Too many webinars, too little time.

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of webinars and most of them  have been really useful. The one I watched today though, was simply fantastic.  It was a  Cambridge webinar; Fun Boost for children at home with David Valente. You can watch it here. I thought it was incredibly useful for YL teachers, so I’d like to share some key  takeaways from this great event.

Valente started the webinar by quoting James Bourke and reminding us that:

” we need to re-discover and inhabit the world of the child. Children live in a world of fantasy and make believe, a world of dragons and monsters, talking animals and alien beings. In their world, there are no tenses or nouns or adjectives.”

I couldn’t agree more and I would add that children need this now more than ever, as with what they’re currently going through, they’re not exactly bursting with excitement..

Then, he shared some really practical ideas on how to spice up our classes.  Here’s a short summary of the ones I’m definitely going to steal:

Make use of learners’ environment.

Show and tell is the most popular activity.  What can they show? Their favourite toy, pet, or  family photos. It also helps move them around a little bit.

Maximise children having other voices at home.

Assign tasks for which learners need to get some support from a parent or older sibling. Why? Parental/ family involvement can motivate young learners to complete more complex tasks than they would individually. The sense of achievement that follows increases confidence and makes learning a positive experience. An example Valente used was ask your mother to tell you how you can make a cup of tea and then write the instructions in English. Authentic and meaningful.

Use guided visualisation as a lead-in for reading or listening. 

I love this idea. I’ve never attempted it with any age group and I can’t wait to try. Let’s say the lesson is about a day in the park. Start from the learners’ experience.

Close your eyes. Imagine you’re in the park. What can you see? What can you hear? Who is in the park? What are they doing in the park? Then, open your eyes and draw the picture you imagined.

Make feedback physical. 
  • mini-boards

With just a plastic pocket, a sheet of paper and a marker, students can create a mini whiteboard, where they can write their answers or draw pictures. This is much more engaging than simply calling out names or asking them to write answers in the chatbox.

  • move, move, move!

Wave your hands in the air if it’s true, or make a funny face if it’s wrong. Allow them to think of their own physical response  for extra fun.

  • competition/game time: if you know the answer jump up high/spin around!
  • Use games that can be adapted to  an online context, eg back to the board becomes back to the webcam.
Excite their imagination:

Although they cannot touch us or our props, we can still use them to make classes fun. Put objects in magic bags, flashcards, realia and engage by adding an element of suspense. “What’s in the bag, what’s in the bag?”


If you’re using any animal props, take funny photos of them in different places and show them to your students. Mine absolutely  love Miss Blackie and she’s taught them lots of vocabulary, like routines, sports and much more.

Use chants:

I actually do that a lot and my YL love them. Their favourite of course is close the book, close the book, put it in your folder, put it in your folder. They actually repeat it very quickly , almost rapping and it’s great to hear them stress the content words and say CLOSE the BOOK, PUT it in your FOLDER! So, yes, get creative and use chants for class routines.

Brainstorm their favourite everything:

Whatever the topic, simply ask them to brainstorm their favourite, eg. book, song, food, park, school subject. Draw on their interests and preferences.

Ask them to make their own  mini-book:

Instead of assigning exercises for homework, give them something creative to do. Mini books are a wonderful idea. Students can draw  a picture or a set of pictures related to the topic of the lesson and write a caption, a short text or a story. It’s a wonderful way to personalise learning and make it memorable. So much more motivating than assigning grammar exercises.

Sandy Millin and her colleagues at IH Bydgoszcz have also shared lots of activity ideas for online classes here.

If you’ve watched any other good webinars recently , leave a comment and let us know. Always looking for inspiration!