maybe colour over it. The letters are actually very similar in shape, so it’s important that children can differentiate between them.


There are many good books that allow children to practise writing letters and words. They simply copy by following the arrows that show them which way their pen/pencil must move. After having done the air, body, plasticine activities it is good to move onto paper and allow the children lots of practice with holding a pencil and making the shapes. It is not easy to begin with and they need lots of practice to control their hand and follow the shape of the letter. In my experience children enjoy the task and concentrate hard on producing their letters.