The ABC of ELT

A Few Simple Ideas for Young Learner Classes

Krakow Podgorze 2016

I’ve been teaching a lot of “pre-teens” [10-13] kids recently and I’ve found a few little ways to adapt activities and generate interest in topics a bit more. I thought I’d share a few of my go to idea at the moment.

1. Surveys and forms to fill in

It’s amazing how a series of questions in a course book are very boring and can lead to a lot of L1. However, making a little handout where there is a space for a different students answers seems to lead to l2 gallor and a real motivation to get it filled in.

2. Circle time

I stole this from another teacher, in off site classrooms I often have enough space to set up a little circle on the floor or with cushions/seats. This is a different area which makes a break from sitting at desks or at the front of the class. Here we can do pair work with partners from one side, or the other. We can also do circle games, drills and more.

3. A sneak peak

Showing part of a picture or sentence is a great way to generate curiosity and get students think of collocations and verb phrases and even grammar (yeah remember that thing). Sometimes I have a large piece of paper with a hole in the middle and slowly move that over an image/sentence revealing only part of it at a time.

4. Arrange the cards

Again I use this for working on verb phrases, collocations and presenting grammar without presenting grammar. I place some sets of cards round the room, the students have to arrange them into the right order and then write down the correct sentence. Then they move onto the next one. This is great for dyslexic students as well, they can move the cards while someone else records the sentence.
Using this I can present language like the present continuous with cards which have the verb to be and the verb in the sentence (am jumping) but also with the subject and the verb to be (I am) to reinforce that these words go together.
Once they’ve come across the language once, I like to up the difficulty by throwing in an extra card. [like I are] to test that knowledge.

5. Zbyszek

I have a little stick man with a hat called Zbyszek (a slightly old fashioned Polish name so it’s not the name of anyone in the class). He goes on lots of adventures (sometimes with a female companion or a male companion depending on my needs). The kids love to see what Zbyszek is up to this week. I think his hat makes a big difference.

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6. Sentences using the names of kids in the class.

When a kid sees a model sentence with their name on, they often get excited and then suddenly they all want to find out what the sentence is about themselves. It can be tricky to make sure there is nothing that teases or embarrasses any child but it’s okay to get things wrong, you’ll often be told what the correct information is which is more natural use of the language.

7. Constantly changing seating arrangements


I’m not sure there is one perfect seating arrangement for a class (even if there are guidelines from an organisation which says there are). Instead I find changing things around a lot makes the biggest difference. That way no one get’s too used to a seating system and thinks they can shout out to their friend on the other side.

8. Name cards to set seats

At the start of the year in the first class we made our own seat cards out of some simple pieces of card. These show who is sitting where. It was simply so that the students would know each others names BUT it also helps me set up the classroom how I like and get students who should sit close to the board to sit there.

9. Learning partners

I change “learning partners” every two weeks. This way students get to work with different students, no one is “annoyed” (well too annoyed”) if they are working with a “weaker” student and it means boys and girls mix at an age when all boys smell (figuratively and sometimes literally…unfortunately).


I’m not saying these are ideas you should use, they have their downsides and the novelty sometimes wears out but they are nine things I’ve been trying recently and seem to work okay.

What have you been trying with Young Learners recently?

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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