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Kids World

Topics of interest to teachers of English as a second or foreign language to young learners.

February 16, 2000

Planning a Lesson For Children

by Aleda Krause

Kids When you teach children, planning a lesson can be either fun and rewarding, or the most frustrating experience you can imagine. It all depends on what you have to build on. If you have a particular set of language items you want to teach, a basic lesson outline, and lots of different activities, then planning the lesson is fun. If you lack any of those three things, lesson planning can be very frustrating. Questions like What should I teach? What should I do first? or How should I teach it? can plague you every time.

What should I teach?
The first thing a teacher needs to decide is WHAT she wants to teach. What do kids need to learn in a foreign language? If you're using a textbook, a lot of the material may already be there. If not, here are a couple of pointers to keep in mind when deciding what you're going to teach:

1. Vocabulary:
Include concrete vocabulary items in a kid's environment, grouped by category, because vocabulary is easier to remember that way.

2. Functional Dialogs:
These are things kids say every day (aisatsu) like: Good morning! Thank you. You're welcome. I'm home. That's not fair. Let's play.

3. Listening:
Kids learning a foreign language can understand more than they can say. (In fact, we ALL can, even in our native language!) Do listening activities that kids don't have to say or repeat. Use listening to extend their knowledge, as well as to put as much English as possible into their heads.

4. Grammar:
Simple, useful structures that kids can substitute vocabulary items into and make their own sentences. Include both statements as well as questions and answers.

5. Phonics/Reading/Writing:
Kids learning English as a foreign language need lots of support, especially because the sounds, as well as the forms of the written letters, are often new. Teach sounds that are similar together (like p and b or s and z). Teach writing letters by similar strokes (like C and G or a, d and g). Both ways make sounds and letters easier to master.

6. Culture:
Children are fascinated by what other kids do in other countries. Learning about other cultures is a bridge to internationalization and to an appreciation that English is truly a language spoken by real people (besides the teacher!) Kids' holidays are a natural cultural item to share. Another is everyday cultural points like shrugging shoulders or shaking hands.

The Lesson Plan
Everyone needs a basic lesson plan. You need one to make your lessons easy to plan. The students need one to provide regularity and structure to their learning. The parents need one if they are to have confidence in the teacher. In a school, your supervisor needs one to give a substitute on the day you can't be there.

What does a basic lesson plan consist of? It has to include a lot of things: checking and assigning homework, reviewing previously taught material, introducing new material, and practice, practice, and more practice. It should also include a warm-up, to get kids started in the lesson, and a wrap-up, to send them off feeling good. How do you get all those things into a single 50-minute lesson?

When we wrote the lesson plans for SuperKids, this was the basic plan we used:

Warm-up (Review)

5 minutes

Homework check (Review)

10 minutes

Introduce new material

5-10 minutes

Practice new material

5-20 minutes

Assign homework

5 minutes


5 minutes


50 minutes

Let's start with the warm-up. Why do one? Well, some kids come to my classes straight from playing soccer or practicing a unicycle. Others come right from school or juku. Still others were at home playing video games. Wherever they were, you can bet they weren't using English! And, except for the time spent doing their homework, English hasn't been a part of their lives AT ALL since the last class. Some of those kids need to be calmed down, others need to be pepped up – all need to have the English parts of their brains activated. So, we do a warm-up. In a warm-up we're getting the kids ready for English class by reviewing, in a fun way, something they have already learned. Warm-ups are quick, easy and enjoyable. Need an idea? How about trying:

Partner Search

Use two sets of cards you want to review. These can be pictures, written words, lines of dialogs or any combination. Give each student a card, making sure that at least two students have the same card. Students search for the other person with the same card. They may not show anyone their cards. They find their partner by saying the name of the card or a line of a dialog in a loud voice as they walk around.

After the warm-up, we check the homework. SuperKids homework is simple to do, includes lots of fun activities, and is based on listening. It practices the material introduced in the previous class, so is a perfect time for reviewing. Kids name the pictures or do the actions they heard and circled for homework. Or they tell what color they used to color a picture. Or they name language items in the same order they connected dots. Or they say the dialog associated with a picture. Sometimes we even have them name or do the pictures they didn't circle. Good homework that follows the curriculum makes for easy review.

Next comes the introduction of new material. It could be vocabulary, dialogs, listening material, grammar or phonics. Whatever is introduced should always be introduced first orally, with books closed. Kids learning English in an EFL setting need to hear as much comprehensible English in class as possible, because they hear almost none outside of class. The teacher is the perfect source for a lot of this comprehensible English. Cards, stuffed animals, realia and role-play are all excellent ways to introduce material. Here are a few ways:

All In Order (Vocabulary)

Give each student a different review picture or word card. Name the cards in random order. students 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 rest of the class is the 'jury' and decides whether the order is correct.

In The Dark (Phonics)

Place objects beginning with target letters on the table. Blindfold a student. Say a letter or sound (not a word). The blindfolded student tries to find an object on the table beginning with that letter or sound.

Behind Your Back(Grammar)

A student stands up with his hands behind his back. Place an object in his hands and ask What's this? The student responds with 'It's a ___.' If he is correct, he sits down. If not, he continues guessing until he correctly identifies the object.

After the new material is introduced is the ideal time for kids to open their books, see the material in another context, and listen to the classroom tape. However, they must always remain involved – kids don't just sit still and listen for very long. Even the first time they open their books to a new page and hear the new tape section, we ask them to point to the vocabulary items, or the characters speaking the dialogs, or the pictures of kids doing things. Sometimes we ask them to repeat, or check boxes, or circle an item. Simple activities that keep the involvement at a high level.

After the practice is finished, it's a good time to introduce songs or chants. The kids have been using the left side of their brains – working logically with language. Right-brain activity is a good change. It's hard to find songs that fit well with what EFL kids know. Songs written for native-speaking kids usually have vocabulary and structures that are much too difficult. For instance, here's a favorite of native-English-speaking 4-year-olds:

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.

'Fetch'? 'Crown'? Not exactly the vocabulary in most beginning EFL texts. 'Came tumbling after'? 'Went to fetch'? This isn't beginning-level grammar, either! Nursery rhymes and campfire songs have rhythm and rhyme that make them fun to listen to, but for singing practice, kids need songs they can understand. They also need simple familiar melodies that follow the words closely. SuperKids has two carefully written songs in every unit that follow these guidelines.

After you do a song or chant, it's time to assign homework. The best homework reinforces what was taught in the class. And it's geared to the correct level. Kids in their first stages of learning English can't read. They can't write words. They don't even know yet how to correctly form letters. We can't expect them to do these things for homework until after we've taught it in class. If your class is based on oral, communicative language and lots of listening input, your homework should be the same. Plus, kids have to know, before they leave the classroom, exactly how to do the homework. In SuperKids, we've based the Activity Book on listening. Almost every page of the book uses the cassette to do creative activities that help kids succeed. Also built-in is At school and At home sections on every page, so the homework activity can be demonstrated in school, then the demonstration listened to one more time at home before the kids try it for themselves.

What's left? The wrap-up. An enjoyable activity that finishes the lesson and sends the kids home feeling good about learning English. It might consolidate what was learned in class, or offer an opportunity to use the material in a slightly different way, or bring back material learned earlier. Whatever is done, it's meant to be fun and spirit-lifting, so kids want to come back next time. Need an idea? How about:


Choose five to ten cards of words to be reviewed. Divide students into two teams standing in two lines. Show the same card to the first student of each team. Both students 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.

So that's the lesson plan. I've suggested lots of different activities to fill it, as well as curriculum ideas for what to teach. Let's just summarize those. Kids need to learn:

Useful, functional dialogs
Simple grammar
Phonics (including alphabet, reading and writing)

If you use SuperKids, you have it easy. The basic lesson plan is used throughout the Teacher's Manual, the curriculum was carefully planned in step-by-step order so children readily understand what they're learning, and there are more activities on any one lesson plan than you can use in one class – which gives you the freedom to choose those activities that work best for you and your class.

Aleda Krause

Aleda Krause has been teaching English for over 25 years. She holds an MA in Linguistics with specialization in TEFL, and has been dedicated to teaching children in Japan for the last 12 years. She is the co-author of SuperKids, one of the most popular children's courses in Japan, and Coordinator of the JALT Teaching Children SIG (Special Interest Group).

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