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ESL Learners

Teaching English to Young Learners

Interactive Story Time - Books, Audiobooks, Puppets, Felt Boards
Peter, the classroom puppet

Our friend Peter speaks only English. He teaches us songs, fingerplays, and riddles. He reads the stories and plays games with us. 

I am a certified TEYL (Teaching English to Young Learners) and TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) teacher. During these studies and my teaching experience, I learned the different techniques of how to expose children to the English language and engage them in active communication. English is not a native language for most of my students. The children's ability to acquire language and improve communication skills during early childhood is truly impressive. In our school, the language of learning is English. The students at all levels learn by full immersion. My primary goal as an early years teacher, to prepare a linguistically rich engaging environment. Our days are fulfilled with specific activities to maximise the exposure of all children to English as much as possible. 


Sign Language and PECS (The Pictures Exchange Communication System)

Stories from carefully chosen age-appropriate books come alive during our storytime every day. In fact, books are an excellent resource for building vocabulary, developing imagination and fostering communication. We read one book several times, acting out the story, dressing up as the characters, creating and using puppets, retelling the story and representing it on our felt board and playing games with cards related to the story. With the goal to expose the young English learners to different speakers, when possible, we alternate the teacher's presentation with an audiobook. The children have the chance to be a "reader" and with the support of the audiobook they "read" (hold the book, turn the pages, show the pictures) to their classmates.​

I am a certified Signing Time instructor. During the years of teaching young English learners,  I have seen many benefits in using sign language. Signing in the classroom helps build vocabulary and enhance social interaction for students of all abilities.  The purpose of using ASL with English Language Learners is to provide kinesthetic and visual associations for specific words. By using both sign language and pictures, all children are directly engaged in the activities since the beginning of the year when the level of spoken English is limited.



We have a song for every activity and every transition. We sing all day long. Music and singing play a crucial role in the acquisition of English. The children learn new vocabulary and grammatical forms for different daily routines. After the initial period of the song's introduction and once the children are familiar with the lyrics, I use the vocabulary from the song to ask questions engaging the children in the active communication.

Games and Activities

The majority of children are bodily-kinesthetic learners. They learn through their bodies. They need to move and build their experiences, linguistics included, through hands-on activities. Every single activity during our day becomes a teachable moment where we learn new words and concepts. The traditional games, such as Simon Says, I Spy with My Little Eye, Little Mouse - Little Mouse, I Went to the Market, and many others help children to build and improve their second language communication skills.  


Multimedia and Technologies

The primary goal of using the technologies and multimedia is to expose children to different intonations, pitches, rhythms, and paces of spoken English. For a limited time during the small group activities, the children access carefully chosen age-appropriate educational iPad applications. To add the active element to the passive learning, we have a set of hands-on activities that mirror the iPad game. The children also learn English through selected educational cartoons ("Gogo loves English", "Arthur", or others) applying the skills and language in the follow-up activities in the classroom.

Schedule & Routines

Schedule & Routines

Our days are organised into the following learning blocks:

Free-Choice Time

Children need many opportunities to engage in play and to follow their interests. Free-choice time is a time during the school day in which children make their own choices about what activities they engage in. This approach helps to foster children's independence. My role during the free-choice time is to make sure each child has the opportunity to pursue their interests and to make the most of these learning opportunities. I monitor the number of children at each interest area to ensure certain areas are not overwhelmed and make myself available to children to support their activities. We dedicate a substantial portion of our day to free-choice time because this time is especially important for preschoolers. The goal is to let children actively engage in lengthy play ideas. I help children become and stay engaged and reach learning objectives by providing age-appropriate material and interacting with children. I also dedicate this time to the observation of children's skill development and interest on both individual and group level to gain information for future planning.

Outside play

During our outside play, children direct their own play and learning and follow their interests. They are highly engaged with activities and in play with other children. Outdoor time allows for greater opportunities to strengthen large muscles and interact with the natural world. Children have access to an outdoor playground area in which they can choose where and how to play. In addition to traditional outdoor toys like bikes, balls, and chalk, we provide dramatic play props, sand and water tables, pencils and paper, a basket of books in the shade, and blocks or natural materials for building. 

Large-Group Activities

These activities involve instructions or discussions focused on building children’s academic and social skills. Our circle time provides an opportunity to sing songs, discuss the daily schedule, read stories to the group, encourage children to share special events, welcome a guest visitor or new child and build the classroom community. Because of the young age of my students and their short attention span, we have different short (15-20 minutes) circle times during the day.

Small-Group Activities

During our small-group activities, we focus on important learning goals in a personal setting. These activities are planned to promote children’s active engagement. Waiting time is reduced because fewer children are involved, and children get to spend more time actively manipulating materials. Small-group activities also allow children to interact with their peers combined with one-on-one attention from the teacher. During this time, I offer science experiments, work on an art project, play a board game with children, or do any other activity that requires extra adult attention.


Routines are an important part of our day; they include things such as arrival time, bathroom time, cleanup time, mealtime, group time, and departure time. The carefully planned routines help us build a consistent classroom community. Routines support children’s developing abilities to do things on their own.


The children are taught routines from the very beginning of the school year. We use visual supports to our routines to overcome language barriers and to indirectly support children's literacy skills. We review our picture 'daily schedule' during our morning meeting. The task analyses, in other words, the step-by-step pictures help children understand how to participate in routines (e.g., pictures showing how to put on a coat or how to wash hands). The environmental supports are visual clues about how to move or behave while participating in the routine (e.g., marks on the floor showing where to sit or stand).


Transitions are unavoidable in preschool classrooms. There are times during the day when children must stop one activity and start another; it might be difficult for some children. I do my best to minimize transitions and keep children engaged with singing songs with movement. The transitions are part of our routines. I recognise children need to know ahead of time when a change is coming. For example, before the end of free-choice time, I give children a “5-minute warning” when there are 5 minutes left of playtime before it is time to clean up.

Behaviour Management

Behaviour Managment

I primarily focus on the prevention of challenging behaviour and the promotion of appropriate social behaviours. These strategies include environmental manipulations, providing positive attention and feedback to children, and teaching social skills and emotional competencies. Children need routines to predict what is coming next to prepare themselves for the transition. A carefully prepared meaningful program where active and quiet activities are alternated is crucial. From my personal experience, young children show challenging behaviour when they are bored or engaged in an activity that is not at their developmental level; it is either too difficult or too easy.


Even when these practices are in place, some young children will engage in challenging behaviour.  

When responding to challenging behaviour, I use the following strategies always combined with more intentional attention to teaching social skills and emotional competencies:


  • When children are engaging in the challenging behaviour, I keep interactions with them to a minimum during these episodes. I ensure the child’s safety but providing minimal attention to the challenging behaviour. I believe the two most likely reasons for challenging behaviour are: (1) attempts to get attention or (2) attempts to avoid or escape a non-preferred activity. Sometimes if we attend to children during this time, we are reinforcing their inappropriate behaviour. 


  • When children are engaging in the challenging behaviour, I interrupt and redirect the child to the appropriate alternative behaviour using minimal attention, discussion, and emotion. I simply state what the child should or might do, usually just one prompt. 


  • I reinforce the nearest child who is engaging in the appropriate, alternative behaviour. When the child with challenging behaviour engages in the desired behaviour, I immediately use descriptive feedback to acknowledge his/her use of the desired behaviour. 


  • When the incident of challenging behaviour ends and the child engages in an appropriate behaviour, I provide positive attention to the child by joining in the child’s play or having a conversation with the child about the child’s interests or activity.

  • I keep a record of all challenging behaviours and of what happened immediately before and after them. It helps me to analyse the causes of the behaviour and make changes where needed to prevent a recurrence. 

Classroom Environmnet

Classroom Environment

Well-arranged environments are critical for promoting children’s cognitive development in preschool. In such environments, children can engage in discovery, exploration, and problem-solving that leads to learning on a daily basis.

Safety is a priority! When designing our space, I have to ensure to be able to supervise all areas, including private spaces. We have secure storage for all items that are unsafe for children. We keep children engaged in appropriate play and help prevent undesirable, unsafe behaviours (e.g., jumping, running).

The environment is very important to me. I fully agree with the Reggio Emilia approach considering the classroom the third teacher. I try to use natural or recycled materials as much as possible, still keeping the environment bright and enjoyable. I set up the "invitation to play" material every morning before the first child arrives to invite children’s exploration and engagement using provocations.

When I design or redesign my classroom, I always consider the needs and learning goals for all children. For children with special needs, it is important to speak with the child’s family so I know the child’s particular needs and what supports will help her or him. I want to be sure that my classroom is welcoming to children from diverse cultural backgrounds as well.

It is my responsibility to make sure materials are easily accessible and well organized. When organizing my materials, I think about three goals: independence, easy use and learning.

Our classroom is diveded into the following areas of interest:



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