10 books for teaching young learners

Someone on our post-CELTA support group asked the question the other day… Did anyone have suggestions on how to spend a £500 budget (!) on books for the staffroom for those teaching young learners?

These would be my suggestions, with the cash left over being spent on giving each teacher their own personal copy of the first…

A skill you can teach yourself
First a supremely useful skill, which will entertain and teach your young learners, and will save you ever again having to waste your life stealing pictures from Google-is-Evil:

A bit of theory…
Then a bit of theory, with plenty of practical ideas in these three books too:

  • Teaching Languages to Young Learners, Lynne Cameron (CUP): Essential background reading, you don't want to teach young learners without being familiar with what's in this book [Amazon]
  • Teaching Teenagers, Herbert Puchta and Michael Schratz (Longman): Definitely my next choice. In my experience, one of the vital things about teaching kids is your attitude to them: this book changed my attitude to kids, radically so [Amazon]
  • How Languages Are Learned, Patsy Lightbown and Nina Spada (OUP): One that all language teachers should read [Amazon]

Books full of practical classroom ideas…
And then five great resource books in the superb Oxford series:

  • Drama with Children, Sarah Phillips (OUP), [Amazon]
  • Storytelling with Children, Andrew Wright (OUP), [Amazon]
  • Art and Crafts with Children, Andrew Wright (OUP) [Amazon]
  • The Internet and Young Learners, Gordon Lewis (OUP) [Amazon]
  • Writing with Children, Jackie Reilly and Vanessa Reily (OUP) [Amazon]

I put drama and storytelling first in my list there deliberately, with arts and crafts next. One of the most frequently asked questions on our support group is "Can anyone suggest games for young learners?".

But, at least in my own experience, I've found that drama and stories and making things are often in the end more engaging, more entertaining and more language-rich than most "games".

Oh, go on then, there's also a Games for Children in the same Oxford series…

The power of story telling

Once upon a time…

Another one I didn't have to search for, as it came to me via my RSS feed: an article on storytelling by Mario Rinvolucri on my favourite ELT site, teachingenglish.org.uk.

Story telling, Mario says, is "a uniquely powerful linguistic and psychological technique in the hands of a language teacher" and suggests various story-telling techniques that a teacher can use.

One of the most frequently asked questions on our post-course support group must surely be "Can anyone suggest games for younger learners?". Yes, here, here and here, but is it games or stories that will really engage your young learners?

For slightly older learners, ones that can already write in English (though it doesn't have to be at a particularly high level), don't just stick to story-telling, I'd say, but get your learners to enjoy story-writing

To learn more about story-telling, there is also the excellent Storytelling with Children, by Andrew Wright.

Eyes right! A fun way to revise grammar

This is a fun way to revise grammar!

Loved this activity, by Jo Budden, which I got from my RSS feed for teachingenglish.org.uk.

You get all your learners to stand up, get themselves into a nice long line, and then dictate to them sentences which are either right or wrong.

If they think the sentence is "right", they take a "big step" to the right (though as you can see in the photo, I got my learners just to look right or left); if they think it's wrong, they step or look left. You could make it an elimination game, Jo suggests, until you've got a "winner" — or make it boys vs girls.

You know the grammar casino game? You could play it like that, with the sentences you dictate being right or wrong grammatically.

It's fun — and might be especially good as a break for your hyperactive teens…

FreeRice vocabulary game

Here's a worthwhile cause, freerice.com and a vocabulary game you might like to try out on yourself.

For every word you get right, the site donates 10 grains of rice to the starving in the Third World, via the United Nations, paid for by advertising on the site. On Novemeber 21, 3,256,135,000 grains have so far been donated.

I'd suggest that the vocabulary is probably going to be too difficult for most of the learners you teach and (from their point of view) it isn't exactly very high frequency stuff, either.

But you might try it out with a Proficiency class — but it really is that sort of level. It might also be a starting point for a discussion…

Role playing games for language learning?

Third World Farmer: Wheat and corn are planted, but I can't afford a chicken, and my kids are sick…

The (free) online role-playing game Third World Farmer is one I'd come across before, and one I'd recommended to language learners — as one they might like to play in their own time, outside class. In reading, and understanding, and responding to the instructions, I think they would learn some English, in an enjoyable game, which might also heighten their awareness of some of the problems people in the third world face.

But maybe in fact it's one that you could use in class with learners… I very much liked the ideas for using the game on Nik Peachey's blog.

We should be using technology "not just to play but to learn language", as someone (Gordon?) who came to my CELTA session today suggested. Nik suggests getting people to do such things as compare strategies, rate and debate the game… There is "language" in the understanding and playing of the game and a lot more language (and interaction) in talking about the game…

You want to build that "after-the-technology" stage into your lesson plan.