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Motivating Young Children to Learn English: Keeping Their Attention without Giving Them Gifts

Young children are often eager, almost too eager. The
problem arises when they are eager to do things other than
what you’re trying to teach them. Here are five tips to
keep them interested in class and motivated to do what you
want them to do:

Tip #1: Keep Yourself Motivated.
Think back to when you were a child. If your teacher was
not enthusiastic about what he or she had scheduled for
class that day, how did you feel about it? It’s the same
with young children today. If you, the teacher and often a
role model for younger children, think this is a neat
activity, then they will too!

Tip #2: Encourage.
Young kids thrive on praise and positive attention from the
adults in their lives. If you want them to like you and be
motivated in your class, you often just need to give them a
lot of positive attention.

Tip #3: Play Games
Children learn through play. Oftentimes they don’t even
realize they are learning if they are enjoying the game.
Just think, children could sit there and fill out worksheet
after worksheet or they could play an English game and learn
the same concepts. Which would you rather do?

When I say English games I’m talking about games that are
specifically designed to teach language and vocabulary.
For example, you could turn using vehicle vocabulary into a
relay game where children need to pick a card with a word
and then run to a box of vehicles (or a stack of pictures
of vehicles) and bring the correct one his or her

Here is another example: If you might normally give them a
worksheet to write the correct verb next to the picture
illustrating the action, have them instead practice their
verbs by doing the action for the word you say or the word
on a card that you hold up. Likewise, you could do the
action and have them write down the word. You may access
free samples of fun classroom games in the resource box

When you play games, you can use points and competition as
a motivator, but not for kids under six who may find the
competition too stressful. For them, just playing the game
is motivating enough. You can also sometimes award extra
credit, but use it sparingly so that it remains
"extra" and a special reward. Also if you use it
too much, children can have so much extra credit that it
sways the actual grades too much.

Tip #4: Get Their Hands Dirty
Literally and figuratively. Children like to work with
their hands and whatever you can do to get the items they
are learning about in their hands is useful and fun for
them. This can be anything from having a sensory table
filled with sand and beach items when you want to teach
them summer words to having them each bring in a piece of
fruit when you are teaching fruit words. Anytime you can
get young children up and doing instead of listening (often
passively) you are getting their hands dirty in the learning

Tip #5: Get Them Moving.
Movement is a vital component to motivating children. The
best way to prevent children from zoning out is to get them
up out of their seats at least once each class period. Even
if you just require them to come up to you instead of you
going to them for help, the movement can help get them out
of the trance that they sometimes get from sitting in one
spot too long. Grouping the children for study projects
and activities helps as well. If you can, let them move
the desks around or sit on the floor to change things up as
well. Many games involve movement without the children
needing to leave their seats, such as miming, moving
certain body parts and passing things around as part of a
game or race. Therefore even teachers with large classes
and no space to move can use this technique, albeit to a
more limited degree.

Tip #6: Vary the Pace
Alternate calm games with lively ones to keep the children
alert and motivated, but without letting the class get out
of hand. Good discipline is essential to effective

To read the full article on how to motivate children to
want to learn English, please see the articles and tips
section on the website in the
resource box below.

Shelley Vernon has helped 1000s of teachers be an
inspiration to their pupils and achieve results 2x as fast.
Improve the effectiveness of your lessons by up to 80%.
Receive free English language games now on

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