15 Planning Tips For Teaching English to Young Learners and Kindergarten

What should you think about when planning a lesson for Young Learners or Kindergarten? Here are 15 practical tips.

If you teach English to Young Learners and/or Kindergarten, having a well-planned lesson can be the difference between a stressful experience and one which is enjoyable both for you and for the children. Most importantly, a well-planned lesson can lead to more successful outcomes for the children.

So what should you think about when planning a lesson for Young Learners or Kindergarten? Here are 15 practical tips:

1. Always plan extra

ALWAYS plan far more than you think you will need for any one lesson! As you become more experienced and get to know your class, you will be able to judge what works well and for how long and incorporate this into your planning, but there will still be times when you run out of activities! In these cases, even 5 minutes can seem like a very long time with a class of 5 year olds! Have a list of extra ideas on the wall for quick reference as and when needed, and have the resources you need for these ready to go in your “toolkit”, whether that’s a puppet, a song or a game.

2. Be flexible

Sometimes an activity just doesn’t work. No matter how well-planned it is or how brilliantly you think it will work with your class, for whatever reason it just falls flat. This happens to even the most experienced of teachers, so don’t worry, be flexible and ready to adapt. Simply change what you are doing and use something from the extra activities you have planned.

3. Experiment

Don’t be afraid to try out new ideas – they might just turn out to be brilliant. The more confident you become, the more you will want to experiment with new ideas and different ways of teaching.

4. Be aware of children’s attention span

Children have short attention spans. This means you need to change activities often. Alternating between more physical activities and calmer ones is effective.

5. Add an element of surprise

If lessons are fun and have an element of surprise, it will keep the children on track with their learning. If done in the right way, even having something in a bag to show the children can achieve this.

For example, put a puppet in a bag and pretend to see it move, at the same time pretending that you don’t know what is in there! Get the children involved, pretending the bag doesn’t move when you look at it… then use variations of this. Children love this type of activity and respond very positively to it.

Do you need Young Learner Lesson Plans? Have a look at our Resource Packs:

6. Make lessons meaningful

If you notice something that the children are particularly interested in, try to incorporate it into your lesson plan in some way. For example, if they are interested in dinosaurs and you are teaching numbers, count dinosaurs!

Teaching things in context makes your lesson more meaningful. For example, if you’re teaching the names of farm animals, make a farm scene or have a story about a farm and the animals, sing relevant songs like ”Old MacDonald Had a Farm”.

7. Incorporate plenty of repetition

Don’t teach something once and then forget about it. Children (and adults!) need plenty of repetition, review and reinforcement of language in order to acquire and assimilate it. This is what makes learning through rhymes, songs and stories so successful, and children really enjoy playing games and hearing songs over and over again. This also provides motivation to learn, as children find they can join in the more you repeat an activity, and are actually beginning to speak and understand English. It’s very exciting to observe!

8. Use creative activities

Creative activities make lessons fun, active, and, most of all, memorable, ensuring children are both engaged AND learning. For example, if you’re learning the names of different colours and you sing “Ten Coloured Fish” invite the children to make different coloured fish – decorating them as they want, as a collage, using paints…

When doing creative tasks, where possible let the children take their creations home, as it makes for a very positive home/school link.

9. Differentiate

Always start your teaching from the child and where they are in their development and learning. Children learn at different rates, so it’s important to differentiate. One way to do this is by asking children the same question but in different ways. This becomes easier as you get to know the individual children in your class. You can also pair the children accordingly to support one another, but change pairings regularly. Differentiating also ensures children don’t get bored due to the lesson not being challenging enough, or frustrated due to the lesson being too hard. Observe and assess on a very regular basis.

10. Ask the children!

Don’t be afraid to ask the children what they have enjoyed… but do be prepared for blunt honesty! Don’t take responses personally, but instead use them to inform future planning. The children might tell you games they enjoy (and are therefore probably learning from) or perhaps a game they would like to play that you haven’t thought of. Even children who might not be able to verbalise what they thought of an activity will still let you know by their interest in repeating it. In this sense, you can “ask” the children by simply observing their reactions to activities. And remember: enjoyment most likely equates to learning!

11. The role of play

Incorporate play and games into your lessons. “Play” puts children in charge of their own learning, giving them confidence without any risk of failure. Being expected to sit in rows and answer questions without choosing to can make a lesson very stressful for any child, with the end result that they may not even want to “have a try” for fear of getting something wrong.

Play also allows children to consolidate their learning. Children who are choosing what to play or being creative are intrinsically motivated and therefore more likely to remember things. Play is fun and children are much more likely to learn and use their developing language skills in English if they are having fun! Rhymes, games and stories are great ways to ensure play-based learning takes place. Creative activities also achieve this, where children are allowed to use their own imagination and move freely about in the classroom.

12. Encourage independent learning

Try to incorporate into your plans opportunities for children to be independent learners. For example, leave resources out that have been used in the lesson, and make space in your plan for children to use them at specific times or when they have finished any task you might have set for them. It’s often surprising how much English you hear when the children are invited to do this.

Also, invite the children to become the “teacher” as much as possible – try to find ways to extend any activities you plan to include this opportunity. Most children are very keen to do this and it is an extremely positive way of reinforcing concepts and supporting the children in gaining confidence to “have a try”, using their growing knowledge of English.

Do you need Young Learner Lesson Plans? Have a look at our Resource Packs:

13. Use open questions

Include open questions in your planning as much as possible so that the children can think and share their own ideas. For example, when teaching the names of animals, once they know a few, ask a child the name of their favourite animal. If they have already been taught some descriptive adjectives, you could also ask them why they like it (“because it’s pink/small/funny…”)

14. Incorporate quiet time

When I began to incorporate quiet time into my planning, I used to worry that I’d be seen as “not teaching”. Actually, the opposite is true. One way to add quiet time is to leave out some story books for the children to look at. Very Young Learners/Kindergarten children will look at the book, learning to hold it up the right way and turning the pages. If you have read a particular book to the children and you leave it out, they will gradually start to retell the story using the pictures, some even pointing to the text and using intonation too! Older children will enjoy finding words they know, or actually reading the book (depending on their level) and sharing their growing knowledge with you. Sit with the children during this quiet time to observe and scaffold their learning.

15. Review your lessons

Always review your lesson afterwards, asking yourself what worked well and what you could improve on. Don’t be hard on yourself if something didn’t go according to plan. Instead add it to your growing experience of what works and what doesn’t, and see it as an opportunity to change an activity in a way that will achieve the outcomes you want for the children. I used to have a piece of paper on the wall or desk to which I added very short notes throughout my lessons on everything I observed or wanted to think about later or change.


Planning well is essential when you’re teaching English to Young Learners or Kindergarten. But there’s another thing that’s also important to remember. And that’s the little things that happen in a lesson outside of your plan. Things like taking turns, active listening and following instructions… When you’re in the middle of an activity, even one that you think isn’t going too well, take a step back and observe these incidental things – they are often where most learning takes place! Teaching children needs a holistic approach where you keep in mind all of these things. Keep this in mind, as well as the 15 tips above, and you will find teaching children a very rewarding experience. Happy Planning!

Susan Brown
Susan is an Early Years specialist teacher with a passion for teaching Young Learners for whom English is an additional language. Since gaining a distinction in her Education degree, she has taught both teachers and children in countries including Spain, the UK and the UAE, and has also volunteered in Mexico, Bangladesh and Nepal.

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