What is Social Pain in the classroom?

I recently used this video to demonstrate verb forms in presente indicativo, to my Dad, who’s learning Spanish. I love this song as it’s easy to learn, catchy and cute! One thing about the video is jarring though, that is Teresa Rabal in her role as the teacher directly and repeatedly saying ‘No!‘ to the children when they answer incorrectly. (Thankfully, she’s not really a teacher, and I’m guessing by their behaviour in class that those students are probably actors, too!)

Although, as a student, I value honesty over politeness always – I’d much rather Rabal’s “No! No! No! No! No!” approach than a “well, not quite, but well done for trying” tact – as a teacher I am much more careful with my young students’ feelings.

We now know, because science has proved it, that Social Pain is experienced by human beings in the same way as physical pain. I think anyone who has ever experienced bullying, had their heart broken or been wracked with guilt over a terrible mistake or bad decision, probably already knew this to be the case. There is already ample proof of a link between physical and mental health, with depression being linked to a 50% increase in the risk of death from cancer. The relevance of this in relation to our teaching and our students’ experience in their classrooms is important. Simply put, if we make our students feel embarrassed, like they’re not smart enough or incapable, we’re as good as physically hurting them.

In January of this year a student joined my class after being told by his English teacher at school that he hadn’t passed the first trimester, that he wouldn’t pass the next, and probably wouldn’t pass the one after that either! He is 13 years old. His response? To avoid the physical pain of failure. He just stopped trying. He felt stupid, singled out and victimised by his teacher and understandably didn’t want to make any more effort in the subject only to be told again by his teacher that he just wasn’t as smart as his classmates. His mother, absolutely despairing and not quite knowing what else to do, took him to us for a trial class.

Our methodology is based on approaching English as a necessary but easily accessible tool with which to build on other skills and abilities. At the time of his joining the class we were mid-way through a project looking at the idea of practice and perseverance as being attributes possessed by everyone that allow anyone to do anything they want to! Our case study was seeing how Persian-style rugs are made and then each trying to make his or her own.

We don’t ban Spanish in the classroom, we don’t chastise for mistakes in grammar or pronunciation, we don’t force the kids to do an activity they don’t want, they always have the option to sit out.

In short, we don’t say “No!

That’s not to say we allow anything. There are ways to say “no” without saying  “No!

My new student loved the activity and planned his project out on paper, asking for the materials he needed using Spanish, or describing the objects, or simply just pointing, until, through repetition and slowly understanding that he was in a safe environment where saying the wrong thing wouldn’t cause him pain, he started experimenting with, and improving his English. He learnt all the necessary vocabulary, how to put it together to make relevant questions, and how to use it to express his opinion and give advice to fellow students. And he barely realised he was learning it! Despite his teachers grim predictions, he passed the 3rd trimester.

There are many who argue that this kind of mollycoddling doesn’t prepare young people for the real world, and it’s a valid point, though I would argue that you can teach young people to manage their emotions and provide support for others. Preparing young people for the world is teaching them as much as you can, as best you can, and that means them feeling safe and secure in order to learn whatever it is you have to give them.

We don’t see stabilizers on a bicycle as mollycoddling, or swimming with armbands. We allow the students to feel safe in the water, first.

It’s worth keeping in mind, that when you isolate a child, make him stand in the corner, ignore him, allow others to ridicule him, make him feel lesser than his peers, he feels it. Physically. If you agree with no longer employing slapping or the use of the cane in the classroom then surely you can also see that there are other, less damaging ways to say “No!


Is moving abroad to teach English the right move? Will you like the job? Is it worth leaving everything to try a new life in a new country? Will you be able to learn the language? Will you clash with the culture? Will you make new friends?

Well, you don’t know until you try!

I talked to several teaching colleagues here in Spain (and a few who’ve since moved on to pastures new!) to get an insight into their motives and experiences.

I think it shows that moving abroad to teach English as a second language can open a whole world of new experiences, lessons and opportunities!

This time we hear from Jen, who after living in Madrid, has moved back to her native Scotland and now writes this blog about the re-pat experience!

Why did you decide to teach English abroad? What was your job before?

I had itchy feet for a long time prior and began developing a huge interest in foreign languages and cultures, so TEFL seemed like a natural progression to sample the lifestyle for myself. I came from a Graphic design background and then got stuck in a dead end bank job after being made redundant, so it was all a very new and exciting experience for me

Is/was it what you expected? If not, what’s been the biggest surprise?

I think everyday was very different in teaching, some days it was what you expected and others it was a complete surprise but either way it was the best decision I ever made. It was hard work though and not being a natural born innovator and not having any practical experience before going straight into the role, I had to very quickly learn how to think on my feet as you can be put in very awkward positions at times. But this was a good way of developing adaptability skills and gaining confidence in your capabilities. If you can survive teaching a class of 15+ 15 year old Italians you can cope with anything in life!

Can you briefly describe your job now, your work history since you moved abroad and your future plans?

Now I’ve returned back home and I’m considering some options and working on a new career plan, whilst doing some temp work in order to fund my future plans. I have been doing some teaching work since I’ve returned and I’m considering furthering my career in teaching here. I think teaching is a career that you can always return to at any point in life and it gives you a great opportunity to travel whilst you do it

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when you started teaching abroad, what would it be?

My advice would be to try to speak to as many natives as you can in order to gain the best possible experience. We learn and grow from our interactions so the more you put yourself out there and learn from the people you meet the richer your experience is going to be, which is what it is all about. I used to speak to anyone, from people on the street, in the supermarket and on the bus journey home from work. I met a lot of interesting people on those bus journeys!

What’s your favourite thing about life as an ESL teacher?

My favourite thing has to be the people you meet. I have taught all ages from kids to adults and I learned something very different from each and every one of them. I loved learning about their culture and their view on mine

Can you share a funny anecdote from the classroom?

This is a hard one, there have been loads! But one that springs to mind is one day, two of my 11 year old private students told me that they were going to be coming to Scotland in the summer to a summer camp in Edinburgh. They showed me the school on a map and asked me if I could suggest some activities they could do whilst there. I was super excited for them, so I told them I’d make them up a guide. I went home that day and researched lots of things they could do whilst there and even suggested that I meet them as I would be in Scotland at the same time visiting family. When I arrived at the class the next week with the pre-prepared guide, the kids started laughing and then told me they were making the whole thing up and they had googled good schools in Edinburgh to make it more convincing. I couldn’t stop laughing at their antics and how gullible I’d been. Kids will be kids!

Permanent Residency: Smashing the myths! My experience of obtaining permanent residency in Andalucía

OK, so I have just received my beautiful, new, shiny green ‘Residente comunitario permanente’ card from the Spanish Government.

Before embarking on this process I asked around and in a couple of expat and teacher Facebook groups and received a huge variation of answers. Because of this, I thought it would be useful to describe my own experience, having now secured the residency, in the hope that it might help some of you guys out!

My experience is for the comunidad de Andalucía and I received my residency in June 2018. Specifics may vary for other parts of Spain.

(Oh, this is important and I almost forgot to mention it! You need to have had your NIE for at least 5 years to request permanent residency. Ok, here goes…)


  1. The first thing you’ll need is a copy of your vida laboral from the oficina de seguridad social. This is your work history for the time you’ve been in Spain. You should just be able to go to the office with your ID and request it be printed there and then. They might give you a PIN and send you to a computer for you to do it yourself but either way you should leave with a copy of your work history in your hands.

Quick Tip:

Make sure you keep your address updated with this office during your time in Spain. It’ll make life in general a little easier

More Quick Tip!:

If you’re a teacher and your contract is September/October – June, make sure you stay in the system even during those long summers! Go to the unemployment office, in Andalucía this is the Servicio Andaluz de Empleo (SAE), and get yourself signed up as looking for work. Ask for a ‘demanda empleo’. Explain you’re a teacher and you just want to stay in the system until September. This way your vida laboral doesn’t get cut short. I never did this, and as a result my total working life in Spain comes to barely 4 and a half years even though I’ve been here 6, simply because of those almost 3 months that I don’t work every year.

Anyway, when you have your second appointment at the extranjería, (the first will be to check your ID and vida laboral and give you the forms to fill in and pay, the second will be when they check everything and give you your new paperwork) they’ll check if you’re currently de alta. If you’re not, for example if you’re on your summer holidays and between contracts, then you’ll need to present them with the demanda empleo (demanda en alta) to prove you exist as a working entity!


  1. Padron de habitantes – certificación de inscripción padronal

When you move to a new neighbourhood you should always empadronar at the local Ayuntamiento. Usually you need your tenency agreement, ID, a bill for the property from your landlord or landlady, and to fill in a simple form they will give you.

Every so often you will need this piece of paper. It’s handy for things like, in Granada, discounted access to the baños árabes or free entrance to the Alhambra on Sundays. Technically, although the empadronamiento remains valid at the last address you registered, the paper certificate on which it is printed is only valid for 3 months. This of course means that when you go to your appointment at the extranjería to get your residencia comunitaria permanente, your printed certificate will need to be less than 3 months old. You can go to the ayuntamiento to have it printed or register to do it yourself online.


  1. Tasa. You’ll need to pay for the renewel of your residencia and the change from simple foreigner to RCP. At the time of writing, in Andalucía, this is a 10,71€ charge. At your first appointment in the extranjería, which is classed as a consultation where they just give you information and prep you for the actual appointment to request your RCP status paperwork, they’ll give you the form for paying the tasa. It’s called Modelo 790. You’ll need to take it to any bank and pay the charge there. The bank will stamp the paper and you take it to your next appointment at the extranjería to prove you’ve paid it.

Quick Tip!

The Modelo 790 will have a date on it; the date it was printed, so the same day as your first appointment. To save problems, go and pay it this same day so that the date on the form and the date of the stamp from the bank is the same.

* * *

A Few Notes

-At your first appointment at the extranjería, they’ll simply check your NIE, your vida laboral, give you the form for the tasa, and another form to fill in (this is the simple request for RCP status form referred to as ‘solicitud de inscripción en el registro central de extranjeros’ – on this form you will be able to tick the box for what kind of status you require), and tell you to bring 2 copies of the front page of your passport to your next appointment there. You don’t need to book this first appointment, just show up, explain what you want to the receptionist, take a number and wait.

-My original green NIE is barely readable and I laminated it, plus it’s got my old address on it!

Although I got a bit of a finger wagging at the second appointment for laminating an official government document, it didn’t seem to make any difference and I didn’t need any other paperwork related to the NIE aside from the card itself, which they referred to as my ‘papeles originales’.

Things to remember!

1. Remember that most banks, apart from my beloved ING, close in the afternoons.

2. El ayuntamiento is also usually closed in the afternoons, and even if it isn’t, like here in the Zaidín, they don’t seem to process paperwork in the afternoons! So if you want any paperwork done, you have to come back in the morning!

3. I was super lucky that I was doing all of this during summer when a lot of people were away and not many people are thinking about their paperwork or residency! If you’re planning on doing this in September for example, be prepared to wait!

My personal experience was as follows: first appointment, demanda from the SAE, copies of passport and bank visit on Monday, renewed padrón certificate on Tuesday, took everything and received the Residente Comunitario Permanente card on Wednesday. Chilled on Sunday. Good luck!

Recap: What you need!

  • 2 copies of passport
  • padrón
  • vida laboral/demanda
  • tasa
  • original NIE
  • ID (passport)

Welcome to ¡STUDENT STORIES! where our students tell their story… meet Trésor

Having read so many cool stories of how teachers became teachers and their experiences of the profession, here on TEFL Stories and on What Kate & Kris Did among many others, I thought it was time we heard from some students!

How many amazing stories have you heard in your classes? Just a few weeks ago I was in Skype class with a Russian student who was telling me how, after almost taking his own life, he cured his depression with LSD and decided to learn English in order to go and study psychopharmacology at university abroad! A Senegalese student I taught in Madrid described his terrifying journey from North Africa to Europe by boat, during which he sadly lost his brother to drowning after their boat capsized. He remained grateful for making the journey and was studying English so that he could continue the studies he had had to abandon due to the unstable political situation in his country.

Understanding our students is key to being better teachers. We usually cover the ‘How long have you been learning English?’ and ‘What are your long and short term objectives?’ type questions in level testing, if we have the chance to do that ourselves, but scratch a little beneath the surface and you’ll find all sorts of fascinating, inspiring individuals.

Feeling drained as the school year comes to an end? Wondering what you’re doing with your life?! Fighting burnout? I hope this series will remind you how lucky we are to be teachers and inspire you to come back in September more determined and motivated than ever!

This week, we hear from Trésor. He’s from the DRC and has just been accepted into the Chevening Developing Global Leaders Scholarship programme in order to study in the UK.

1. How long have you been learning English?

I’ve been learning English for more than 15 years! First at school for 6 years and then independently…

2. How have you learnt? Online? In an academy? Group classes or individual classes? Which have you found the best and why?

Apart from classes at school, I have never taken formal English classes elsewhere. For many years the only methods I used to keep my English ‘warm’ was through music and reading academic books in English. I occasionally participated in some discussion groups and English clubs. In the last two years, I have decided to improve my English because I am planning to study a Master’s in the US or the UK.

3. Why do you need English? Why are you studying English?

At school, English was mandatory and I was very fortunate to have some very good teachers. I have always loved English since then. Now I am studying it a bit more because I will need it to study at postgraduate level. For this purpose, I have taken some courses with online tutors using Skype to communicate. They have really helped me with specific needs.

4. How do you feel about English and learning English? Is it a pain!? Do you enjoy it? Does it cause you anxiety? If you can, explain why? For example, is there something that teachers always do that makes you nervous or that you really don’t like?

For me, studying English is not a painful thing to do, even though I have to struggle with the pronunciation of some sounds that you don’t encounter in French. I still think that one skill I need to improve on is listening, because there are so many accents in British English and I am more familiar with American English.

5. Who was your best teacher (think about your learning both as an adult and as a child) why were they the best teacher?

My very first English teachers were definitely my mother and my two big sisters! They gave me this love of English! I then had good teachers at school who taught the basic knowledge of grammar and understanding. Being an adult and more independent, my best teacher is now maybe myself, because even though I have taken some courses online, I have the impression that I make the most of these courses because I take the initiative by suggesting the areas where I need to improve.

6. Where are you from? What is English language education like in your country? Is it accessible? Regarded as important? Under or over funded? Over-rated? Old fashioned? Inefficient? Why? If you could tell us how you’d change it that would be great!

I am from DR Congo in the very heart of Africa. French is the official language and we have four other national languages and many more dialects. English is becoming more and more essential for professional purposes or just to sound more in tune with the developed world. The English basis from secondary school education is quite strong in my opinion. People just need to practice to become good at using it. Taking online courses or participating in group discussions are for me some of the most valuable ways of improving.

7. Anything else!?

I love the word slipper, because it is the first word of English I heard. But it took me so many years to be able to spell it correctly!!

No-prep, last-minute, zero-cost, pen & paper but FUN lesson plan for kids! Enjoy!

Hi there! I just wanted to share a last minute, no extra materials, very little prep lesson plan I did with the kids recently.

They were preparing for an exam and needed to revise the following: prepositions of place, animal names, verbs in 3rd person in present simple, simple comparatives.

I only had a few hours to prepare and no time to go out and buy anything or make anything for the class.

Here’s what we did, I hope it serves as inspiration if you’re ever stuck in a similar position!

  • First, I took some plain paper, cut it up into little pieces about 4-5 cm square. On each one I wrote the name of an animal from their school book and drew a little picture of the animal next to the name. I then hid the pieces in various locations around the classroom. Their task was to find all the animals. When they found an animal, they had to tell me where they found it. “The eagle was/is next to the computer” “The giraffe is inside the pencil pot” “The horse is under the cellotape” “The octopus is in front of the plant” etc.

Prep time: 5 minutes. Revised: animals and prepositions of place. Materials: pen & paper


  • After they had collected all of the animals, we put all of the pieces of paper in the middle of the table. I asked them to find an animal that swims/runs fast/eats meat/flies/sleeps a lot/lives in the jungle, etc. When each one found an animal that matched the statement, they had to repeat the animal and it’s attribute aloud. So, for example, when I said ‘find an animal that flies’ one of them might reach for and take the piece of paper with the eagle. Before they can keep the eagle and add it to their pile, they have to tell me ‘The eagles flies’. (Because this area was to be tested in the written exam, I also got them to write down these sentences.)

Prep time: 0-2 minutes. Revised: animals, verbs in present tense 3rd person. Materials: pen & paper


  • With the papers that they had collected, it was then time for a comparative battle! They stood up in pairs and played a kind of animal-comparative-top trumps! Each randomly picked one of their animals without knowing what the other had chosen. It was then a battle of outdoing your opponent! “My cheetah is faster than your elephant” “My elephant is stronger than your cheetah” “My cheetah is more dangerous than your elephant” “My elephant is more intelligent than your cheetah” etc!

Prep time: 0-2 minutes. Revised: animals, simple comparatives. Materials: pen & paper

They had a lot of fun and revised everything they needed to for their exam without sitting at a desk with their books and writing sentence after sentence of the grammar they’d studied that trimestre. And I can happily tell you they did great in their exam! Well done guys!

Did you study an online TEFL course? Ever seen a bullfight? Did you do a different job before you became a teacher?

Since qualifying as an ESL teacher in 2012, I have completed various online courses on teaching English to refugees, teaching young kids, & TEFL theory, and in 2014 I studied an AS in Arts & Languages with the Open University.

Additionally, I left my first teaching job for an academy that offered weekly teacher training and stayed with them for 2 years.


Because my TEFL ‘qualification’ wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
Read about my experience here on What Kate & Kris Did


So how does bullfighting actually work and does anyone still bother with it!?

I wrote for Nina Bosken @ A World Of Dresses this week about my experience of bullfighting in Madrid.

If you’ve ever been to a bullfight yourself, or plan to go, have a read and tell me what you think!

What a load of bull: bullfighting in Spain

A Week In The Life..! The coolest things we’ve done this week @Esztertainment!

To coincide with #30dayswithEsztertainment which showcases just a little a day of all the brilliant things we do here in the academy, I wanted to write a quick post highlighting just a few of the cool games and activities we have done in class with the kids this week!

  1. ANIMAL HUNT! Getting out of the classroom! We’re working on a book project with a few of the classes this term which involves a lot of animal vocabulary, as well as focusing a little on the difference between wild animals and pets. As the sun finally made an appearance this week, we thought we’d make the most of it and go outside! We fixed black and white card colouring templates of various animals to the trees outside the academy and took the kids outside. Using an animal soundboard on my mobile phone, I played the sounds of various animals. The kids had to guess the animal (name in English) and give 3 adjectives describing that animal, before running off to find that animal in the trees! After locating the animals, we did a few more activities in teams with a clipboard per team so that the kids could work while still moving around and going from tree to tree. The exercises involved a fair amount of vocabulary for describing the animals but the kids hardly knew they were learning! One by one we ‘caught’ the animals and took them inside where we decorated, coloured and wrote on them for the final part of the class. It was a lot of fun!

2. GOING SHOPPING! Here at Esztertainment we are all about making our kids more independent learners, and that means showing them how English can be fun, and useful! It means teaching them Real Life English, not just sitting them in front of a book and drilling grammar. This activity is an example of just that! First, we put together a shopping list in English and looked at any of the items they didn’t know. Then, while still in the classroom, we went down the list guessing the prices of all the items!

Armed with our prepared shopping list, we headed to Mercadona! In teams, we went looking for each item, practicing questions like ‘What type?’ ‘How much?’ and ‘How many?’

Once back in the academy, we packed away the shopping before comparing our price-predictions to the real total. We did this in two teams, the kids taking turns to write the numbers. This was super fun practice of writing, understanding and pronouncing numbers and the kids were so excited about getting their total closest to the real bill that they barely even realised the learning they were doing! A big thanks, too, to the staff of Mercadona!

3. INTERVIEW A REAL-LIFE YOUTUBER! We’ve been working a lot recently with our young teenage students around the idea of what they want to do when they’re older. They’re preparing for their B2 exam and my objective is to make the preparation process as enjoyable as possible! In addition to some mock exam writing and reading tasks around the subject, we also practiced listening skills with this TED Talk on the subject of success and failure and how the two are not necessarily opposites. Last week we talked about dream jobs and the profession of ‘Digital Nomadism’. This week, we had the opportunity to actually speak to a real life Digital Nomad in order to ask him about his job and his life! We watched some videos from his channel before having a class discussion about what we assumed his job was like. From that discussion came a list of about 20 great questions which the kids then asked him themselves in the following class via a live Skype connection. Zoltan spoke to us and answered all of our questions from where he was staying (poolside in Italy!) It really helped to make more accessible the dreams they had of travelling the world, of not ending up in a boring 9-5 and of maybe one day working from next to your swimming pool! I especially loved that Zoltan is not a native English speaker, but worked hard and successfully learnt the language in order to achieve his goals. Just like our kids are doing now. Thanks Zoltan!

Nina’s 6 Top Tips for Teaching Tots! (Now say that really fast…)

*** GUEST POST! ***

Nina Bosken is an English teacher from the US who teaches kids in Spain. She shares with us her top 6 tips for teaching tots! 

They say the younger the better as far as language-learning goes. It’s so many parents’ dreams for their children to grow up bilingual. However when you’re on the teacher side of it, it can be daunting. How exactly do you keep young children entertained and learning?

Last year was my first year teaching English in Granada Spain. I opted to teach private lessons in the afternoons to earn extra money. One of the families was interested in two days a week teaching three 3-year-olds English. I love little children, so I was excited about the idea. Afterwards, however, it left me scratching my head. “What exactly do I do with three of them for an hour and a half twice a week?”

This year I’ve just taken on a new class with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. Since I have that experience under my belt, I thought I’d put together some of my tips as I’m sure many of you have googled “how to teach English to toddlers.” I know I did a lot last year.

  1. Establish a routine

 At this age, repetition is key. They don’t quite have the capacity to remember a new topic with 30 vocabulary words each week. However they will learn essential things and learn them well if you repeat them each week.

Last year, I would sit my three students down at the start of every class and we would sing the same “Hello, how are you?” song every single week. Then we would sing the weather song. By about halfway through the year, I could ask them “what’s the weather like?” and they could all accurately tell me “sunny!” or “rainy!”

Kids at this age are very visual, so a weather chart is perfect. You could have pictures of each type of weather and pictures of different clothing. Each week you could have them choose the appropriate weather picture and clothing picture.

Decide on perhaps a 5-minute routine to start off the class and start it off that way every single class.

2. Change activities often

At this age, their attention span is not super long. It’s not bad to have them sit down, but just make sure that you mix that up with something more active. I would always alternate a song with something that had us up running around the room. Here are a few activity ideas:

Active activities

  • Hide and seek. Make sure to speak through the entire thing saying “where is Ana? Is she here? No!” Then once you find her, say “I found you!” You can even encourage your students to repeat “I found you!” when they find the person hiding.
  • Hiding an item. This works much like hide and seek. Show them the item, have the go in the other room and then hide it.
  • A color hunt! I bought these wood sticks that are different colors from a shop. I had one to each kid and we run around the room looking for that color. I have done this activity with lots of small children and they all LOVE it. They get so excited to find different colors yelling out “BLUE! BLUE! BLUE” or “RED! RED! RED!” This also has them repeating each color name at least 10-20 times.
  • Simon Says. With this age, you will likely have to always be Simon. But they love it and catch on quickly.
  • Songs with motions such as Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes and One Little Finger. You can also make up movements and hand motions to if there are none.
  • Kids at this age already love to play house, cook, etc. If they have a kitchen set and fake food, you can use this! Just let them play but talk to them as they play.
  • Matching and puzzles. They love anything hands-on that they have to figure out.

Passive activités

  • Reading a story. We all know that listening is a key part of language acquisition. You could bring some of the same stories each week and read them. Find ones with pictures and try to be as animated as possible when reading them.
  • Watching a video or song. There are tons of channels on Youtube with stories and videos in English for small children. Super Simple Songs is a great channel that I use all the time.
  • I would do this carefully. It can be easy for the kids to get carried away coloring and 15 minutes have gone by with no speaking. I would make sure that the activity involves a lot of speaking and interaction. For example, I found a board game with a picture of a man in the centre. Each space said something like “legs brown” or “hand green.” You will have to read it to them and then tell them “okay color the hand green!”
  1. Don’t expect perfection 

Keep in mind that they are still very young children You might try and activity, and they hate it. Don’t sweat it. Just switch to another activity. You really just have to learn to go with it because at this age, it’s hard to get them to focus for a long time. Instead create a “plan” but have backup activities. The more you can just go with the flow, the better your class will be.

  1. Note what your students respond too and what they don’t

Some students will do whatever you say. Others may prove to be a bit more difficult. Last year, one of the three 3-year-olds was a little boy who basically one day told me in Spanish “I don’t want to learn English. I think it’s nonsense! I just want to play.” I could have chosen to get mad. But I kept in mind that he was 3 and that I knew what he liked. In fact, it kind of made me feel like a ninja teacher because he was learning without even realising it.

This little boy loved to sing in English. He was the first to jump up and start singing “One little finger,” for example. He likely didn’t even consider this learning. But he was. So I made sure to plan more songs for his class. The second thing he loved was competition. He always had to try to win. So if I noticed him wandering off, I just turned it into a competition. I used to hide objects behind my back and then ask them to name the color going “1-2-3 … what color?” The first one to say the color got a high five. Once I started doing that, he was back in the group, engaged and trying to win.

  1. They get out of it what you put in

If you’re tired and not engaging, they won’t pay attention. However if you’re super animated and enthusiastic, they will have a lot more fun and want to follow along. Even though I likely caught a lot of germs (or built up a ridiculously good immune system), I was all about giving out high-fives. When my children did something like answer a question correctly or say something correctly, I would enthusiastically give them a high-five. They loved it so much that they started doing it with each other. It was adorable to watch. Other things you can do are to smile a lot, make big facial expressions and clap.

  1. Understand the language-learning process

 You might teach young children for months and wonder why they cannot speak more. This is totally normal. Language acquisition comes in stages. Likely after a few months, they understand a lot. They may even be able to say words here and there. However for them to form sentences in English will take time. Just remember that and be okay with. More than anything, their parents are paying you to expose them to English at a young age.

Luckily the families I worked with last year also understood this. In fact, one of the moms brought it up first in conversation. If they don’t, there’s noting wrong with reminding them of this.

My favorite resources

 There are many great resources I use for my classes. Here are a few favorites:

Youtube channels

 Websites with free materials

 Have you taught small children before? What sorts of things did you struggle with? What sorts of things worked? Tell us in the comments below!

Nina Bosken is an American English teacher and travel blogger living in Granada, Spain. She writes a blog called aworldofdresses.com. You can also find her on Instagram and Twitter.