Hello my dear Blog readers,

This post concerns a lady teaching a mixed age group of children from three to seven, in small groups, the problems she is having and my suggestions to her.

If you are also teaching children in a mixed age group then you might like this post.


Hi Shelley,
I have bought lots of your books on teaching English through games. Previously I have used them intermittently with texts books as I have been working in fairly traditional academies and the children have enjoyed the games immensely.


This year I have the amazing opportunity to create my own syllabus in a centre
which supports teaching through play, I have no desks, no chairs and no books,
just 10 children between 3 and 7 years of age. Most of the children are about 5
and there is the odd 7 year old and three year old. I have them once a week for
one hour.


The problem is I am finding it very difficult to control them, I can´t get all their attention at the same time and I can’t get the games up and running effectively. I am finding that they get over excited and chaos reigns in the classroom. I am beginning to get angry, which doesn’t work either. I find it easier getting them doing some arty/crafty exercise even though I don’t feel that it is hugely beneficial to their English. HMMMPH!

Would you have any helpful tips by any chance?


Thanks for your email.

I’m glad you have had good use out of the resources so far. They should
be absolutely IDEAL for your small group teaching situation.

The major challenge that you have is having a three year old in there with
the other children – I mean is that MAD or what!

I would see if you can have the three year olds separately, or not at all.
They just do not function at the same pace as the others. Still if you
have to keep them there then I would more or less not worry about teaching
them anything – let them absorb what they can, ask them simple vocab
questions when it’s their turn (such as always asking them “blue” while
the others are on silver, gold and purple.

Don’t IGNORE the three year olds but don’t hold back the class to teach
them. Just tell them how well they are doing, smile, encouragement, and
ask them v. easy stuff that they know. Then they will at least feel part
of the team.

I would aim to go at the pace of the five year olds and try to give the
seven year olds (who presumably can learn faster) some jobs like leading
games. For example if you play All Change, at first you call out the
words/sentences. Then give the seven year olds a turn at that, so they
feel special, they are being stretched beyond the others, and they are not
bored by the class.

With small groups it really is possible to quite a bit of tailoring like

An ideal thing for that is my plays and skits because you can give the
bigger roles to the older ones. The three year old can be paired up with
an older child and be given the same lines, and it really does not matter
if they say them or not – I mean don’t worry – those kids will pick
something up whatever – but you cannot go at their pace or you will lose
the rest of the class.

There is a free play in the Food lesson plans called The Best Restaurant
and all the flashcards you need including the worm paté and the fly soup.
Try that out. If you like it there’s another one on the plays page called
Ready Steady Go. One of the seven year olds could be the driver for
example, that part has the most lines.

I do think that when you only have them once a week for an hour it is a
bit of a cop-out to do arts and crafts! Take a look in the primary games
book detailed index for games that are described as calm. There are
plenty of nice calm games like the Find the Pairs Memory game. It’s v.
possible to play games like All Change calmly too.

I used to say things like “Would you like me to speak to your father when
he comes to collect you?” I never made threats that I did not carry out.

Check out on my articles page – there are two or three articles on
classroom dicipline / management – quite a few ideas there though I think
I put them all in the introduction of the primary games book.

I hope some of you reading this post found it useful!

Kind regards