The Teaching of English

in a Pilot Program in Primary Schools


       Ingrid E. Thompson and Joseph E. Chryshochoos




In this article, some of the basics of the EFL learning theories, lesson planning, the recommended teaching approach and four classroom activities with the aims and the procedures to be followed, are presented. It is believed that a well–prepared teacher who knows what to teach, how to teach it and why to teach it has taken a major step towards improving the quality of his / her teaching.


EFL Learning Theories


Children at school are learning how to cope with school life, to become literate and to develop socially. Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner have been influential in the way we approach how children think and learn.


Piaget holds the view that all children pass through a series of stages before they construct the ability to perceive, reason and understand in mature / rational terms. Teaching can only influence the course of intellectual development if the child is able to assimilate what is said and done.

The three stages, sensori-motor (birth to 18 months), concrete  operation (18 months to 11 years), formal operation (11  years onwards) are ascertained by means of cognitive tasks – which correspond to children’s individual needs.


Vygotsky places instruction at the heart of human development, describing intelligence itself as the capacity to learn through instruction. Vygotsky defined the ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) as the distance between the actual  development level as determined through problem-solving under teacher guidance or in collaboration with more advanced peers. The child internalizes the processes required for working out a particular task through collaboration.

Bruner expresses the view that children’s language and learning development takes place through the processes of social interaction. Bruner introduces the concept of LASS (Language Acquisition Support System) which incorporates an innate ability for active social interaction through teacher support. Scaffolding, according to Bruner refers to the various means  we use to help a child towards learning e.g., demonstration, explanation, questions, etc. (Brumfit, C et al, 1991).


Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner’s theories constitute the basis of the ways we deal with the promotion of language and intellectual  development in young children. These theories should be  implemented within

a.     the traditional view as expressed by F. Skinner  which states that language is acquired when there is a stimulus which reinforces a response, resulting in an experience which leads to knowledge

b.    the cognitive theory as proposed by N. Chomsky, which emphasizes the importance of the innate ability that children possess which activates the LAD (Language Acquisition Devise) in processing information critically and intelligently

  1. the motivation theory as advocated by C. Rogers which encourages a positive and encouraging environment in language learning.






















Teachers generally carry their own beliefs / views about how languages can be learned more effectively. Below you can see a questionnaire which aims to investigate this issue and help you reflect on your own assumptions. Mark your position in the scale and discuss with your group.


1.      Languages are learned through imitation.

      strongly agree  z z z z z z  strongly disagree    


2.      Parents usually correct young children when they make grammatical errors.

      strongly agree  z z z z z z  strongly disagree


3.      People with high IQs are good language learners.

      strongly agree  z z z z z z  strongly disagree


4.      The most important factor in the successful acquisition of a foreign / second language is motivation.

      strongly agree  z z z z z z  strongly disagree


5.      The earlier a foreign / second language is introduced in school programs, the greater the likelihood of success in learning.

      strongly agree  z z z z z z  strongly disagree


6.      Most of the mistakes which foreign / second language learners make are due to interference from their first language.

      strongly agree  z z z z z z  strongly disagree


7.      Teachers should teach simple language structures before complex ones.

      strongly agree  z z z z z z  strongly disagree


8.      Teachers should use material that expose learners only to those language structures which they have already been taught.

      strongly agree  z z z z z z  strongly disagree


9.      When learners are allowed to interact freely (for example in group or pair work), they pick up incorrect language.

      strongly agree  z z z z z z  strongly disagree


10.  Students learn what they are taught.

       strongly agree  z z z z z z  strongly disagree


Adopted from: Lightbown,P.N. Spada. 1993. How languages are learned. London: OUP.


The EFL teachers discuss the awareness-raising quiz with the teacher trainer and in this way they review existing EFL language  / learning theories.


Lesson Planning


When you teach a class you should plan ahead what you would like to do in the time available. Lesson planning gives you and your pupils general aims and specific objectives. The general purpose of all your teaching is that your pupils should learn the language.


Yet the educational goals, the philosophy, the content and the evaluation procedures are outlined by the revised curricula (Government Gazette 304 / 13-3-2003) to be down-loaded from or


The general aims (for the teacher) and specific objectives (for the learners) of each lesson are framed by the particular unit in the course book and the relevant information provided by the Teacher’s Book and the accompanying supplementary material (e.g., the Activity book, the tapes, etc). The teacher should always consult all  the relevant resources.     


The syllabus for the particular group of learners should be in accordance with the pupils’ needs, interests, aspirations, background and developmental stages. Teachers need to be aware of  educational theory as evolved by Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner.


The general aim of your teaching should entail language elements, i.e.:

a.    grammar

b.    pronunciation, and

c.     vocabulary.


The language elements should be practiced by using the four skills i.e.:

1.    reading

2.    writing

3.    listening, and

4.    speaking


If you keep these seven areas in mind when you plan your lessons, you are sure that you are not neglecting any aspect of language learning. The amount of practice in each of the three language elements and the four skills will be determined by the particular lesson you have in mind. If your aim is oral communication and the pupils are involved in pair work practicing a particular aspect of language then much less writing is done in class. Particular EFL methodology books are useful including Jeremy Harmer’s (2002) The Practice of English Language Teaching (Longman) and Roger Gower’s et al (1995) Teaching Practice Handbook (Heinemann).


Nevertheless the lesson needs to incorporate  the European dimension (literacy, plurilingualism and pluriculturalism) as it is presented by the Common European Framework of Reference (2001) and  include all pupils (i.e., pupils with special needs, immigrants, etc) in the learning process as it is promoted by UNESCO (1996). Individualized teaching and differentiated learning are elements to be considered. Also the teacher needs to link his/her subject to other relevant subjects from the school curriculum. In this way holistic learning is implemented and the cross curricular approach to learning acquires greater significance. The cross curricular approach encourages cooperation among teachers to the benefit of the pupils. To this end it is obligatory for the EFL teacher to cooperate with the primary school teacher and the teachers of other school subjects.


The Teaching Approach


The teacher usually introduces his/her topic by referring to the previously taught material (The Warm-up Stage).


Then the teacher stimulates his/her pupils to read a text by showing a picture in order to activate their schemata.  When the pupils have read a text (silently), they can be asked to do the related tasks; for example, to answer comprehension questions. The pupils can be asked to work in pairs to check their answers before they report them to their teacher (The Presentation Stage).


Many teachers prefer to teach the whole class together since they consider that they do not have enough time for pair work and group work. They believe that they need to control their pupils and correct their mistakes. These teachers  make sure that their pupils practice the language and that they can perform well when they are tested in the examinations. Whole class activities are teacher controlled and promote accuracy (The Practice Stage).


On the other hand there are teachers who believe that their pupils should spend most of their time  working in pairs or groups because this is how they learn best. Pupils need opportunities to use the language themselves. Pair and group work is learner directed and promotes fluency work (The Production Stage). 


Obviously teachers should give the pupils practice in grammar and vocabulary (accuracy work) and offer opportunities to use the language (fluency work) through a wide range of activities which will motivate them.


The topic which was presented initially can involve further discussion and lead to homework or a small project which incorporates extra reading, a visit to a local shop, etc. (The Follow-up Stage).




Classroom Activites


The following classroom activities are built around the aim(s) and the procedures the teacher always need to prepare for his/her activities. They cater for pupils with different intelligences such as (a) verbal-linguistic (b) logical-mathematical (c) visual-spatial (d) musical (e) bodily-kinesthetic (f) interpersonal (g) intrapersonal and (h) naturalistic.


Activity 1:         ‘Walking Dictation’


This activity motivates pupils who are kinesthetic but it also contributes to the abilities of the visual and auditory pupil.




(a) to revise two reading texts

(b) to achieve accuracy in writing through dictation




(a)   T sticks the two texts (see below) outside the class

(b)   Pupils are divided into two pairs / groups

(c)   T gives clear instructions

(d)  Each pupil is invited to go to the text, read one sentence, memorise it, go to his/her classmate and dictate it

(e)  T observes the progress of the task

(f)     Pupils alternate roles till the end

(g)  T keeps the time

(h)   Pupils crosscheck their dictations

(i)      T announces the winning pair / group (toffees can be distributed).




Oscar lives in the Andes Mountains of Peru. His father has got a farm. Oscar helps him with the sheep. There is no water on their farm. His mother washes their clothes in the river. She also makes tortillas with potatoes, hot peppers and lemon. They all eat dinner together. On Sunday mornings the whole family goes to church.





Pauline is from Malaysia. Her family lives in a very small house. Pauline sleeps in the same room with her sisters and brothers. In the morning she goes to school. Then she helps her mother in the kitchen. She loves swimming in the river near their village. Her father goes fishing there, too. Her mother is a happy housewife.

Source: Funway English 2 – E’ Class: page 32

                    (8 sentences; 59 words)





Activity 2:            ‘Interactive  Listening’


On the basis of a poster which is presented as a stimulus and a prepared grid, pupils are invited to prepare and enact a dialogue before they listen to an authentic text (see below).




to help learners listen for a purpose




(a)    T asks Pupils to look at a poster as a stimulus (a girl on one side, a phone in the middle and a boy on the other side)

(b)   Pupils cooperate in order to write the dialogue between the girl and the boy. The topic of the conversation is ‘an invitation to a party’.

(c)    T facilitates the progress of pupils

(d)   Pupils read out their dialogues

(e)   T distributes a handout and plays the tape

(f)      Pupils listen to the tape (twice) in order to fill in the missing information

(g)   Pupils crosscheck their answers

(h)    T verifies the correct answer




Listen to a telephone conversation. A girl wants to speak to Martin, but he’s not there. Complete the message she leaves for Martin. (You will hear the conversation twice).


Pupils listen to the conversation and they have to fill in the missing information in the grid below:








                                       PHONE MESSAGE


TO:   Martin


FROM:   …………………………….


PARTY AT:   ……………………….


TIME:  ………………………………


PLEASE BRING:   ………………...


HER PHONE NO: …………………



Source: Cambridge Key English Test (1997) London: CUP - page 18. It has slightly been modified for teaching purposes. The transcript of the listening is in the Teacher’s book (see below). A cassette is also available.



MALE:         Hello. 785 3126

ELAINE:      Hello. Could I speak to Martin please?

MALE:         I’m afraid he’s out at the moment.

                   Can I take a message for him?

ELAINE:      Yes. Please. My name’s Elaine.

MALE:         How do you spell that?

ELAINE:      E-L-A-I-N-E

MALE:         Right, Elaine. And what’s the message?

ELAINE:      Tell Martin that the party tonight is at the Grand Hotel.

                    I’ll meet him there.

MALE:         Does he know the address?

ELAINE:      Oh yes. Everyone knows the Grand Hotel.

MALE:         OK. I’ll tell him.

ELAINE:      And tell him I’ll try to be there at half past eight.

                    But I may be a bit late.

MALE:         Oh, I’m sure he won’t mind waiting. I’ll tell him eight                  

                    thirty……. Is there anything else?

ELAINE:      Oh, yes……ask him to bring a friend.

MALE:         A friend? Oh, good, that could be me.

ELAINE:      Hmmm……..well………and please ask him to phone

                   me if he can’t come.

MALE:         Has he got your phone number?

ELAINE:      It’s 724 5936

MALE:         Right, I’ve got that.

ELAINE:      Thanks a lot. Bye.

MALE:         Bye.


Now listen again.








TO:   Martin


FROM:   Elaine


PARTY AT:   Grand Hotel


TIME:  8.30


PLEASE BRING:  a friend


HER PHONE NO: 724 59 36



Activity 3:            ‘Revising Grammar’


This activity involves pupils in the revision of the Simple Present Tense. The teacher models the activity and then the pupils work in pairs to execute it.




to revise the use of the Simple Present Tense




(a)   T models the activity with one of the pupils who repeats the sentences after him (by playing the Greek game ‘ðÜíù ÷Ýñé êÜôù ÷Ýñé’)

(b)   Pupils are divided into pairs and they practice the use of the Simple Present Tense by following the model and the table provided below

(c)   T specifies the time available

George says:  My friend Theo



gets up


has his breakfast


goes to school


plays in the playground


eats his lunch


visits his friend Peter


watches TV


brushes his teeth


goes to bed



at 7 o’clock


at 7.30


at 8 o’clock


at 10.30


at 2 o’clock


at 5 o’clock


at 7.30


at 10.00 o’clock


at 10.30


in the morning








at midday


in the afternoon


in the evening


at night




Mary says:  My friend Anne



gets up


has her breakfast


goes to school


plays in the playground


eats her lunch


visits her friend Susan


watches TV


brushes her teeth


goes to bed



at 7 o’clock


at 7.30


at 8 o’clock


at 10.30


at 2 o’clock


at 5 o’clock


at 7.30


at 10.00 o’clock


at 10.30


in the morning








at midday


in the afternoon


in the evening


at night



This activity is based on the repetitiveness of the movement of the hands and is indicative of the main use of the Simple Present Tense (i.e., it is used for something which is used repetitively in the present).





Activity 4:         ‘Recycling Vocabulary’


This activity invites pupils to revise vocabulary in a creative and playful way.




to revise vocabulary previously taught




(a) T chooses a lexical category (noun, adjective, verb, adverb) or a grammatical category (preposition, pronoun) or vocabulary which has been taught (eg., animals, vegetables, furniture, parts of the body, fruit, clothes, etc).

(b)  T divides pupils into groups of five.

(c) T writes a letter from the alphabet (eg., a) on the BB.

(d) T asks pupils to write words starting with the given letter of the alphabet in each category. Then a second letter (e.g., b) is given (at random).

(e) Now each team has to compile 5 sentences using some of the words just mentioned for each category.

(f) Then one pupil from each team writes their sentence on the blackboard. After each sentence has been written on the BB, the other teams judge whether it is correct or not. The winning team is the first to have written 5 correct sentences.

(g) The teacher congratulates the winning team and distributes toffees to all.

                               Pupils’ card                  











of a person












    Fruit /





Name of an   






















































The following chart can be used by the teacher to record the progress of his/her pupils:


































Concluding the present article we would like to mention that with experience your lessons and the activities would be more balanced and focused. Yet, you should always know in advance:

a.     the sequence of the activities to be presented

b.    the examples and vocabulary to be used

c.     the questions to be asked

d.    the method to be used (deductive - when learners are taught rules and then they apply these rules when they use the language or inductive - when learners are left to discover the rules from their experience of using the language), and

e.    the teaching aids (visuals, recordings, etc) to be used.


A variety of activities which encourage pupils to be involved in the process of learning will keep pupils attentive and interested. Being able to judge how long each activity will take comes with experience. Lesson plans cannot be rigidly enforced because unforeseen problem arise. Yet it is always worth writing down your lesson plan because

(a)   it is something to refer to in times of fatigue

it is a record of what you have done to be used in the following year





Byrne, D (1987) Techniques for Classroom Interaction. London: Longman

Common European Framework of Reference (2001) Learning, Teaching, Assessment – Council of Europe. Cambridge: CUP

Chryshochoos, J Chryshochoos, N and Thompson, I (2002) The Methodology of the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language with reference to the Crosscurricular Approach and Task-Based Learning. Athens: The Pedagogical Institute

Dawson, C (1984) Teaching English as a Foreign Language. London: Nelson

Delor, J (1996) Education: The treasure hidden within. Paris: UNESCO

Harmer, J (2002) The Practice of English Language Teaching.

London: Longman.

Gower, J Phillips, D and Walters, D  (1995) Teaching Practice Handbook. London: Heinemann.






In the following list you will find books which refer both to the theory and practice of Teaching Young learners. However, this list should, by no means, be considered exhaustive. What is included here covers the basic issues. You can find a lot more if you search libraries or read articles in ELT journals.


Brewster, J. &  D. Ellis (1992) The Primary English Teacher's Guide,  London: Penguin Books


Brumfit, C., J. Moon, & R. Tongue (1991) Teaching English to Children: from Practice to Principle, London: Collins


Cameron, L. (2001) Teaching Languages to Young Learners, London: Cambridge University Press


Cant, A. & W. Superfine (1997) Developing Resources for Primary, London: Richmond Publishing


Ellis, G., & J. Brewster (1991) The Storytelling Handbook for Primary Teachers, London: Harmondsworth, Penguin


Graham, C. (1988) Jazz Chants Fairy Tales, London: Oxford University Press


Halliwell, S. (1992) Teaching English in the Primary Classroom, London: Longman


Ioannou, S., & P. Pavlou (2003) Assessing Young Learners, London: Oxford University Press.


Lewis, G.Bedson (1999) Games for Children, London: Oxford University Press


Lightbown, M.,P. & N. Spada (1996) How languages are learned, London: Oxford University Press


Moon, J. (2000) Children Learning English, London: Macmillan Heinemann


Piaget, J., (1999) Play, Dreams and Imitation in Childhood, London: Routledge

Phillips, S., (1993) Young LearnersLondon: Oxford University Press


Phillips, D., S. Burwood, et al (1999) Projects with Young Learners, London: Oxford University Press


Rixon, S., (1999) Young Learners of English: Some Research Perspectives, London: Longman


Slattery, M. & J. Willis (2001) English for Primary Teachers, London: Oxford




Note 1:


Thanks to Mrs Kaiti Zouganeli, Educational Consultant at the Pedagogical Institute, for the awareness-raising quiz and the bibliography for young learners.




Note 2:


Ingrid E. Thompson holds an MA in Applied Linguistics and is a state school teacher and teacher trainer.


Joseph E. Chryshochoos, Ph D is an Educational Consultant at the Pedagogical Intstitute