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First time teaching ESL to very young children?

5 Aug

Teaching very young children can be either the best experience in the world or the worst, it all depends on you and what your expectations as their teacher are.

I have to admit that when I started teaching ESL to 3-5 year old children I was only 21 years old and I had no experience with them at all. Not just as a teacher but neither in my personal life. I did not have any young siblings or cousins and I had never worked as a babysitter during my teen years.

However, I found out it was easy for me to connect with them and they seemed to like me and enjoy my company. I am aware I was very lucky because it could have been a desastre due to my lack of experience with very young learners. I always say to myself this is a gift given to me and I am very grateful for that.

During my first years teaching I learned a lot from my experienced workmates and from my pupils. This is why I would like to share with those teaching ESL/EFL to very young learners for the first time some of tips so you avoid frustration thinking you are not a good teacher.



  • For many of them it may be the first time they hear a person speaking in English. Do not take it personal if they ignore you at first.
  • Some pupils may not be keen on joining you when you suggest activities and that is ok. Whenever they feel ready they will join you.
  • Using soft toys or puppets as your “teacher helper” will be very useful because they can relate to them.
  • Praise them as much as you can, even if it is for very little things they have achieved (e.g. understanding commands, listening to a story, dancing to a song, …)
  • Little children love having classroom routines, it makes them feel secure. Therefore, it is important you always start and finish the lesson the same way. (e.g singing a Hello Song and a Goodbye Song, greeting each other, speaking about the weather, counting how many we are in the class, …)
  • When your pupils are able to follow the classroom routines without you having to say anything, it already means a lot!
  • Do not expect them to express themseleves in English, they will probably use their mother tongue and that is ok. Little by little they will add English words and short sentences in their vocabulary.
  • The more movement activities you add into your lesson plans the better. In general, pupils spend many hours in class sitting down and they will appreciate the chance to move around.
  • Storytelling is essential and I have not met a single child who does not like listening to stories.  It is magic to see how they are able to follow sequences of events and get the general picture of what is going on (having visual support is basic).
  • Little children love partying, this is a good excuse to help them learn a little bit about the English culture through celebrating some festivities as part of the lesson plan.


I remember panicking the previous days to my first teaching experience, so I hope to be helping some fellow teachers who feel as lost as I was. We have a lovely profession but it can be very taugh, too. Therefore, I try to help as much as I can sharing my knowledge and experience 🙂




1 May

Summer time is coming and so are the summer holidays – the longest and most cherished holidays of the year. Our pupils get excited thinking about what activities they are going to do and what places they are going to visit. In fact, so do teachers 😀 Everybody loves summer!

When the scholar year end is approach and we cannot stop thinking of our summer plans, the best option is to focus our last lessons on that. Preschoolers love telling about the activities they do outside school; therefore, it is a great chance to help our pupils learn how to speak about summer plans in English.

Next, I am presenting my “Summer Holidays” lesson plan for ESL preschoolers:

These are the flashcards I use to introduce some of the places they may be going to during the holidays (beach, fun fair, park, mountain, swimming pool, zoo). I like hiding them around the classroom and asking the children to find them, they have so much fun!

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Once we have presented the six images, there is this story I like to tell. It is a good example of what the pupils will be able to say. (Click on the image to open the audio)

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After listening to the story, as an oral comprehension activity, you can show the flashcards again and ask the children if the girl in the story goes to any of those places. You can classify the flashcards in two groups: Yes, she goes to / No, she doesn’t go to.

To help them be able to explain where they want to go during their holidays, we sing this song which is based on the structure “I want to go to the _____”


Then, it is time for them to speak about their summer plans. I choose one pupil to come in front of the group and we all ask him/her at the same time “Where do you want to go?” So the pupil has to point to one of the flashcards and say “I want to go to the _____”. The first pupil will probably need help, but as they all come to the front to say it they shall require less help.


Related to going on holidays and choosing where you want to go – there is the Wallace & Gromit film “A Grand Day out”. Whenever I have watched it with my pupils they have loved it and laughed a lot 🙂

(Click on the image to watch the film).





Finally, we make a poster to decorate the classroom walls. Each pupils is given this piece of paper where they have to draw the place they want to go and finish the sentence by writing the place. As they finish the task, they glue their drawings onto a big cardboard.

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Old Macdonald’s Farm

19 Apr

Updated post with some more resources 🙂

Laia's TEFL corner

This is one of the most common and popular traditional songs that are used when teaching English to young learners and I am also one of these teachers who likes using it in class :). Preschoolers love anything related to animals which means that any content you want them to acquire, it will motivate them and help them acquire it if it goes with the help of some cute animals.

I use these 9 friendly farm animals as my teaching helpers. They are the ones that my pupils will see in the story and two songs that I included in the lesson plan. It would be great if you had actual toys! Otherwise, flashcards are good, too.

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You can introduce the farm animals by putting them inside a magic bag or magic box and then some volunteers take them out one by one. Sometimes, what I do is to hide…

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My favourite NURSERY RHYMES for ESL Preschoolers

31 Jan

When I choose the nursery rhymes for my ESL preschool lessons I always make sure they are nursery rhymes that let me dance a meaningfull choreography. This helps my pupils understand what the song is about.

Once we have worked enough on singing and dancing to the song, we always do a little task about it to have some extra fun.

The nursery rhymes I have included so far in my lesson plans are these:


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download worksheet


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download worksheet


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download craft activity


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download worksheet


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download worksheet


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download worksheet


26 Sep

“Super Simple Songs” have got some amazing tracks that help me get inspired for my preschool lessons. This time, the songs that were perfectly for me where the Shape Songs 1 & 2. After listening to them, I programmed a whole lesson plan based on these so my preschoolers could learn the name of some shapes through the songs.

This is the Lesson Plan:

First of all, I arrive in class with my magic bag where I keep the shapes flashcards. My pupils take turns to discover what flashcards I have this time in my bag and as we are taking them out we name them. Then, we investigate who of us has any of these shapes on our clothes. It is fun!

These are the flashcards that I used:

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Right after that, we listen to the two tracks and we classify which shapes are on the first song and which on the second one. We love classifying 😀

These are the Shape Songs:

In order to understand better the shapes, I give plasticine to my pupils and we make the different eight shapes with it. We pretend to be in an Art Gallery and each pupil displays his/her shapes to the rest of us. Using these plasticine shapes we just created, we put them in 8 different groups so all the starts are together, all the triangles are together, etc.

I discovered this youtube channel called Learning Fun by shapes and it just fits so well into the lesson plan! They have different fables were everything in it is made by shapes, it is fantastic 😀 I chose “The hare and the Tortoise” to watch in class:

After watching the video we speak about the shapes that we recognise in it and what shapes have been used for making the main characters.

To revise a little bit and to have some more fun, there is this great website which contains many online games. 

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19 Sep

This is a suggested assessment chart for a continuous evaluation at Preschool level.


How to keep a YOUNG LEARNERS class QUIET

27 Aug

After ignoring wordpress most of the summer… Here I am back to blogging! Some of you have already gone back to school, others like me are counting the few days left of freedom we have. Even if you are already back to work or not, I am sure you will like to read this article.

OXFORD MAGAZINE for Preschool and Primary has always got really interesting articles for TEFL teachers. I follow their online magazine and I like to share the articles I like the most or the ones I think that can be interesting for other teachers.


This time, the article is about “How to keep a young learners class quiet“:

It is somewhat inevitable that young learners will get rambunctious and noisy in class at times. Trying to shout above them is often an impossible feat and ends up hurting your vocal chords more than calming them down. There are lots of different tricks and techniques that can be used to save your voice and help little ones get back on track. Here are a few suggestions.

Hands up, cross arms, head down

Ask children to raise their arms, cross their arms, and then put their heads down on their desk or table. When they have calmed down, continue.

Stop! Look! Listen!

Make a sign or poster for class with a stop sign, eyes, ears. Ring a bell and drill the ‘stop, look, listen’ routine. Make it like a game and congratulate children when they do the routine well.


Clap your hands with a specific beat and encourage children to copy the beat. Do this a couple of times until everyone is back on task.

Multi-sensory silencers

Sometimes with very young learners it’s enough to distract their attention with something they are not expecting. For example, the sound of a wind chime or using a vaporizer to spray some scented water as you walk around class. There is also the possibility of using a tool like the Too Noisy app(for phones or PCs) where children can see how much noise they are making.

Ready for responses

Teach children different responses to things you might say in class. For example, I am what I am (teacher says, “I am” the class respond “what I am”). Other catchy phrases could include:Impossible is nothing, Just do it!, See you later alligator, Zig-zag.


Assign different children in class the job of quieting down the other children at their table or in their area. When indicated, the helpers try to ‘shush’ the children around them. If they do well, they can be given praise or a small prize.


Raise your hand and explain to the class that they need to be quiet and raise their hands before the countdown is over. Numbers can be written on the board, shown on flashcards or on your hand. Practice the countdown technique as fun activity before using it in class to calm children down. It’s important they are familiar with the technique before it’s used and remember to praise them if they do it well.


Play some music that the children like as they are working. Explain that if they get too noisy you will have to turn the music off.

Sand Timer

Explain to the class that when they get too noisy they will lose time from other activities or from break time. When they get noisy show the timer or show them the stopwatch and keep track of the minutes they lose on the board. So, if they ‘lose’ 5 minutes, that means, for example, 5 minutes less playing Simon Says or Bingo.

Everybody Up Song: Please Be Quiet!

In this short song children learn to be quiet and to say sorry when they are making too much noise.

Stop that Noise (Jazz Chant by Carolyn Graham)

Carolyn Graham’s Jazz Chant about keeping quiet can be taught to the class then used to quiet them down when things go haywire.

Teacher: Sh! Sh! Stop that noise!

Chorus: Sh! Sh! Stop that noise!
Sh! Sh! Stop that noise!

Teacher: Come on girls,
Tell all the boys.
Tell all the boys,
To stop that noise!

Girls: Please be quiet.
Stop that noise!
Please be quiet.
Stop that noise!

Teacher: Come on boys,
Tell all the girls.
Tell all the girls,
To stop that noise!

Boys: Shut up girls!
Stop that noise!
Shut up girls!
Stop that noise!

Teacher: Come on girls,
Come on boys.
Tell everybody,
To stop that noise!

Chorus: Sh! Sh! Stop that noise!
Sh! Sh! Stop that noise!
Sh! Sh! Stop that noise!

Teacher: Tell all the boys
To stop that noise!

Here is a video of some children in year 2 in northern Spain using the chant in class.

Signaling Classroom Transitions with Songs

Helping students know where they should be going and what they should be doing can cut down on classroom noise.

Keep in mind that it’s important to vary techniques and to experiment with new methods. Things that work in one group might not work in another group so be prepared to adapt and change according to your needs, and the children’s needs.

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