Search This Blog

Thursday, March 17, 2011

TESOL Spain: Young Learners Part 3

This is my final post on the Young Learners talks I attended at TESOL Spain last weekend. The first two talks by Carol Read and Nina Lauder were very informative and given by experienced speakers. Both Carol and Nina are professional educational consultants whose jobs include giving training sessions and presentations about their areas of expertise. The two sessions I am going to talk about today were by classroom teachers, who wanted to share their ideas. I am going to provide an outline of their talks and say how useful (or not) their ideas were for my own teaching context.
The first session was entitled Writing Instructions - Where? How? Where Does It Fit In? by Elizabeth Forster and Richard Stenhouse, from the British Council Primary School in Madrid. Elizabeth talked about reading (following) instructions with lower primary learners and Richard with upper-primary.
By atibens on flickr

One of the main points was how difficult it can be to give effective instructions. We experienced this for ourselves, trying to make a "snapdragon" by following Richard's oral instructions, and most of us failed miserably! We then had to work in pairs where one of us would give instructions to make a paper aeroplane and the other would follow. This didn't work for me as neither my partner nor I could remember how to make one! These two tasks did illustrate very well the complexity of giving clear instructions, whether oral or written, and I think this is something we need to pay more attention to in our classroom language. Demonstration is also equally as important as the instructions themselves. Elizabeth explained why it can be useful to practise writing instructions with children and how this ought to be done. Some relevant real life situations include: Making things for festivals such as Halloween and Christmas, playing a game and recipes. She also showed us an example of the instructions she had given her class for how to make a jack o' lantern. She had written the instructions onto large pieces of card and had used these as reading prompts (even with non-readers who would pick up some of the key words), doing activities such as sequencing, run and touch the instruction card etc.

Richard then talked about how to gradually make the instructions more complex by using different connectives, imperative verbs and by evaluating the instructions of their peers.

Overall Feedback: Although both presenters highlighted some important points and gave us practical ideas, I'm not sure this was enough to warrant a whole session on writing instructions. This talk may have been more useful for primary school teachers in a CLIL or bilingual setting.

The final session I attended on Young Learners was the last talk before Herbert Puchta's Closing Plenary. This was called Classroom Management for Primary by Helena Kennedy. I decided to go to this talk because it is always useful to find out how other teachers successfully manage their classes of young learners and pick up new ideas.

Helena teaches both extra-curricular and curricular primary children at the Hyland Language Centre in Madrid. Her session was relevant for all teachers of primary-aged learners. The talk focussed on how to maintain control in the classroom. Some important aspects she mentioned were:
  • Coming up with a fixed routine
  • Obeying responsibilities (learners)
  • Not only work but also play
  • Tell the learners how well they are doing
  • Reprimand when necessary
  • Give an overall behaviour mark
  • Leave the last class in the past.
What can happen in the classroom if you're not careful! Photo by Aislinn Ritchie on flickr

Lots of practical ideas were demonstrated and I will now outline some of these:
  • Name cards - these could be used to make a seating plan before the students arrive; to choose classroom monitors; to keep a check on behaviour.
Helena showed us her system of having a sun, a cloud and a storm on the board and under which she would stick the children's name cards, depending on how well they were behaving.
She also gave each child a card at the end of the lesson, with from 1 to 5 stars coloured in, which showed their overall behaviour in that class/day.

  • Use positive comments and stamps on the children's work to motivate them
  • Smile!
  • Allow those who have performed/behaved best to leave the class first
  • Give postive comments to their parents
She also showed us a few flashcard games to maintain interest and focus such as:

  • Odd one out - learners decide which flashcard is different
  • Remember and re-order - Learners close their eyes and say what has changed 
  • Password - show a flashcard and the children have to say its name before they can sit down
  • Run and touch - one or more students go out of the room and they have to find the hidden flashcards
  • Through the keyhole - stick a keyhole template in front of a flashcard and learners have to guess
I have to say that none of these games were new to me, although it is nice to be refreshed sometimes and I do recognise that it can be very difficult to come up with original ideas!

The main problem my friend Leahn and I had with this talk was a difference of opinion on the use of praise and punishment with the presenter. I don't want to go into details as I think Leahn is going to write a blogpost of her own on this subject.

Overall Feedback: A varied talk on different aspects of managing young learners, providing a variety of techniques. I don't agree with everthing that was said, but I value the usefulness of having plenty of tricks up your sleeve!
Licencia de Creative Commons
So This Is English Blog by Michelle Worgan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at