10 Tips for Choosing and Using Resources when Teaching English to Young Learners and Kindergarten

How do you go about choosing resources to use with Young Learners? What works well and what doesn't, and what will you keep on coming back to, time and again?

When teaching English to Young Learners / Kindergarten, the right resources introduced at the right time can have a hugely positive impact on the children’s learning outcomes.

The resources you choose don’t have to be expensive, perfectly made or from a toy shop. In fact, having children make their own resources that can be used in an actual lesson can often be the most motivating. For example, they can make their own name cards for the “What’s Your Name?” rhyme, or their own fish to use when singing “Ten Little Fish”. Children love making and using their own creations.

So how do you go about choosing resources to use with Young Learners? What works well and what doesn’t, and what will you keep on coming back to, time and again? Here are 10 tips for choosing and using resources to teach English to Young Learners / Kindergarten:

1. Make resources appealing

Resources that enhance children’s learning need to be appealing and motivating. Imagine yourself being taught a language point with the resource you are thinking of using. Would you be eager to participate and learn? For example, if you’re using a bucket for a game where you need to put things in a container, use a bright-coloured one or stick some coloured paper around it, and attach some ribbons. This immediately gets the children’s attention and they are always keen to hold it and participate. (Compare this to a dull, grey bucket…) If you’re using a cardboard box, perhaps decorate it. Use some interesting stones for counting rather than plain counters. Often the cheapest and the simplest resources turn out to be the best. Try and think outside the box!

2. Use resources that reflect the interests of the children.

This isn’t always easy to do but pays off in the engagement of the children. For example, if you notice the children are interested in dinosaurs, you could introduce a story about dinosaurs, or even make a class one.

3. Puppets – A fantastic resource!

Puppets are a great resource to have in the classroom. They are appealing and fun and can take pressure off children who may feel anxious or too shy to speak in English, encouraging them to have a try. Also, if you are feeling slightly anxious yourself, a puppet can help take the pressure off you, because the children will be concentrating on the puppet. Many children enjoy “talking” to a puppet, so let the puppet talk to the teacher and ask the children things, for example, can they help the puppet count? Hide the puppet, pretending it is shy and will only say hello if the children are quiet – this is a really good way to keep the noise level low when required.

Challenge yourself to make a puppet, it’s honestly easier than you might think! Use a sock with some eyes, a mouth and paper hair stuck on, or a paper bag and some simple craft materials, or even draw a face on your thumb or finger and use a tissue for hair!

4. Use realia whenever possible

Try and use real objects as much as possible. For example, when teaching the names of different fruits, have real fruit in the lesson or invite the children to bring in a piece of fruit to share (ensure you have written permission from parents/guardians before children eat anything in your classes).

5. Avoid formal worksheets

Worksheets can appear very formal and can make children anxious, feeling like they are taking a test. Furthermore, children completing a worksheet correctly doesn’t necessarily mean that they have understood what has been taught, or even that they have any idea what the worksheet is about. Instead, keep worksheets fun, using them as informal resources to support the activity you’re doing or the language you’re teaching, and choose to assess children in an ongoing, informal way. This will give you a more realistic picture of where they are with their growing knowledge of English.

If you’re in a teaching context where a book of neatly filled out assessed worksheets is important for parents, try to explain (if possible) that the worksheets don’t give a complete picture of the progress a child has made in their English class, and may in fact give a false impression. If you do have to use worksheets though, use them sparingly and ensure you observe and assess in other ways too.

6. Create a Home/School Link

Invite children to bring in something from home, for example a favourite toy animal if learning the names of animals. This connection with home can help give children comfort and confidence, encouraging those who may otherwise be shy, to talk about whatever it is that they’ve brought in. The children are usually super excited to share their toy or item and it takes the focus away from the child themselves. Avoid lost or broken toys at home-time by encouraging parents to clearly label anything that’s brought in with the child’s name, and keep all the things safe in a box, just inviting the child to show at the appropriate time.

7. Keep your resources and make a record of them

Keep a clear record of the resources you use for different lessons. It’s so easy to forget what worked well… and what didn’t. Ensure you store your resources carefully for future use. There’s nothing worse than spending time making something, only to then not be able to find it again, or find it damaged because it was not put away carefully. Even songs, rhymes and games that are “stored” on paper deserve to be carefully filed away for easy retrieval. Very soon you’ll start to build up a wide range of resources which will make your planning quicker and easier.

8. Share resources with other teachers

Share resources and ideas with other teachers you‘re working with. They might have a new perspective or idea about the resource that can help you when you next come to use it. Perhaps you’re struggling to use a game effectively – another teacher might come up with the perfect solution. And of course, they will (hopefully) share ideas with you in return. Try and get into this sharing mindset – everyone benefits in the end.

9. Have a tidy-up time

Make tidying up fun. For example, use a timer and play “Beat the Timer”, where the children have to try and tidy up before the timer ends. Or tell the children their challenge is to tidy up before you count to a certain number. As you count, the children will naturally begin to join in too, adding more English practice to the lesson! Young children love challenges like these and they turn a “chore” into a fun activity.

10. The most important resource of all – You

Last, but definitely not least, is the most important resource of all…YOU, the teacher. If you teach with enthusiasm and passion it will have a positive effect on the children. Don’t be afraid to act, sing, dance and simply have fun together. Children will be quick to pick up on your enthusiasm and you will very soon start to hear and see the wonderful, positive results from all of your effort and hard work.

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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