Three primary students play a game with large coloured dice

Dao Thuy, a teacher in Vietnam was trained by a Primary Trainer of Trainers who attended both the Primary Innovations Programme and the CiPELT Orientation course.  Here she shares some of her tips for motivating primary school students. 

Because they are young and lose concentration easily many teachers agree with me that it’s hard to involve children in learning English.  We also face many problems with encouraging children to use English at school, since our students don’t have many chances to experience an English environment and they are afraid of making mistakes. 

We need to find effective teaching techniques that help learners become more excited and confident with their English. For this reason, I always pay attention to the topic:  “Motivating Primary Children to learn English”. In fact, finding strategies that focus on this not only helps improve my teaching skills but also considerably enhances student learning. 

Each teacher has their own approach to encourage their students but in my opinion, grouping is one of the most effective methods.  It helps increase interaction between group members and they can get more ideas from their friends, more chances to practice and help each other. There are many interesting ways to organise grouping: Clusters; Pictures cards; Ask a question; Hat Sort; Picture Puzzle.  Using them I find that students are very excited to do group work. 

Besides grouping, there are lots of techniques for getting students’ attention and encouraging them to focus on instructions:

  • clapping
  • using tambourines
  • words and actions (stop, look, listen)
  • Total physical response (TPR) activities

At school, praise and reward systems are also good ways to stimulate student curiosity and encourage them to work harder.

I can also change my behaviour by reducing my speaking time and shortening and simplifying my instructions and always including examples and demonstrations. Checking understanding also helps to ensure that students know how and what they need to do during an activity.  

Games and physical activities are great but they should be used carefully.  In some schools making too much noise in English class will disturb other classes so it’s important to plan a lesson in which stirring and settling activities are well-balanced. 

In some cases, students respond well to different teaching techniques. For example, there are lots of overactive students in class 4A, so I cut down stirring activities, such as racing games and singing, and replace them with settling ones like writing and listening to stories, with the goal of calming them down and establishing a routine. On the other hand, with many timid students in class 4B I’ll use more group work, TPR activities and competitions with board races, in order to energize them. 

In the future when I’m teaching I’ll use these techniques to motivate my students to learn English.