Checklist for English Conversation Schools

Summary: A checklist for English conversation schools if you're teaching kids for the first time

A checklist for English conversation schools teaching kids for the first time

The business logic of opening your school to younger and younger children seems so obvious- expanding your market, getting to the potential customers for life before your competitors do, moving into a less crowded niche market etc etc. Like everything that seems too good to be true, though, asking your teachers and other staff to deal with younger and younger students brings almost as many problems as benefits- and if you want to do it properly, almost as many outgoings as income for the first couple of years. Below is a list of all the things you need to think about when setting up a new conversation school that will teach kids or converting one that has been just for adults and young adults so far. It is written in the hope that this will let you know what you are letting yourself in for and help you be totally prepared if you do decide to go ahead with it.

Furniture and fittings


  • Enough room to run around in when the tables and chairs are stacked up or pushed back
  • Preferably separate rooms for adult and children’s classes, or even different classrooms for different ages of kids
  • Most of the kids’ classes in classrooms that don’t share a wall with any quieter classes


  • At the right height
  • No sharp corners for the kids to walk or run into, or corners covered with masking tape and/ or other padding
  • Surface easily wiped clean of whatever might get on it, e.g. crayon, paints or fizzy drinks
  • Easy to move around and/ or fold up, e.g. when you want to make a clear space in the middle of the classroom to play games
  • No sharp bits sticking out under the table they could bang into if they are kicking their legs while they are sat down
  • If foldable, won’t fall on top of the kids even if they run into them when they are folded up in the corner of the room or play around with the folding up mechanism
  • With young kids, a suitably bright and cheerful colour
  • Something at the bottom of the legs so that students pushing them around doesn’t ruin the floor or carpet


  • The right height
  • Stackable to make room for running around games
  • No sharp bits or corners students could run into
  • Something at the bottom of the legs so that students pushing them around doesn’t ruin the floor or carpet
  • Heavy enough and stable enough that they don’t easily tip over
  • Seating space in reception for parents who are waiting for their kids

Cupboards and shelves

  • Shelves above the height the students can easily reach for the teacher to put the materials for that class, the board pens or chalk, the board eraser, and the CD player on
  • Lockable cupboards for stuff like paints and even for toys if the kids are curious and easily distracted.
  • A lock on most or all other cupboards in the school, e.g. the cupboard for cleaning fluids
  • No sharp corners on anywhere the kids might be running around


  • A door that can be unlocked from outside if they lock themselves in
  • A toilet seat they won’t fall through
  • If you have problems with it getting blocked by too much toilet paper etc, get it fixed or have a plunger permanently at hand
  • No carpet near the toilet in case of splashes etc and/ or a washable mat
  • Maybe a kids’ toilet seat and/ or something for them to stand on to reach the right height
  • If possible, a urinal for boys (much easier for them to use and therefore less messy)
  • Maybe some nappy changing facilities- although I hope you won’t have to teach kids young enough to be in nappies, the mothers of young kids often have even younger kids


  • At the right height for the children
  • Maybe take the plug away so it can’t flood
  • Make sure the hottest water isn’t hot enough to burn their hands
  • Make sure the water doesn’t come out fast enough to splash everywhere when they put their hands under it
  • No carpet near the sink in case of splashes etc and/ or a washable mat
  • If you can choose, it often makes sense to have the sink outside the toilet so children can be more easily supervised
  • If you use the same sink to wash dishes, make sure that washing up liquid etc are kept well out of reach

Classroom floor

  • Soft and comfortable so that kids can sit on it for storytime and games and won’t hurt themselves if they fall over, but easily cleaned
  • If the floor is not soft and clean enough to sit on, provide a mat or mats for all the children to sit on during storytime and flashcard games


  • Preferably metal, to stick magnetic letters on and pin the posters up with magnets
  • Hard wearing and wipe clean
  • Colourful (especially for young children)


  • Posters not pinned up with staples, drawing pins or other sharp objects
  • Any particularly nice posters or pictures put at above the height young children can easily reach
  • No glass in the frames of pictures further down

Cassette/ CD player

  • Can play CDs copied on computers (sometimes not possible with older CD players) and/ or can plug a USB stick in to play mp3 files
  • Put in a place where the kids can’t easily reach it and where the track won’t jump if they are running around or stamping in time to the song
  • Make sure the maximum volume is loud enough to be heard above a noisy group of kids doing actions to an action song
  • If possible, choose one with a remote control (as chaos can break out while the teacher has their back turned playing with the CD player)

Whiteboard/ blackboard

  • Low enough for the students to be able to write at the bottom but with the top too high for them to wipe off what the teacher has written there
  • No sharp corners, e.g. no ledge at the bottom where pens, chalk and eraser are put
  • Won’t be totally ruined by a permanent marker being used on it or being scratched
  • Large enough so that several students can use it at the same time
  • If possible, one at each end of the room (but the second one being smaller is okay), so that the teacher can do different activities in different parts of the room and can write things up for students to run and touch (the game “Stations”)
  • Preferably metal to put magnetic letters on etc

Teaching materials


  • A selection of song cassettes and CDs (available both for native speakers and especially for young ESL learners)
  • Lyrics of the songs for use by the teacher and/ or students
  • If possible, accompanying worksheets for the songs
  • If possible, pictures or picture books to make the meanings of the songs clear

Picture books and storybooks

  • Books that are relevant to the language you would put on the syllabus for kids that age, e.g. for pre-school kids stories including body parts and for primary school kids stories about the weather
  • You will probably need both books that are designed for students to read (graded readers/ easy readers) and books for the teacher to read out or use like flashcards to teach vocabulary (storybooks/ picture books), especially if you will teach a range of ages starting at very young

Colouring books and worksheets

  • For the youngest students, worksheets that can be coloured in without instructions just by knowing what the object is because it is always the same colour, e.g. a banana or a panda.
  • For slightly older students, more detailed worksheets that they need to listen to the teacher’s instructions to colour in
  • For students the next stage up, worksheets with basic instructions included on the sheets, e.g. the name of the colour they must colour it in written on it or a number and colour code
  • For students who are almost too old for colouring, worksheets with a puzzle element, e.g. ones in which its identity is only revealed when the picture is nearly finished

Other worksheets

  • Join the dots activities to practice numbers, the alphabet and the vocabulary of whatever the final picture is
  • Mazes, e.g. as a fun way of doing matching exercises
  • Craft worksheets students can cut out, making sure it matches their skill with scissors
  • Word puzzles such as word searches and crosswords
  • Phonics and other reading and writing worksheets


  • Brightly coloured stickers, preferably with suitably encouraging English words written on them, to be used as rewards, to mark attendance etc.
  • Maybe plain white stickers to make into name badges


  • Posters of things suitable for the ages of the kids and language they will be studying, especially things they will want to refer to such as alphabet posters
  • If they are where they can be touched and/ or you want to use them for games, make sure they are very hard wearing and/ or laminated
  • If you will be teaching adults in the same classrooms, make sure the posters don’t change the atmosphere of the classroom too much, e.g. by putting them all on the back wall or making some of them easy to take off or turn around.


  • At least two, so teachers can demonstrate dialogues etc. If possible, get ones tied in with textbook or storybooks. If not puppets, teddy bears or dolls will do.


  • Sticky ball (= sucker ball) to throw at the board to select things etc
  • Beach ball or other soft ball to throw around while drilling, asking and answering questions etc. If it is a beach ball, make sure there is always a replacement one hand as it could get punctured


  • Magnetic numbers and letters for games and decoration of the room
  • Lots of other magnets of any sort to stick things to the whiteboard or walls, score points etc.

Things to draw, right and colour with

  • Crayons
  • Things to make holding pencils easier or easy hold pens and pencils
  • Lots of identical sets of colouring pencils

Toys and games

  • Plastic fruit/ animals/ kitchen utensils
  • Fluffy dice
  • Jigsaw puzzles suitable for ages of the kids, preferably ones with English written on them
  • Stackable blocks/ cups etc to practice colours and numbers
  • Picture dominoes
  • Snap
  • Various forms of picture, number and word bingo


  • Sets of flashcards for typical vocabulary children will often use in their own language at their age, e.g. for pre-school kids sets of flashcards for numbers, colours, animals, food, actions, toys, classroom objects and maybe household objects and things in the street
  • If children are likely to chew or rip up the cards, make sure they are very sturdy and/ or are laminated
  • For larger classes and to make some flashcard games easier, make sure there are also large format cards

Craft materials

  • Paper plates
  • Coloured card
  • Non-toxic and non-messy glue
  • Safe and easy to handle scissors
  • Something to cover the tables or floor with when doing craftwork, e.g. old newspapers or a plastic sheet
  • Make sure all glass is reinforced and/ or where students can’t reach it, including windows and wall mirrors

  • In order to cover yourself, it is best to have classrooms that are visible from outside, if only through a small glass panel in the door. If not, the teacher might want to teach kids’ classes, especially one to one and other small classes, with the door open a crack

  • Depending on the country you are in, parents might expect you to administer basic first aid such as aspirin or a band aid, or they might kick up a fuss if you risk making things worse due to not knowing their allergies etc. The best policy is to have a first aid box but only include things that you are happy for any member of staff to use with the children. If you know that one of the kids is allergic to something (you can ask this when they sign up), it’s probably best to leave it out of the first aid box altogether.

  • Maybe fit a little door on the side of the reception desk to stop kids getting behind there

  • Depending on the country, there might also be rules about other safety equipment to have on hand in school, such as things to be used in a power cut or earthquake

Copyright © 2011

Written by Alex Case for

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