HomeUncategorizedThe essential ingredients of the young learner classroom

The essential ingredients of the young learner classroom




Mise en place pronounced ‘meez-ahn-plas’ is a very important concept in cooking. If you were to ask famous chefs like Gordon Ramsey or Alain Ducasse or Paco Perez, they will tell you ‘mise en place’ is an absolutely essential first step when cooking in a professional kitchen. So, this process contains a number of steps: firstly, check the recipe, then collect your tools, followed by gathering your ingredients and finally, complete the basic prep work. Once the chef has done the mise (in ‘chef speak’), they can set about combining all the ingredients together to create a masterpiece.

You will probably ask how this connects with teaching young learners and with what we as teachers do every day. I believe we as teachers also have mise en place, or in its translated form: a process of ‘putting (things) into place’. Just like a world-class chef prepares and then cooks, we prepare and then teach.

Preparing your lesson

When we ‘do the mise’, what are the elements that we prepare? We think of the content of the lesson (the recipe), we make sure that we have our resources at hand (puppets, flashcards or online tools, etc.), we choose the activities that we will include in our lesson (our ingredients) and we also complete our basic preparation work by thinking about the plan for the lesson (or maybe even writing it out shortly). We do these things to:

  • empower the learners to reach their full potential;
  • motivate the learners so that they enjoy learning, and
  • ensure that our lessons run smoothly.

Here are some tips and tricks to make your ‘mise en place’ more effective. Firstly, let’s think of ways that we can empower our learners:

  1. give your learners choice by providing possibilities for them to choose what kind of product (a poster, a poem, etc.) they want to present at the end of a project;
  2. include aspects of reflection into your lesson by asking learners questions like how they feel they have done a particular task or how they think they could do a task better;
  3. make sure that you include a focus on autonomy by showing learners ways that they can learn better, for example, by showing them how word maps work, or introducing dictionaries to the learners or even teaching them about phonology, and lastly
  4. remember to add some cognitive challenge to the lesson by including aspects of
    Bloom’s taxonomy that focuses on lower order thinking skills (LOTS – remembering, understanding) and also higher order thinking skills (HOTS – applying, analysing, evaluating and creating), etc. More cognitive challenge could be developed by adding more HOTS. For example, you could use flashcards of methods of transport and ask learners to place them on a VENN diagram (see below) – those that are on land, those that are in the sea and those that can be in the sea and on land.

When doing this activity, learners are applying their knowledge of transport method analysing the various transport methods in order to do the task.

Secondly, we want to motivate learners to enjoy learning (in general). Interestingly enough, empowering learners also motivates them making the abovementioned ideas also valid here. Other things you could do is to make sure that the stages of the lessons change regularly in terms of their focus, from active (stir-type) tasks to more passive (settle-type) tasks. So, we could get learners to create their own mini flashcards (passive, face down) which they could then use to play a game with a friend (active). This could then be followed by learners in small groups creating gap-fills for each other (more passive, face-down), etc. In this way, we keep up the pace in the lesson and include interesting and engaging tasks, that will motivate the learners. You might have also noticed that the stages described above are very learner-centred contributing to greater motivation in the classroom.

Preparing to run your lesson

Finally, we also want to make sure that our lessons run smoothly – here are some ideas:

  1. use anchor posters for frames or tasks types that you do often in the lesson. You can then
    just point to the anchor poster and the learners will know what to do.
  2. use an imaginary ‘volume’ switch to show learners that they are becoming too noisy.
    Once you introduce this idea, you can then just turn the ‘switch’ up or down and the learners will know what needs to be done. And it is fun!
  3. always include models, demos and examples – so instead of telling learners how to play tic-tac-toe, show them. The format ‘I do / we do / you do’ I find particularly useful here, as it also provides appropriate scaffolding initially.

But let’s get back to our mise en place: one key aspect that we should never forget, the culinary masterpiece cannot be created, if the chef did not do the chopping, etc. beforehand. Thus, for us as teachers, mise en place is also key. The tips and tricks given above are all elements that should be considered before the lesson. So check your ‘recipe’, collect your tools, gather your ingredients and do your prep. Remember your mise en place!


Find resources to support your day-to-day classroom management, ideas to motivate young learners, and practical tips help your mixed-ability students shine here.


Elna Coetzer – DELTA/CELTA tutor – International Training Institute, Istanbul.

South-African born Elna is based in Istanbul and works as a teacher trainer and consultant with OUP and the International Training Institute. She is an accredited CELTA and Delta tutor, works as an Oxford Teachers’ Academy trainer and an online moderator.

During her teaching career she has worked with many learners teaching multi-level classes where differentiation and inclusion were of the utmost importance. She has written teacher training materials used internationally, recently an online teaching course for Chinese teachers. She has worked in a variety of countries training teachers and has expertise in a variety of contexts from KG to adult teaching. She also has experience working with a variety of subject teachers (i.e. maths, science, biology, etc.) in various countries like Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey and the UAE.

Her interests range from teaching YLs, developing a growth mindset, using stories to develop literacy and reading, developing oracy and anything related to professional development.

She is a qualified life coach, is interested in psychology and loves a good detective novel.



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