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Animate your Classes with Video! | OUP

young children watching videos togetherVideos are a great resource for language teaching and learning!

Students enjoy watching animated shows and videos on TV, on tablets, and on phones. Videos can motivate students to engage with language, so it’s easy to understand why teachers want to bring more videos into their English classrooms.

There are strong pedagogical reasons for including videos in your language teaching. Videos bring language alive. Students can see and hear language being used in context.

Animated videos are particularly accessible because they make it easy to focus on specific language, and can appeal to a wider age range of students than live-action videos. Animated videos are ideal for providing language models with enough context to support meaning, and enough humour to engage students. Research shows that students respond positively to familiar characters, so if you use videos with characters students can identify, they not only bring the language to life but may also make students want to interact with the characters they’re watching!

Even with all of these great reasons to include video in English class, many teachers don’t. Why not? Teachers tell us that it’s hard to find interesting videos that use the language their students are learning. They aren’t sure where to look for appropriate videos, and when they do know where to look, they don’t have time to search through the videos available in order to find one that will work with a specific lesson. Often, the videos won’t work because the language is too hard, or the video is too long or too fast-paced. Even if teachers are successful in finding a video they think could work with their lesson, they often aren’t sure how to make the best use of it for language learning.

One of the most important things teachers can do when using a video in class is to make the video content as interactive as the rest of their lesson. We know it’s important for students to talk to each other, to ask and answer questions, to use gestures and movement to reinforce meaning, and to use language in a meaningful way. We should use videos in the same way. There’s no reason to make video watching a passive experience in class.

Here are some ways to make video watching fun, interactive, and effective:

  • Show the video without sound first. Then see what the students can remember about the video: body/hand movements and gestures, the situation and any words or phrases that they think are in the conversation.
  • Play the video with sound. Have students listen for specific words or phrases, and do something (like raising a hand) when they hear the target language.
  • Ask students a question before playing the video with sound. Have them listen for the answer.
  • Have students take a role and act out the video.

We’re excited that the 5th edition of Let’s Go will include videos to help animate your teaching. The conversation videos show students how to extend the Let’s Talk dialogues. The song and chant videos make the language even more memorable and entertaining by adding a visual component.

Two of the new videos are available for you to try out in class.

Extended Conversation Videos

The conversation videos extend Let’s Talk dialogues by adding relevant language students already know and showing body language and gestures in context. Interestingly, if students look closely, they’ll see characters using gestures and facial expressions that may be different from what they usually do. During the video, one of the Let’s Go characters always turns to the students to ask a question, in order to make students part of every conversation.

The video from Level One Unit Six is available for you to watch.

Here’s the transcript so you can see how familiar language is used to extend the basic conversation. The original conversation is in black. The added language is in red. Blue highlights the question students will answer.

[Cellphone buzzes]

Jenny: Hello?

Kate: Jenny?

Jenny: Yes. Oh, hi Kate. How are you?

Kate: I’m great. How are you?

Jenny: I’m great, too. It’s so nice today.

Kate: How’s the weather?

Jenny: It’s sunny.

Uh-oh. [thunder]

Kate: What was that?

Jenny: It’s rainy now.

Kate: How’s the weather today?

How could you use this in class?

  • Show the video without sound, and ask students to tell you what the conversation is about.
  • Play the video with sound. Have students listen and tell you what language they hear.
  • Have students answer Kate’s question, and then ask each other the same question.
  • Once students are comfortable with the language, have them watch without sound again, and tell you how Jenny is feeling based on her facial expressions
  • Let students role-play the conversation in pairs.

Song and Chant Videos

The song and chant videos make lesson language visible and memorable! Combining rhythm, music, and images allow students to use three of their senses and increases the amount of language they’ll remember. “Where are the bugs?” from Level One Unit Six is available now.

How could you use this in class?

  • Have students call out the names of objects they recognise in the video.
  • Have students decide on gestures for on, in, under, and by (e.g., placing a fist on a palm for ‘on’,). Students do the gestures as they listen to the song.
  • Have half of the class sing the questions and the other half answer. (Sing twice so everyone gets to ask and answer questions.)

Using videos that support your lessons can make the language more exciting, and real. The best videos for teaching language will reinforce the language you’re trying to teach. They’ll be short and will match your students’ pace.

Let’s Go fifth edition videos are all of these things – pedagogically sound, student tested, linguistically appropriate, short, understandable, and funny. Having the videos included with the coursebook units makes it easy to include them in your lessons.

Have fun animating your language teaching with Let’s Go!

Ritsuko Nakata, Karen Frazier, and Barbara Hoskins have spent 25 years working to improve the Let’s Go learning experience for teachers and their students. It is the only primary coursebook series that has had the same authors for all levels, resulting in a tightly controlled grammar syllabus that makes productive use of limited class time.


Teaching Young Learners With Special Educational Needs

Every ELT teacher has experienced a moment when they wonder what else can be done to help a struggling student. Trying new activities and methods may work, but sometimes the student continues to have problems. This may suggest the student has special educational needs. The student could also be struggling because the language is different from their first language or because of issues related to acculturation.

In either case, what can a teacher do in class to help this student? Continue reading


Teaching Writing to Young ELT Learners

Girl smiling and writingKaren Frazier, co-author of Let’s Go, looks at how to get children writing in English.

Writing, in any language, can be so much fun! It’s exciting to send messages and letters to people in a language that they understand. Everyone enjoys describing events in their lives, talking about pictures and places, and sharing their thoughts and ideas. Many also like to create stories and songs, too! So, how can we, as teachers, help our ELT students develop this type of enthusiasm for sharing and writing in English?

Children enjoy the beginning stages of writing, when they are learning the letters or characters. Young learners are very willing to work at tracing letters and words. They are usually eager to learn how to print their names and the names of their brothers, sisters and pets. It’s this interest in writing that we want to maintain as we help our students learn and continue to develop their English writing skills. Yet writing can be a challenging skill for children to learn. So what can we do to help them retain their interest in writing while they develop their skills and confidence in writing in English?

To be able to write in English, students must have a basic foundation and understanding of the spoken language. To get our students prepared to write, we need to provide opportunities for them to recycle and review the language they already know. They need to know how to identify and talk about objects and people in English in order to write something about them. Of course, they must also know how to write the alphabet letters so that they can learn to spell words that they know. Finally, they need to know some basic sentence patterns in order to write sentences that are meaningful to them.

Students must also be able to read some words and sentences because the skill of reading goes hand-in-hand with learning to write. Reading provides the opportunity for students to become more familiar with language patterns, and it develops their vocabulary. Yes, reading, as well as listening and speaking, are important in helping our students learn to write. So our writing activities should always include these skills as part of the pre-writing steps.

Steps for Beginner Writers:

1. Use pictures to stimulate comments and discussion

Have students draw their own pictures or bring in photos. Or, you can provide pictures for them from magazines, the internet and other sources.

Some of the first recognizable pictures that most children draw are pictures of themselves and their family. If they have pets, they often like to draw them. Favorite places, like houses and landscapes with the sun, are also among the first things that children like to draw. Therefore, as you prepare your young students for writing activities, primarily focus on having them draw these types of pictures.

2. Have students describe and talk about their pictures

Be sure to provide plenty of chances for your students to talk about and share pictures. Children enjoy talking about people, places and events that are important to them. Let them share their pictures and thoughts about these pictures with each other. This also gives them a great opportunity to review and practice their English. It helps them remember what they already know and builds confidence.

3. Help students write down what they have said

For young writers, this often means that you will do much of the writing at the very beginning. You write down the sentences that your students use to describe their pictures. Then you can have the students trace the sight words or the key vocabulary. As the children develop more ability and confidence in their writing, they can start writing the descriptions on their own under their pictures. They may start with one or two words in the beginning and will gradually start to write a sentence on their own. More confident and experienced students of English can write their own longer descriptions of their pictures (two to three sentences). The main goal of this step in writing is to encourage and capitalize on the natural interest that children have in describing what they see.

4. Have the students read each other’s captions and descriptions of the pictures

After they read, they can share ideas with each other in small groups. Then you can have them work together in small groups to add another sentence to the description.

5. Have students use their descriptions to create their own little books

As beginner ELT students become more skilled in writing words and sentences, they can expand on their own one-sentence descriptions by adding extra words, like adjectives, or one or two more sentences. If you have them describe several of their own pictures, they can then put them together to make their own small book. This is a great motivator for the students. They will enjoy reading their books and will be look forward to writing more. You could also let them take their books home to share their stories, and new writing skills, with their families.

You can also motivate your students of all levels to write by providing them with real-life writing exercises. For example, they can write about something that happened while they were all together in your English class. Start by talking about what happened as a class and then encourage each of the students to draw a picture and write a sentence or two about the event. Next have them share their sentences with the class and finally combine all the sentences into a story. It becomes a small book that was written by the class.

Other types of real-life writing activities include making lists of vocabulary words, making lists of things to buy at the store, and writing notes, text messages and emails to friends. You can also have your students create their own comic strips or keep a simple journal in which they share thoughts in English with you.

These are just a few of the ways you can keep your students engaged in writing in English. There are many activities that can be used which give children a realistic reason to write. Whatever activity you choose to use should be one that is motivating and that taps into your students’ interests. Doing this will help keep your students enthusiastic about writing in English.

It would be great to hear your comments on this blog. I’d also love to see you at my free webinar on teaching writing this Friday, 19 April. You can sign up here.

Visit Let’s Share for more videos, blogs and upcoming events by our Let’s Go authors.


Getting children to talk in English from the beginning

Karen Frazier, co-author of Let’s Go, looks at how to get children speaking in English from the very beginning.

Would you like your young students to speak more in English? Getting children to speak has always been one of my main goals when teaching English language learners. Yet students are often very reluctant to speak. Why does this happen, and what can we do about it?

Sometimes, students are afraid of making mistakes. They think they will be misunderstood, and they don’t want to be embarrassed. Other students are shy and just don’t want to talk. So how do we get them talking?

One thing we can do is to make sure that students are comfortable with the language we expect them to use. If they are not comfortable, they will probably hesitate to speak.

Do you remember being in a class where you weren’t confident about something you had learned? For me, it was my geometry class. Perhaps for you it was a science, history or language class. If your teacher began the next lesson by asking you to demonstrate something from the previous lesson, without reviewing it first, how did you feel? Many of us probably would have been anxious about volunteering or speaking out in that class. And we might have tried to avoid talking as much as possible. The same is often true for our language students.

We should remember that young students usually leave a language class thinking, and maybe hoping, that they’re finished with the language learned. They seldom think that they might need it again for the next lesson. That’s why it is important to prepare our students for a new lesson by reviewing what they already know at the beginning of every class.

Another way to encourage our students to speak is to create lessons that incorporate a reason to communicate. In many English classes, students answer, but rarely ask, questions. Lessons are often full of drills and other practice activities that are boring for students. Students quickly lose interest and focus. Our challenge is to plan lessons that expect students to ask questions to get information, thus keeping them involved in the learning. There are a number of ways to introduce language that will have your students asking questions from the beginning. Here’s an example of one activity using puppets to do this. (I’ll be sharing some more activities that have worked in my classes in my webinar on 30 November – do join me.)

Engaging lessons not only help our students remember language, but also help them develop positive attitudes toward using new language. Language learning involves a memory that comes from more than just remembering the images, sounds and words for objects. This memory also includes how the language was introduced and the context for that introduction and practice. If language is presented in an interesting way, children will remember that it was exciting. They will want to use the language because they see it as something fun to do.

Of course, students have to practice language over and over to imprint it on their memories, much like a dancer or an athlete works to develop muscle memory. Practice and repetition in a language class is important to make using basic language patterns automatic. But drills don’t need to be boring for young students and we can borrow ideas for creating engaging activities from watching the ways children interact with games and media available to them.

It is possible to make language presentation and practice fun and interactive! Tools like puppets, teacher and student cards, and even mobile phones, can be used in lessons that will get your students to enjoy talking so much that they’ll forget they are learning.

Here’s a sample lesson that incorporates a review and some engaging ways to present and practice a lesson on birthday gifts that will get your students talking. Let me know how it goes!

Visit Let’s Share for more videos, blogs and upcoming events by our Let’s Go authors.

Karen gave a webinar on ‘Getting children to talk in English from the very beginning’ on 30 November 2012. If you missed it, you can watch the recording here.


20 years of learning and playing with Let’s Go

Let's Go authorsIt’s hard to believe, but the Let’s Go series is nearly 20 years old. We recently had a chance to talk with the series authors, Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto, Ritsuko Nakata and Karen Frazier, about the changes they’ve seen in publishing, and in teaching English to children, over the past two decades.

As a special thank you, Barb thought it would be nice to share a short video with you, as a little flavour of the last 20 years of working on Let’s Go. Thanks also to Barb for conducting the following interview.

Barb: Let’s Go was one of the first course books for teaching English as a foreign language to children. Quite a few features that are commonplace in young learner courses now started with Let’s Go. What were some of the “firsts”? Please complete this sentence: Let’s Go was the first English course to _____.

Ritsuko: It was the first English course to expose children to the Roman alphabet at such a young age. Let’s Go was also the first English course to include so many verbs. If you know plenty of verbs, you can talk a lot!  Also, it’s written so that children can actually use the dialogues they are learning.

Karen: It was the first English course to include full answers and question forms to get kids talking. With Let’s Go, kids don’t just learn one word answers to teachers’ questions, they learn the words to ask the questions, too. It’s so common now that it’s hard to believe that it was a pioneering approach back in the 1990s.

Ritsuko: I’m pretty sure it was the first book to include chants, and to include movement to help children remember sentences as well as the verbs.

Barb: What’s something teachers may not know about Let’s Go?

Continue reading