Using Topics to Create Great EFL Lessons for Young Learners

Using Topics to Create Great EFL Lessons for Young Learners

Time to throw away the young learner course book?

Well, perhaps not quite. However, topic-based lessons give us greater scope than the average course book to engage young learners and develop a range of different English skills.

This is because young learners are inquisitive and if you can stimulate their interest, they will naturally want to explore the theme by writing, chanting, singing, talking about it.  Young learner course books have their place but we have seen better learning outcomes when the teacher and students are able to put away the book and engage in something more creative.

How to plan a successful topic-based lesson

Do expect to put some hours in before reaching the classroom as you may need to plan several lessons at one time, or at least have a good outline for each lesson, in order for it to be effective. But the rewards come in terms of engagement, learning and fun classes.  Here are our top planning tips:

1. Select your topic. It could be anything that you and your class are interested in and it may be relevant to your teaching environment, or it may be more generic. We’ve listed some of the more popular ones for learners at this age range below.

Sample topics: family, food, holidays, seasons (Christmas etc.), animals, the environment, health, colours etc.

2. Once you have chosen your topic, you then need to have a think, or a brainstorm, about different games or activities that you could work into your topic-based lessons. When you brainstorm, think about the follow questions:

  • How are you going to introduce the new language based around the topic?
  • How are you going to control the input, making sure that students aren’t overloaded with new vocabulary?
  • How will you ensure that what is taught is practised in a controlled way?
  • What games or activities are best suited to each lesson?

Have a look at the ‘model brainstorm’ at the link at the bottom of the page for one of the subjects we have underlined above, which illustrates different areas of learning we can introduce into our topic-based approach to classes.

3. Once you have brainstormed your activities, you need to think carefully about your objectives for each of the activities you plan to use with your class. Getting from the brainstorming stage to the lesson ready stage is sometimes the most complex part of the process, and usually the most time consuming for teachers. However, remember that for every lesson you should have an objective. This will help you to focus your ideas and your activities.

So your objective for this lesson might be:

Lesson 1 objective: introduce names of different animals and categorise them.

Vocabulary focus: animal names (dog, cat, cheetah, lion etc.)

Structure focus: present simple (The cheetah is a wild animal. It lives in the jungle.)

In our new Teaching English to Kindergarten and Primary Learners (TEKPL) course, we develop this further as we link to different materials online that are available to support a topic-based lesson and provide tips for how to make these lessons really successful. We also progress on to look at the topic-based syllabus, when you don’t have a course book at all to base your lessons on.

Next month we’ll look at a newly emerging area for young learners, where English learning flows from classroom to home with the use of English language learning apps. In our TEKPL course we look at four of the best apps on the market today. So watch this space for more…

Return back to listings

Search Blog

Blog Archive

Want the Latest TEFL jobs & information? Sign up to our e-newsletter now

Privacy Policy

Country Guides
See where your TEFL can take you - just type a country:

View all countries

Which TEFL course is best for me? Read our handy guide now.

Employers - have you got a position to advertise on our website and through our fortnightly newsletter? Click here.

Employer enquiry form

We offer online and weekend TESOL courses from 20 hour to 350 hours. If you will accept our graduates from one of these courses to fill your vacancy, (you can decide which courses you will accept) we can display your job advert for free.

Please enter your details address below and we will email you a job vacancy form to complete:


"For the past two years I have worked here in Tuscany teaching all levels. I have already recommended your courses to one of my prospective teachers..."

Alison Salmon, English World, Italy