Thursday, April 1, 2021

Teaching Young Learners

Teachers of young learners need to know and understand the term of young learners and their characteristics. It will help them determining any aspects in the leaning and teaching process for young learners, such as curriculum, methods, teaching style, lesson plan, learning materials, and the way of getting along with them. This purposes to create an effective learning process. 

Wednesday, ‎August ‎14, ‎2019, ‏‎8:22:11 AM

What is “young learners”?

Term ‘young learners’ is frequently interpreted in different ways. The difference lies in the age mentioned. Ellis G believes that the term ‘young learners’ is now used to refer explicitly to children under the age of 13 (2014, p.75). As Linse writes in her book (2006, p.2), that young learners are defined as children between the ages of 5-12. It can be concluded that Young Learners are children who are studying in Kindergarten to Elementary School.

Children’s physical and psychological needs are different from adults’. Each child develops emotionally, morally, physically, and cognitively at different rates (Linse: 2006, p.3).  One child may not be bothered when he is accidently pushed by another child, while others may cry immediately. Some children are able to share their toys, while a different child considers that they should keep theirs. There are children who are able grasp sound-symbol relationship quickly, whereas it will take others a longer period of time to comprehend this concept. In short, children’s characteristic is different from adult.

Understanding young learners' characteristics

Teachers are able understanding children’s characteristics through biological and social point of view. In the biological point of view, generally biological is about children’s inborn characteristics which will grow and develop. While in social point of view, children are considered as the ones who need any help from knowledgeable people to expand their knowledge (Pinter: 2006, Juhana: 2014, p.43). Based on the two point of views, Juhana states that young learners have some characteristic as follows: “Young learners have a great curiosity to try new things and to explore concrete to abstract things (Pinter: 2006)”; “Young learners actively construct meaning from their experiences (Cameron: 2001)”; and “Young learners have a quite short attention span and are easy to get bored (Slattery and Willis, 2001)” (2014, p.43).

Teacher must pay attention to the three children’s characteristics mentioned above. First, young learners have a great curiosity to try new things and to explore concrete to abstract things. It means that in delivering the materials, teachers should focus on concrete items which can be absorbed by children. In other words, teachers should avoid teaching abstract concepts in order to obviate children’s misunderstanding. In addition, teachers are better using media in delivering the materials in order that the students are able to understand easily, such as using toys, puzzle, songs, etc.

Second, young learners actively construct meaning from their experiences. This is clear that young learners get their understanding not only from other people’s explanation but also from what they see and hear. When they have a chance to touch and interact with any objects, they are learning. In other words, children enhance learning through the real experience from their life. Teachers are able encouraging their learning process by letting them doing various activities which enable them to experience many things.

Third, young learners have a quite short attention span and are easy to get bored. It means that teachers should have ability maintaining children’s focus and attention. It can be done by creating interesting, fun, and enjoyable lesson for young learners. In short, being aware of what children can and cannot do developmentally, teachers will be better able to lead them in appropriate learning experiences. Young learners are active learners and thinkers.


Ellis, G. 2014. Young learners’: clarifying our terms.  ELT Journal.  Vol 68, No. 1. January 2014.

Juhana. Teaching English to Young Learners: Some Points to be Considered. Asian Journal of Education and e-Learning. Vol. 2, No. 1. February 2014.

Linse, Caroline T. 2006. Practical English Language Teaching: Young Learners. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Written by Endang Wahyuni

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