Using VYL Material

Using VYL Material

VYLs, or Very Young Learners are classified as children who are in pre-primary education. In terms of English learning, this can refer to children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years, however published material is not generally used with children under the age of 3. When using the term ‘material’ we usually refer to published coursebooks, but there may be some non-published material that is used in some teaching settings.

So, what distinguishes VYL material from other ELT material you are likely to come across on your teaching journey? Below are some of the main ways that it differs from material you will use in primary levels and beyond.

  • Amount of material: Most coursebooks for VYLs have shorter activities and less tangible material on paper. VYLs have a much shorter concentration span and cannot sit for long periods of time completing a task. The number of language items in each unit is also reduced.
  • Focus on non-linguistic skills: At this age, children are developing basic skills alongside English skills in the classroom. You’ll find non-linguistic activities such as pen-holding or logical reasoning tasks in coursebooks for VYLs.
  • Visual support: VYL material is very visual and colourful. It often includes characters that become known to the children and appear throughout the coursebook. Pages are not crammed with language, instead they include a restricted number of objects and language items to make it easy-to-follow for the students.
  • Use of stories: Language is very commonly introduced and practised through stories. In these stories, language is repeated more than once so that children are exposed to it in context.
  • Extra material: Just like coursebooks for primary learners, there is a lot of extra material for VYLs. However, this physical material is often bigger in size and adapted to the capabilities of children at this young age.
  • Task/language repetition: VYLs require a lot of task and language repetition and you will find the same/very similar activity types throughout a coursebook for VYLs. There is much less language input but a huge amount of repetition.

Bearing this in mind, it’s essential to consider how to use this material effectively when it comes to teaching VYLs. With a little help from our friends at Richmond ELT Spain and their coursebooks series for VYLs, New Hooray Let’s Play, we’ve compiled our top ten tips to get the most out of your coursebook.

1. Make the most of the routine poster and songs.

A good routine is a teacher’s best friend and as most teachers know, VYLs find comfort in familiar routines and activities as they know what to expect. Most VYL coursebooks come with their very own routine poster that you can use at the beginning of every lesson. They also provide teachers with a wealth of routine songs that you can play throughout the class and are essential when it comes to moving between stages and creating a positive atmosphere in class.

2. Use electronic and physical copies of flashcards.

VYL coursebooks come with flashcards for all language that is introduced in the book, and these can be used for so many activities in class. Not only will you find them in paper copies, but also on the digital version of the coursebook. This makes it easier to use along with the relevant pages in the coursebook and can make it clearer for all students to see in the classroom. A good user of VYL material will use flashcards in every lesson in some way.

3. Turn songs into a language task.

There are so many tasks you can do with a song besides just listening. If you’re starting to work with phonics and word or letter recognition with your VYLs, then you can take some of the topic vocabulary out of the song and get learners to order them as they listen to the song. You can do this with the flashcards that come with your VYL coursebook or little images that you print off yourself. It’s also a great opportunity to work with rhyming words and focus on the pronunciation of the different language of the unit.

4. Give clear instructions and model tasks.

Children at this age are learning how to behave in a classroom alongside how to react to input in another language. This combination of factors can make it very difficult for them to understand instructions you might give in class. Giving clear instructions is key to a task’s success, so you have to consider the language you use carefully. It’s also important to model tasks before getting students to do them individually, so they can replicate what they see the teacher doing.

5. Review and recycle vocabulary as much as possible.

There may be fewer language items in each unit of a VYL coursebook, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal less with vocabulary practice. This language needs to be reviewed on more than one occasion and recycled whenever possible. It’s only by doing this that you are going to increase students’ vocabulary recall and their ability to use this language organically in the classroom. You can never do too much vocabulary recycling with VYLs!

6. Work with language chunks.

Vocabulary is important, but so are common language chunks so that children learn to automatise this language in the correct context. Instead of getting students to produce language in isolation, ask them to repeat it in a sentence or a short phrase. For example, when doing a vocabulary recall task with flashcards, rather than just saying the word, you could get children to repeat ‘It’s a…’. Remember, they don’t have to understand the grammar behind a language chunk to be able to use it.

7. Ask questions when working with stories.

We all know that children love a good story, but you have to think about how to make this into an effective language task. As you are telling the story, make the most of the chance to pause and ask your learners questions to keep them engaged and focussed on the detail of the text. Knowing that you do this when reading a story, students are more likely to concentrate more when they are listening because they know a question could be coming their way!

8. Use acting and actions.

Speaking of language chunks, acting out stories and doing role plays is a fantastic way to get young children to practise these. This could be in the form of repetition of a story they have just read or doing a simple role play using recently acquired language. Bringing language to life like this gives students more confidence and will help them identify language use in context much more easily.

9. Move around the classroom.

Children are active beings and need to expend their energy whenever possible. In the classroom, this means that you need to think about how you are going to make the activities you do in class as active as possible. There are many ways you can add movement to coursebook activities. Even getting students to do an activity with flashcards on the floor or moving around the classroom to touch different items of vocabulary.

10. Keep each stage of the lesson short.

VYLs have a shorter attention span than older learners and as such, the stages of the lesson need to be shorter so that students don’t lose focus. It doesn’t mean that you have to pack your lessons with lots of activities, instead teachers should try to do language practice activities in a number of different ways, using all of the materials available in the coursebook.


VYLs coursebooks are a great resource to use in the classroom and there are so many ways you can adapt them and use them in dynamic and engaging ways in your lessons. Make sure you spend some time looking at all the resources that come with the coursebook and make the most of them in your lessons. If you’re in doubt about where to start when it comes to choosing a book, then look no further than New Hooray Let’s Play!

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