Language chunks for teaching young students

Language chunks for teaching young students

In order to make the topic memorable and practical, gain fluency in speaking and not to use grammatical rules while teaching young learners – use word chunks.

What are the chunks?

Chunks are the most common collocations, a sequence of words that usually go together. When teaching very young learners, most teachers tend to teach as much vocabulary as possible, ignoring grammar and speaking. However, a language should be studied in the complex. To integrate new vocabulary in children’s speech and teach them a certain grammatical form without rules, and to enhance their speech, use word chunks.  

How to integrate word chunks in the lesson to get most use of them?

While teaching a certain topic, try to think what grammar the vocabulary can be combined with. For instance, while teaching activity verbs, one may also integrate modal verb ‘can’, verbs ‘like / don’t like’, Present Simple or Present Continuous. Below, there are some ways to do that.

  • Use mime and TPR. Jump, and say to children: “I can jump. Jump! Jump! I can jump.” Show them with gestures and say: “Can you jump? Jump!”. Children start jumping, and you say: “You can jump! We can jump! Jump.” Then, show them that you are skiing and fall down. Say: “I can’t ski. Can you ski?” And move on with all the words. The same activity can be done teaching Present Continuous (and present class activities), or Present Simple (present daily activities: show the clock and say what you usually do at this time).
  • Use short poems. You may find some short poems with certain collocation or word combination (the example is in the picture) or you can just create them on your own. The main criterion is to make a certain word combination memorable.

In the video above there is a great song for teaching “I can”. It is possible to include TRP elements to the lesson while singing the song (move hands as the bird is flying, etc.). If there is no equipment (neither computer nor tablet) in a class, it is possible to create own songs. For example, sing these words with any melody you know:

I can jump, you can jump,

we can jump together.

I can jump, you can jump,

we can jump together.

Can you jump? I can jump!

Can you jump? I can jump!…

And move on with other action verbs. Children will definitely sing this simple song all day long and remember the bites of language you aimed to teach them! ☺

  • Give the list of useful phrases for children. For example, you read the story or fairytale, and you want to know the children’s opinion about it. Pre-teach some phrases like “I think, I don’t think, I agree, I disagree, etc.” that children can use to express their opinion. Read more about how to teach functional language in the article.


After teaching children in a fun and engaging way, test them! Provide them with freer speaking practice. For example, if you taught “I can”, give children action verbs cards and suggest them asking other children if they can or can’t do it. Then let them share their “discoveries” with you or draw a poster with the things the class can do. I am sure you and your young students will enjoy that!

Hope, our recommendations are useful and you will integrate them in your teaching practice. Good luck!

Наталия Мушкарева

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