I came across a post I published back in 2018 about my Toolkit for the language teacher. It made me realize that an updated version of this was long overdue.  I think there are many things about our profession that have changed dramatically since 2020 and many of these, I suspect, are here to stay. 

If I had to describe the essential resources for the Young Learner teacher today, the word adaptability comes to mind.  Almost overnight, teachers have had to adapt to new teaching contexts and the strategies and materials we use have too.  

All of the successful teachers I know have learned to adapt their repertoire of games, activities and materials that they can use at the drop of a hat to enliven their lesson and support their learners. Whether that be online, hybrid or in a physically-distanced classroom, they have their Teacher Toolkit on hand.

Start Your Own Tool Kit

The ‘Teacher Tool Kit’ contains a selection of reusable and multi-purposed materials, games, activities,  songs or lesson ideas that are easily adaptable for students of different ages and levels.  Nowadays, that extends to include platforms and digital tools that can be shared online or projected onto a screen in a classroom.  

To put together a ‘Teacher Tool Kit’ in 2021 you will need a special box, bag or cupboard to store your materials in.   These materials don’t have to be expensive and can include things like bits of cloth, a ball, a magic wand, a deck of cards, a bell, some puppets and a few of your favourite stories.   Having these things on hand can help save a lesson because, as you know, things don’t always go as planned in the young learner classroom.  Your ‘Tool Kit’ is your Plan B and every good YL teacher has one.

The Teaching Tool Kit Top 5

I asked the community on Instagram what their top resources were, and here is what teachers had to say.

1. Slides

A visual presentation has become a teacher’s best friend these days and not just for older learners.  Even teachers working with very young learners have found that the visual support and structure you get from slides is useful in many ways.  When working online, you can use slides to reinforce and support learner understanding of the language, concepts and instructions.  Slides can provide visual cues for the different lesson stages or activities and you can easily embed images and video to engage or provide input.  Some teachers have gotten so good at using slides in their lessons that they continue to use them in hybrid and the physically distanced classroom instead of paper-based materials or writing on the whiteboard.

Perhaps the best thing about slides is that you can build up a bank of them that can be used or adapted and saved to your cloud for future use or sharing with others.

This suggestion came from my favorite ELT designer, Eduardo de Freitas. He gives lots of free advice and runs paid courses for creating beautiful slides, graphics and jamboards on his Instagram account.

2. A visual schedule

You’ve probably heard me talk about how important it is for a teacher to use a visual schedule with young language learners.  This is used at the start of every class to get the kids ready for the lesson ahead.  Ideally you will take photos of the kids doing the different activities and use these but until you can use flashcards.  This starts off as a very teacher-led moment but as they become familiar with the routine and the language, I’ll make sure to give them a more active role. 

Lilian Montalvão has managed to adapt successfully to online classes and has been doing wonderful things for and with her students. You can take a look at the post she wrote about her visual schedule and many more tips on her Instagram account @educationmatters.lm

3. Mystery Box

Yes, realia is still alive and well in our young learner lessons and I sure am happy to see that.  Regardless of your teaching mode, this classroom classic is still a great way to generate interest in the topic and introduce new language or concepts. It could be a box or bag or any container that is big enough to have at least a few small topic-related items inside.  If you decorate the box and use a special song or chant every time you bring it out, the children will very quickly learn to recognize the game and know what is expected of them.  I like to get them to guess what they think is in there before slowly revealing each object and eliciting, teaching the new word or asking some key questions.

This resource was suggested by one of my favorite Young Learner teachers who I met online in 2020. I was so amazed by the work she was doing with pre-primary learners. You should definitely take a look at what Kathy is sharing on itsplaytimeingles.

4. Online Resources

Interactive tools to enhance students’ participation and interaction have become a part of our lives and, for many teachers, they will continue to be useful even after the pandemic is over. Renata Chimim has shared her favorites from what she calls her Tech Toolkit.

  • For read-alouds: storylineonline.net
  • For phonics: phonicsplay.co.uk
  • Vocab games: wordwall
  • On zoom: annotation tools, remote control, filters, background

Thanks for sharing these tips, Renata. Check out more ideas for literacy development on her Instagram account.

5. Flashcards

Those of you who know me might be surprised to see flashcards in my top-5 but, when used effectively, they are one of the most adaptable, multipurpose resources out there.  It’s no wonder these are still such a popular resource among teachers everywhere.  There are still so many useful and creative ways that flashcards can be used and not just to teach or revise vocabulary.  They are a great way to support the learners’ understanding of instructions and requests, especially when teaching online. Flashcards can also be used as a formative assessment strategy.  Give the students their own set, a green and a red card for example, and have them use them to respond to questions non-verbally.  The most important thing to remember about flashcards is that they shouldn’t be the only resource you use.  A lesson that is based only on the rote learning of vocabulary or structures isn’t enough.   

My favorite flashcards come from Learning Is Simple.

A big thanks to everyone who contributes ideas over on the Active English Instagram account. If you’re not already a part of this community, you might like to follow us @activeenglishforkids