Warmers for adult classes

Warmers for adult classes

by Gavin Addison

(Shane Training Centre, Japan)

‘Always do a warmer’ is a standard part of the EFL mantra, but why should we do them and what type of activity should they be?

The rationale for doing a warmer:

* The ice breaker. Often recommended with new students and classes but it actually applies to all students. People will communicate more easily if they feel familiar and comfortable with the person they are talking to. For new classes, warmers provide the chance to get to know their new classmates, to find something out about them. For existing classes, students often have no contact with each other outside of class so they will still feel a little awkward when suddenly forced back together in the lesson. Warmers give a chance for people to get to know the other people they will be communicating with.

* Lowering the affective filter. The affective filter refers to the mental barrier that we often put up which can often block or slow down the learning process. If we are happy and relaxed then we are more receptive to learning, and more willing to try out new language and make mistakes. If we are stressed or worried then we will ‘close down’ in the lesson. We can be too worried about making mistakes or not feel safe enough to try out new language. A warmer helps everyone relax and feel comfortable in the lesson, and lower their affective filter.

*Setting the tone. Lessons should be fun, communicative and all in English. The warmer should also be all these things and will set the students up for the rest of the lesson. After a dull, lifeless warmer, students are not going to be rushing into the body of the lesson, ready to learn.

* Entering the English world. Ideally entering the classroom should be like entering an English speaking world. As they step through the door they leave the world of their L1 behind. The warmer signposts that they have arrived in their new world and provides them with an easy first few steps.

* Warm up. It’s difficult to launch straight away into a completely different activity, like speaking a foreign language. Students need a chance to literally ‘warm up’ up their language skills before embarking on the more adventurous parts of the lesson.

Attributes of a good warmer activity:

* Quick. A warmer should be 3 – 5 minutes at most. There are many advantages of doing a good warmer to start the class but these are all lost if the warmer runs too long and doesn’t

leave you enough time for the main part of the lesson. Even if the warmer is very successful and is generating a lot of language, don’t be tempted to let it run on. If an activity is particularly successful then there’s even more of an incentive to finish it quickly as you can always repeat it in a future lesson .

* Student centred. It goes without saying, but it’s the students who need the warmer, not the teacher. Warmers should be about the students and getting them talking. Warmers should be about what the students are interested in and ideally set up using student ideas.

* Communicative. Language is communication, especially in the classroom environment. The lessons generally follow a communicative approach, so this is what you are warming them up to do. Students should be talking to each other, preferably conveying some sort of authentic message. Avoid writing or reading beyond the level of individual words or short phrases.

* Fun. Like the lesson, warmers should be fun and get students engaged with using English. You need students to enjoy the warmer to want to continue with the rest of the lesson

* Easy. Students need to be successful, and thus success helps set the tone of the lesson. If the students fall at the first hurdle then you are hamstringing the rest of your lesson. Keep the activity simple and achievable, so the students

Review. Just as it should be easy, the warmer should also be based around language they already know. Don’t introduce new language at this stage, otherwise it will no longer be a warmer.

Sample activities

* 2 Truths, 1 lie. Write three statements about yourself on the board, 2 of them should be true and one should be a lie. Quickly have the students guess which statement is the lie. Then have the students take turns to produce statements about themselves.

* What’s the question? Write the answers to some simple questions about yourself on the board, e.g. Pizza – (what’s your favourite food?). Students then guess what the questions are. Repeat the activity with the students writing facts about themselves on the board.

One of the advantages of these activities is that they give the students control over the flow of information. Often when we want to find out about students it can come across a bit like an interrogation, what’s your job? Tell me about your family. In both these activities above students give out information about themselves, but they get to choose what information they impart.

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Reading for Real: Storybooks in the classroom

Reading for Real: Storybooks in the classroom

by Sophia McMillan

(Shane Training Centre, Japan)

There are two ways to view reading in the younger learner classroom: learning to read and reading to learn.

Reading to learn involves target language and structures, which form part of the curriculum: for example the dialogue page of a textbook or unscrambling words or sentences. These activities are developing the learners awareness of language form, word order and, where supported by visual materials, context and usage. Reading to learn requires exposure to the target language before the reading activity can take place and so these activities are supported by input, drilling and often listening activities.

Learning to read involves recognition of letter and word shapes (looking at whole words and whole sentences), phonics (relating sounds to individual letters and blends and clusters of letters), and morphemes (e.g. adding ‘ing’ or ‘ed’ to a verb to change the meaning – listen – listening – listened).

Very often learning to read and reading to learn are combined. Learners are taught to recognise word shapes when being taught colours or they are taught that ‘ing’ indicates a continuous action during a lesson on activities.

However, there is very little reading for pleasure in the classroom and yet this provides rich exposure to word forms and language in an involving and meaningful context supported by pictures and actions, all of which help develop learning to read.

Consider your own reading experiences as children, probably through the Ladybird series of books or even through ‘classic’ texts such as ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ or ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. Often the language content was not pre-taught rather we picked up the meaning of words through pictures and story development. We were probably read to first with minimal explanation of all the language. Later we would satisfy curiosity by looking at the books ourselves and attempt reading the texts alone. ‘Retelling’ the story would typically follow this. Through exposure to more texts we would develop our lexical awareness and start using some of the language we had read. Above all there was no doubt a great sense of achievement when we had read something.

Why are storybooks a good thing?

• Storybooks stimulate interest and motivate learners. Children progress from initial interest in the colourful pictures, to relating the visual information to the text.

• Language is presented in context and children retain the meanings of new words even though they may not use the language themselves.

• The language in storybooks is natural, authentic language rather than just the presentation of words selected by the teacher and drilled. This language doesn’t need pre-teaching as all the necessary information is presented on the page.

• If being read to, the learners develop an awareness of intonation and pronunciation.

• Reading is a social experience – the learners listen and react as a group, follow-up activities are done together and stories show life from other points of view.

• Reading storybooks develops an interest in literature, which will eventually lead the children to make decisions on what to read.

• Using

familiar or traditional stories will develop a greater cultural awareness in the learner. The more familiar the story (e.g. Momotoru – the peach boy in Japan) the greater the interest in and success at reading is likely to be.

• Storybooks create great possibilities for personalisation and extension activities. For example ‘Goldilocks and the three bears’ –

 How do the learners feel about goldilocks? Was she a good or bad girl? Why?

 Which bear do they like the most and why?

 Act out scenes from the text.

 Read part of the story – the learners tell you what happens next.

 Draw the characters or locations from the story.

 Learners put (pre-prepared) pictures or words in the correct order and re-tell the story.

 If telling the story for a second or third time the teacher can miss words out for learners to ‘fill in’ by guessing the answers.

 Learners can progress from ‘being read to’ to ‘reading out’ for the class.

 Stories can be adapted (learners can decide on a different ending or setting) and retold (from a different point of view).

If stories are to be effectively exploited in the classroom, there is a need for teachers to plan work with clear language learning and learning goals in mind.

What does the teacher do? What do the learners do?

• The teacher should speak ‘spontaneously’ and naturally

• Use natural intonation

• Use your body and face to make gestures

• Don’t worry if you make mistakes – the learners will not notice!

• Repeat and rephrase in a natural way

• Show pictures and talk about them

• Talk to learners about aspects of the story

• Learners listen and can repeat certain phrases (e.g. “Where are you going?”)

• Learners can see the text, look at the words and follow the story

• Learners can comment on the story as it develops

How do I do it in the classroom?

• Establish a routine. Though the activity may seem strange at first the learners will soon get used to it

• Storytelling need only be short, regular activities. Telling the story should be followed by something physical (movement / mime) or social (drawing pictures together) and related to the text. Altogether storytelling can be done in 10 minutes

• Consider the best time for a storytelling activity. As the task is ‘learning to read’ it should come after the usual presentation and practice of any typical ‘target’ language. Possibly after a physical activity to change the pace a little. Remember that storytelling need only be around 10 minutes of the lesson

Writing about the story or characters, drawing pictures to support the story and even writing their own story are fun and useful homework activities. Storytelling can be done with any young learners from 2-4 years (listening passively) to 4-6 years (listening and drawing) to 6-9 years (reacting to the story; offering ‘opinions’; writing about characters) to 9-12 years (re-telling; writing; re-ordering a story etc.)

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Setting Context

Setting Context

by Sophia McMillan

(Shane Training Centre, Japan)


Context, function and form give learners the essential where, why and how of the language (or skill) being taught. A lesson needs all three to make it clear and engaging.

* Context – the where and why of the language situation.

* Function – the intent (or the why) of the language used, its purpose

* Form – the structure of the language

When devising contexts you should consider where the language is being used, by whom and for what purpose. It should be connected to real life and to the learners. A good context clarifies meaning and function and gives learners a reason to communicate and use what is being taught.

A good context also motivates and engages learners by showing them how the language is meaningful to them and allows them to build connections with the language and where and how it can be used. Context establishes a basis for everything in the lesson and makes the lesson flow smoother.

One clear and relevant context needs to be set at the start of every class. Switching contexts during the lesson can make learners confused and result in timing, pacing and understanding issues.

Contexts need to:

* Be realistic / natural / authentic

* Be familiar and interesting

* Be Surrounded by easy language (e.g. eat; see; go etc)

* Perform the same function throughout

* Allow for positive, question and negative forms

* Generative i.e. allow for several examples of the same form and function within context.

Contexts can be established in a number of ways:

 Situations simulated in the classroom

 Short dialogues

 Short narratives

 Visual aids or mime

 Things/people/actions in the classroom

But above all should be built using the learners’ ideas and knowledge.

What are the important elements of a context?

 Where? The setting: where are the participants?

 Who? The roles of the participants: who are they & what is their relationship to each other & to the setting?

 What? The action: what are the participants doing? Who’s doing what?

 When? The time reference: when does the action take place? Is past/present/future time being referred to?

What makes a good context?

1. Is it interesting in itself?

Is there psychological/human interest?

Is it memorable and vivid?

Is it plausible?

2. Does it relate to situations in which learners will actually have (or need) to use the item/s being taught?

3. Does the language sound natural?

Are typical responses included where appropriate?

4. Is the language of the surrounding context easy and more familiar than the new item?

If not, what’s likely to happen during elicitation?

5. Is the same form illustrated in each of your examples of the item in context? It’s easy to mix up examples of related but different forms – e.g. slipping from simple to continuous forms of verbs.

6. Is the same function maintained consistently? It’s easy to mix up examples of different functions of the same form e.g. Can I..? is a request for permission while Can you..? is a polite order, although the two sentences are formally related.

7. Is the meaning unambiguous in the context?

8. Is the context generative? That is to say, is it possible to come up with several examples of the same form and function in the same context?

Remember to show meaning rather than explain it!

When you have decided what you are going to teach (usually the Syllabus/Course book does this for you) consider the following:

1. FORM Statement form? Question form? Negative? Short answers?

2. MEANING Which? (e.g. Present Simple has more than one functional use)


The inductive approach involves contextualisation of the target language (the item to be introduced) so that meaning and use become clear from that context.

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Planning a Young Learner Lesson

Planning a Young Learner Lesson

by Sophia McMillan

(Shane Training Centre, Japan)


What should I teach?

The first thing a teacher needs to decide is WHAT they want to teach. What do children need to learn?

• Vocabulary – These should be concrete items in the children’s environment, grouped by category, as vocabulary is easier to remember that way.

• Functional Dialogues – Things children say every day.

• Listening – Children learning a foreign language can understand more than they can say.

• Grammar – Simple, useful structures that children can substitute vocabulary items into and make their own sentences. It is important to include statements as well as questions and answers.

• Phonics/Reading/Writing – Children learning English need lots of support, reading and writing are hard skills to master and require patience and practice.

The Lesson Plan

A basic lesson plan makes planning easier. Lesson plans are needed by the learners in order to provide structure and routine to their learning, the parents need one in order to have confidence in the teacher.

Below is a basic outline for a young learner lesson:

Warmer (Review) 5 minutes

Introduce new material 5-10 minutes

Practice new material 5-20 minutes

Bookwork (including homework) 10 minutes

Follow-up 5 minutes

Round up 5 minutes

TOTAL 55 minutes

Warmers are used to get the children thinking in English again, some need to be calmed down and others need to be energized. For this reason we use warmers to review, in a fun way, something they have already learnt. They should be quick, easy and enjoyable. For example: Partner Search – Using two sets of cards (pictures, words, dialogue lines etc). Give each learner a card, making sure that at least two have the same card. The learners search for the other person with the same card by saying the word, dialogue etc – they are not allowed to show the card – as they walk around the class,

When introducing new material it should always be introduced orally first, with the books closed.

Practice activities give the learners an opportunity to practice and consolidate the language they have been taught. Below are some practice activities:

• In Order (Vocab) – Give each child a different review picture or word card. Name the cards in random order. Learners must stand up and make a line in the given order. Name

the cards again, faster and in a different order. In large classes, use eight to ten cards each time. The class can act as ‘jury’ and decide whether the order is correct.

• In The Dark (Phonics) – Place objects beginning with target letters on the table. Blindfold a learner, or have them close their eyes. Say a letter or sound (not a word). The blindfolded learner tries to find an object on the table beginning with that letter or sound.

• Behind Your Back (Grammar) – A learner stands up with his hands behind his back. Place an object in his hands and ask “What’s this?” The learner responds with ‘It’s a ___.’ If they are correct, they sit down. If not, they continues guessing until they correctly identify the object.

After the new material has been practiced it is an ideal time to get the books out, allowing the children to see the material in another context, and listen to the CD. It is vital, however, that they remain involved so ask them to point to vocabulary items, or characters in the book etc. Alternatively they might be doing a listening exercise where they are required to repeat, tick boxes or circle something.

Setting homework is important for all learners as it reinforces what has been covered in the class. Good homework is: achievable for the learners, follows the curriculum and makes for easy review. It is vital that the homework task is demonstrated clearly so that when the children leave the class they are aware of what is required of them.

The lesson should end on an enjoyable note, sending the children home feeling good about learning English and wanting to come back again. Follow-up and round-up games might consolidate material learnt in class or offer an opportunity to use the material in a slightly different way or review previously covered material. For example: Guess the Drawing – Choose five to ten cards to be reviewed. Divide the learners into two teams standing in two lines. Show the same card to the first person in each team. Both learners run to the board and draw that item. Their team tries to guess the item. The first team to guess correctly is awarded a point. The team with the most points wins.

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Teaching Tips – Drama Activities for Younger Learners

Teaching Tips – Drama Activities for Younger Learners

by Sophia McMillan

(Shane Training Centre, Japan)


Drama activities provide good practice of the target language, variation in the lesson and, through fun, stimulate the learners. Drama activities provide good practice of the target language and good variation in the lesson. These activities needn’t occur all the time but the more familiar learners become with drama activities the more successful the activities will be.

Drama activities need careful setting up and lots of encouragement and can involve materials production as well as very basic writing and reading skills. To be really successful the activities need props or realia and almost certainly prompt or flashcards to help the learners.

* Simple actions, structures & words can be practised through movement and chanting activities

* Mime & action games can be used as team activities – e.g. one team (A) selects an action for an opposite team (B) member to perform – team (B) have to say what the action is

* Change the settings of basic role-plays to make the activity more fun – e.g. offering & asking for things could be done in an aeroplane situation (instead of in a café etc.)

* Introduce drama skills & techniques little by little so learners become accustomed to these activities over time

* Kids love games & pretending – the more fun and active we make these drama activities the more enthusiastic the learners will be

* Consider how eagerly your younger learners do activities like run & draw, slap, stations etc. This is because they are fun, easy, active & familiar ways of practising language. If drama techniques are used in every lesson the learners will happily take part & become more confident

* Mime, TPR, movement, role-playing, etc is used in young learner classes anyway – in fact you probably use drama techniques all the time!

* As well as the drama techniques above craft work can be used to develop mask making & prop making, bring ‘costumes’ for learners to ‘act’ in (e.g. a hat, a pair of gloves or even a white shirt can make fun dressing-up props!).

Some Activity Suggestions:

Action Circle: This activity practises names and actions. Review some very basic actions (brush your teeth; read a book etc.) Have everyone in a circle and start to beat a rhythm. Learners stand around and clap one beat. One person jumps in the circle, says their name and does a gesture. Everyone copies the gesture and says the learner’s name. Then a second person jumps in the middle and does a different action. Everyone copies the

first and then second learner’s actions maintaining a beat until everyone has had a turn.

Adjective Movement: Board a list of adjectives known to the learners (eg happy, sad, angry, young, fat, thin, cold, hot, old etc). Line learners up against a wall and demonstrate walking slowly from one side of the room to another. Next choose (or have the learners choose for you) one of the adjectives (e.g. Old). Now walk from one side of the room to the other in the manner of an old person. Repeat this with all the adjectives so learners get an idea of which movements they can do with each one.

Alternatively, have learners wandering the room or walking in a circle in the manner of the adjective. When you shout ‘STOP!” they should freeze in their position and hold that for a few seconds. When you call out the next adjective (e.g. angry) they should wander again in the manner of that adjective then get them to freeze again etc.

Mime: Review some known actions, jump, skip, play the piano (depending on level). In teams learners take turns at miming one of the actions (either individual team members or the whole team together). The other team has to guess the mime/action to win a point.

Alternatively, one team selects an action for an opposite team member who then performs the mime for his/her home team to guess.

This kind of activity can be used to practice many areas of language.

Role-plays: Learners will need a lot of guidance on preparing the role-play, one way to help them is via substitution drills. Remember role-plays needn’t stick to text-based language.

For example, using the following target structure “What would you like ..?”:

A: “What would you like to eat?”

B: “Fish, please”

A: What would you like to drink?”

B: “Water, please”

Put learners in groups of three. One is the flight attendant and the other two passengers. The flight attendant then offers food and drinks to the passengers. You can have lots of fun miming the actions of the planes movements! Other situations for this language could be in a boat; café, spaceship etc

Role plays can be done with any level but will range from being very controlled by the teachers to a freer practice activity where the learners are more able to develop a role-play themselves.

Don’t worry if learners appear to ‘resist’ role-playing initially. They need time to become familiar with the concept and accept it as a ‘fun’ part of the lesson.


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Talking about the Future

Talking about the Future

by Sophia McMIllan

(Shane Training Centre, Japan)

Talking about the future in English can be difficult as technically there are no future tenses in English. The future is not fixed – it does not exist yet. So in English we use a number of forms and structures to express the future. It is usually the degree of certainty about the future decides our choice of structure or tense. But the distinction between choices is not always clear.

Native speakers of English vary their future forms depending on:

* variety, to avoid repetition

* formality, use “will” instead of “going to”

* type of text, “will” is generally used to make weather predictions

Ways of talking about the future in English.

* Will

For unplanned future events/instant decisions – I’ll get it!

For expectations/predictions that are not based on present or past evidence – England will win the match

To make promises – I’ll see you tomorrow

* Going to (be + going to + verb)

For predictions based on past or present evidence – She’s going to have a baby

For pre-meditated intentions (planned events) – She’s going to buy him a bike

* Present Continuous

For events where arrangements have been made e.g. a booking, bought tickets etc usually with a specified time adverbial e.g. next month, in July etc. – I’m seeing the dentist tomorrow

* Present simple

For timetables and programmes – The restaurant opens at 7

Indicate a future time after a time conjunction such as: after, before, when, if, until, as soon as etc – When you finish the report, put it on my desk.

* Future Continuous (will + be + the present participle)

For future events in progress that are predicted or expected to begin before a particular point in the future (and possibly continue after this time) – I’ll be playing tennis at four this afternoon.

For future as a matter of course. To avoid suggesting intention, arrangement, prediction or willingness – They will be

meeting at 8

* Future Perfect Simple (will + have + the past participle)

To view events from a particular point in the future as already having taken place or as having been completed, used with by or before. – They will have finished by 10

* Future Perfect Continuous (will + have + been + the present participle)

To view events from a particular point in the future when we are interested in how long they have been happening, used with for – They will have been talking for 2 hours

Less common / more advanced future forms:

* Shall/shan’t are generally considered old fashioned and are used more with making offers & suggestions generally with I and we.

* Will be doing – an event going on at a particular time in the future/a prearranged event (I’ll be going to university)/planned events.

* Be to + Infinitive – Medicine is to be taken after meals – instructions/formal arrangements/news reports.

* Future from the past – I was going to/we hoped a new one would arrive/was to be/was about to etc.

Potential Problems Learners have include:

* Choosing the right form for what they want to say

* Over-generalisation/simplification – over using one form they are comfortable with (usually the first they learnt) – *I can’t stay I’ll play golf later

* Use of future after a time expression – *I’ll call as soon as I’ll get there

* Using auxiliary verbs, adding or omitting them – *will you staying here?

* Infinitive use – *I shall to see her again

* Word order – *when you will come?

* Pronunciation – unstressed sounds; contracted forms; pronunciation of short vowel sound and /w/ in will;

* Spelling

* Timetabled Future: inappropriate use of stative verbs

* amn’t used in negatives and question tags

Anticipating learner difficulties before presenting new language will prepare you for developing a suitable and recognisable context and dealing with problems when they occur.

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Teaching the Under 5s

Teaching the under 5s

by Sophia McMillan

(Shane Training Centre, Japan)

Teaching very young learners (under 5s) can be particularly daunting for many teachers. For most it is the first time they have had to cope with children this young, and many are concerned or worried about how to approach the class.

Teaching very young learners can be a lot of fun and very rewarding however, there is no doubt that it presents a set of unique challenges. Young learners are not interested in English per se they are more focussed on having fun, playing games and being entertained.

Initially, most young learners are very shy of their new teacher; especially as to them the new teacher is a strange and scary looking foreigner. It is not uncommon for them to become fixed to their mothers and barely acknowledge your presence. One thing that works in your favour is that small children are innately curious and by making funny faces, silly noises etc will make them smile or laugh winning half the battle. Perseverance however, will pay off and before long the little ones will be used to you and the classroom, possibly even fighting over who gets to hold your hand etc and learning English all at the same time.

With very young learners it is important that the lessons are fun, as, if they are enjoying themselves they are more likely to participate in the activities. Generally children love to draw, colour, sing, dance, and play games – they are looking to be entertained. To maintain their interest it is important that they enjoy it and laugh.

Very young learners have very short attention spans and so the classes should be fast, fun and energetic. Using a combination of activities, e.g. songs, movement, actions and games is an effective way of maintaining their attention. However, it is vital to be aware of what is happening around you because as soon as the learners start becoming distracted it is imperative to stop the current activity and move on to something else. While you should go into the class with a clear lesson plan it is important to remain flexible and respond to the learners.

Playgroup courses are designed to incorporate social skills, gross and fine motor skills, simple concept building etc., in conjunction with a wide range of resources. The courses contain a range of activities etc that work with this age group. It is important to consider why we are doing the activities we do. Some activities will make the lesson go smoother for both the teacher and learners. For example, teaching the value of turn taking and co-operative play will encourage learners to work together and share, developing their social skills. Creative activities are important as they can provide an opportunity

for a wide range of language use as well as developing a number of skills in the learners, increasing their motivation. Thus it is beneficial when teaching very young learners to consider what skills are being developed.

It is vital to remember that irrespective of the activity the learners are not expected to do everything perfectly. Rather it is the taking part that is important, not the end result. It is important also to remember that talking to the children is vital, they probably will not respond initially and most of the learning will be passive. During activities you should be talking about what they are doing, what colour things are, counting etc.

Songs, chants etc are a great way of getting the learners moving. Initially, they may be shy and reluctant leaving you leaping around the classroom feeling silly. If you can forget your embarrassment and persevere they will soon join you. Songs expose the learners to natural speech rhythms, useful English and language heard with music is retained easier. Further, the musical side of the brain (the right hemisphere) is larger in young learners than the ‘language’ side. These songs etc need to be repeated regularly with consistent actions to accompany them, as more exposure will increase learner confidence and motivation.

Interactive drawing is another useful teaching tool. For example, draw a circle and have the learners add facial features to your direction; give them a page of shapes and ask them to colour specific shapes certain colours. As they become more aware the tasks set can become more complex – while remaining within their capabilities.

Flashcards can be used to introduce, practice and review language as well as play games and tell stories. Using mimes will help learners associate an action with a word (e.g. drink, wash). Remember that for very young learners even something simple like running and touching a colour is an exciting game.

Puppets can be a useful teaching aid as learners often enjoy making the puppets talk and interact. They can also be used to model the language and encourage quieter learners to speak, either to or through the puppet.

A kitchen set equipped with plates, cooking utensils, and the plastic food or playdough can help teach early vocabulary and concepts. Setting up tea parties can foster co-operative play and encourage learners to use their imagination.

Overall, teaching under 5s can be challenging; it requires a great deal of energy, an ability to forget your embarrassment, and a great deal of flexibility and lateral thinking. However, after the first few weeks you should be able to tell what works with your learners and this will help ensure the lessons are fun and entertaining for both you and them.

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