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.

Why?

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

http://whatkateandkrisdid.com/new-teacher-tales-fiona/

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.

More ESL Teaching Ideas For Older Kids & Teens (Part 2!)

I wrote in this post about a few ways to get your teenage ESL students breaking out of their shells, and their comfort zones. Here are another 2 ideas I trialled on them this week! Successfully, I might add!

First.

I was looking for a classroom-safe take on Spin The Bottle that wouldn’t be too cringey for them when I found this list of Have You Ever questions. I narrowed it down to just 47 of the 140 original questions and then split the questions up randomly onto 4 sheets of paper (one per student). I asked them to choose 5 of their questions and write a reply in the affirmative: “Yes, I have…” followed by some detail about the action or event. They had to answer in positive whether true or not. Later, we went around the room with each student giving his or her answers and the others trying to guess the question. Here are some of their answers:

  • “Yes, it was terrifying! I thought I was going to die!”
  • “Yes, she was very angry, I’ll never do it again!”
  • “Yes, I have. It was funny for everyone, except me!”

I gave a point if any of them could guess the original question correctly. The guesses came flying and some of them were hilarious!

After we had guessed the question (or given up and been told the original question!) we then had to guess whether the “Yes, I have” answer was actually true or not.

It was super fun and they were really enjoying the class while getting some valuable present perfect practice!

Second:

This one is simple but it works! Sometimes these guys are so inside themselves and I was looking for a way to get them to connect with each other a little. I found this general knowledge quiz online and just split them into pairs that they would never choose for themselves. If ever we do pair work the boys stick together so I split them up and also varied the ages. They had to work together with one of the pair being a designated writer for the pair. It brought out the competitive side in them and also helped to strengthen some bonds among the group. They enjoyed it, and so did I!

Take Your Pick! How being Des O’Connor can help your ESL teens!

I have Eszter @Esztertainment to thank for this one!

I have a class of 4 teens, 3 boys and 1 girl, who are preparing for their B2 exam. They have 2 classes a week, one class is general English and the other is the exam preparation class.

They are all painfully shy!

The other day I was lamenting a situation in class. I had asked a question to the group and one of the shyest boys answered, but he spoke so quietly I could barely hear him. “Sorry?” I said, hand cupped behind my ear. “Nothing” came the answer, and I just couldn’t get more out of him. Seconds later the pieces fell into place and I realised what he had said. It was the correct answer. I then repeated his answer and told him “well done” but he had already withdrawn back into himself, probably cursing himself for ever having spoken up and answering a group question!

We brainstormed a little about how to get them breaking out of their comfort zones, how to get them comfortable with each other and prevent them from freaking out and hiding inside themselves whenever they make a mistake!

The first issue I decided I wanted to tackle was how to get them to stop staring down at the table. The solution? Don’t sit them at the table! I moved the table to one side of the room and we spent a good part of the class on the other side of the room. We did one exercise in which they had to stand in a circle, and another (Word Tandem) in which they had to queue at the board and take turns writing. They were moving, more energised and had nothing to hide behind!

Second, since they are prepping for an exam, they need to get used to speaking under pressure. I also wanted to solve the other problem of mumbling and speaking under their breath. If you’re British and over 30 you’ll probably remember Take Your Pick with Des O’Connor! Remember the yes/no game the contestants had to play to qualify for the next round? We watched a clip of the show so that the kids had an idea of how it works and they all took turns being Des O’connor! 1 point for lasting a whole minute without saying yes or no, and a point if you, as Des O’Connor, can get the ‘contestant’ to say yes or no. I played some tense music and put the countdown timer up on the projector. This created a tense, pressured climate and also meant they had to speak up a little in order to hear each other. It worked a treat!

Last, I wrote down my personal answers to 4 questions. Their job? To guess the question. This got them all laughing (at me!) which unified them a little and, I hope, showed them that we can all make fools of ourselves and that the world doesn’t end when we do! Next week I’ll hear their answers to the same questions. Here are my answers, see if you can guess the questions!

  1. Lamb’s Testicles (this one got a laugh!)
  2. I got off a London bus after I realised it was going in the wrong direction, unfortunately the bus had already started moving and I fell on my backside in front of the whole bus full of people, who I’m sure were wondering why I had decided to leave the vehicle!
  3. Spiders, seeing people lick soft fabric, and ill health
  4. In an interview for a sales job, for which the desired applicant would be ‘outgoing with a positive outlook’ I said that I believed it was better not to hope for the best sometimes because that way we can avoid disappointment. I was having a bad day that day!

Ps: Both activities are also great if your students need to practice question structures! Plus, avoiding yes or no answers really stretched their vocabulary, I highly recommend it! 

Thinking of teaching online? Here’s my experience of doing just that! (Plus some tips that will help in your decision!)

I recently ventured into the world of online teaching. It seems to be everywhere! You can’t log onto any teacher forums these days without seeing adverts from online companies looking for teachers, usually for Chinese students. But is it that easy? And is it worth it?

I was only working in the afternoons and was thinking of taking on a few extra hours in the mornings to increase my monthly income. Online classes seemed an easy, flexible option so I decided to look into it. The most useful source of information I found was here in this Facebook group. I found genuine user reviews for most of the biggest online companies and platforms.

After doing a little online research, I applied to the following companies:

Most of these companies have a time limit within which they will reply to your application. If you don’t hear anything back within 14 days, for example, you know you’ve been rejected. I didn’t hear anything from Verbling, Vipkid said I didn’t meet their criteria (either because I don’t have a degree or because I am a British English, rather than an American English speaker) and iTalki didn’t get back to me within their stated time limit.

DaDaAbc made me an offer, although not before making me jump through a few hoops! After the initial application, I had an interview, after the interview I had 30 minutes of training, then after the training I did a 30 minute, observed demo class. After all that I had to watch several hours of training videos. The training videos were of a good standard and gave me a really good impression of the company. They are very professional and expect the best from their teachers, even asking you to learn some essential phrases in Mandarin in order to put your students at ease. You are expected to use lots of props (toys, flashcards, finger puppets, white board, etc) in your class. Your background must be decorated, colourful and attractive. You must wear their company colour, a light blue, and you shouldn’t have any visible tattoos.

Having considered all of the above, I accepted the offer and set a start date for a few weeks later. But something kept nagging at me as the start date was creeping up. They had offered me 110RMB per hour. That works out, depending on exchange rates and before bank charges for international transfers, at just a few cents over 14euros. Honestly, it seemed like a pretty low salary given how much I had to do, the rules I had to adhere to, the props and decorations I had to buy. Thinking ahead to the summer months, I wanted to be able to travel while I work, but if my office was to be transformed into a classroom I wouldn’t be able to do that. Finally, 2 days before I was required to sign the contract, I sent them an apology and clicked the ‘decline’ button on their website.

Thankfully, (and I’m a firm believer in these things happening for a reason!) iTalki then sent me an email. It was past the date they had told me initially so I assumed my application had been rejected, but when I saw their email I happily set up an account. This is a much easier process than the DaDaAbc application, although it does involve you making a video to introduce yourself. You don’t have to do this, but I don’t think you’d get many students if you were not to include it.

I’ve now been teaching on iTalki for 2 weeks and I couldn’t be happier. Here is a list of what you need to know if you are tempted to do the same:

  • Add tags to your profile, (for example #cambridgeexamprep #teflcertified) whatever you feel is most important about your profile.
  • Include a video! Even if it takes you ages, invest the time in doing it. Make sure the light and sound are good, and smile! Your students will watch this before booking any classes.
  • Set the price for your trial classes higher than the suggested 1dollar. Your trial classes are 30 minutes long, in theory your students get a maximum of 3 trial classes with their iTalki account, but I’ve had requests from students who have maxed out their trial requests and then just set up a new profile, essentially getting a regular 1.5 hours of class with various teachers for 3dollars. Setting your trial price a little higher will put off those people.
  • Don’t accept requests from people sending their Skype ID or asking for yours and asking to talk in private. There are quite a few spammers and time wasters and I suggest you go to their profiles and report them when you come across them! They’re a pain in the arse for everyone!
  • Set your class price a little lower at first, until you build up a good profile. Your students can see how many completed classes you have done and the feedback from other students, so work to create a good profile and later you can up your hourly price.

My final piece of advice is this; never consider an online class or teaching job as somehow less legitimate than your usual, in person classes. There is still a real life student sitting there, listening to you, paying for your class and expecting you to teach them the same way you would if they were in your academy class. Take them as seriously as any other student. The pay for online classes is of course a little less, in general, than in person classes, but there are reasons for that. You don’t have to spend time travelling, you don’t have to pay for your transport, you can send materials directly to your student without spending money and time printing them out, you teach from the comfort of your own home (I’ve even skipped my morning shower a few times because well, they can’t smell you!). The wage is lower because the classes are more convenient for you and cost you less, not because the students expect less from you, so don’t treat them like they’re not real! Don’t be late, plan your classes, don’t cancel on them as though they were simply online avatars, or they won’t book with you again.

That said, I hope you try and love online teaching as much as I do! Let me know what experiences you’ve had! Thanks for reading!

Teaching kids for the first time? Here’s 5 MORE tips that’ll help! (Part 2)

I wrote before about how teaching children for the first time can be pretty daunting! If you’re facing this prospect this new year and you’re not quite sure where to start, I hope what follows will help! If you want more, check out Part 1 where you’ll find another 5 tips for kids classes that’ll make your life easier!

 

  • A good idea is to lay out the class rules right from day 1. Try to get the kids involved in this, brainstorm the ideas and if they are able, see if they can collaboratively write the list of class rules and decorate the paper themselves. When finished, hang the list somewhere they can see it clearly every class and refer back to it when necessary! A colleague of mine uses Minions to reinforce class rules when the children are behaving badly, she has them, printed and laminated, at hand, ready to hold up for all to see when that particular rule has been violated! Additionally, you can find videos online outlining the behavioural basics to inspire the kids!

 

  • ‘Because’ is a great, quick warm-up for the start of the class! You start with a sentence that you think suitable for the level of your class, for example “Jorge is happy” or “I went to the supermarket”. The following student has to continue the story beginning with the word ‘because’. Eg “…because he’s got new shoes” or “…because I needed to buy food”. This continues with every student continuing the story this way until it just cannot be continued any more! Encourage students to be creative and silly with their ideas. You can take turns by simply going clockwise around your table, or the student who’s go it is can nominate the next person, or you can throw or pass something, like a balloon, among students to dictate who’s turn is next!

 

  • ‘Fortunately/Unfortunately’ works in almost exactly the same way as ‘because’. You begin with a statement, or nominate a student to do so. The next student must start his or her sentence with either ‘Fortunately’ or ‘Unfortunately’. Whoever goes next does the same but using the opposite. The story should continue something like this “I went to the supermarket” “Unfortunately, I didn’t have any money” “Fortunately, everything was free that day!” “Unfortunately, they didn’t have what I wanted…” and so on!

 

  • Stop! On a piece of A4 paper, each child draws several columns with space to title the column at the top. The far left column should be left blank for now, and the others should be titled with a category, for example ‘animal’, ‘food or drink’, or ‘city/country’. Nominate one student to be the Stopper. Very, very quickly, recite the English alphabet and tell the Stopper to say “STOP!” whenever they want. Whichever letter you were on when the Stopper said “STOP!” is your letter for that round. The kids then have 1 minute, or 2 minutes (you decide) to write as many animals, food or drink, or cities/countries beginning with that letter as they can think of! You play, too, in order to bring new vocabulary into the game.

 

  • Pass The Noise! My kids love this and it’s great for reinforcing new vocabulary at the end of the class. It’s super simple; everyone stands in a circle, one student begins by saying something, anything, (as long as it’s in English) from that day’s class. The spoken English is accompanied by a silly move (spin around, dab, jump, whatever they think of!) and one by one, each kid repeats the word and the move, going around the circle. (It’s a bit like this but with actual words!) Each student gets a go at being the starting word/move. This is great because exuberant kids get to show off, while more timid students can create within their own comfort zones. Make sure you take part in the circle, don’t just be the one laughing from the sidelines!

 

Enjoy your class!

Free Online Language Classes for Refugees: How Can You Help?

I am writing this on the last day of 2017, a year which seems to have flown past at light speed! I accomplished most of my 2017 NY resolutions; to give my Spanish a boost up out of that upper-intermediate rut, to extend the voluntary programme I was working on with Asilim and get other teachers involved, and to get this blog off the ground!

In August, I had to leave the Asilim project in the hands of those very same teachers when I moved from Madrid to Granada. It was a project which I am proud of, and which helped a lot of people, myself included! The idea was simple, low cost English classes (10euros an hour) for those who could afford it, and for those sin recursos, the classes were free.

Asilim’s primary objective is to help with the linguistic integration of migrants in Madrid. They offer language and integration courses to help those applying for legal status in Spain and many other initiatives to help people to settle, find work, access services, and build a life in their new city. But the organisation is entirely volunteer led, we as English teachers got nothing, with the money earned from the classes going directly to the organisation in order to help pay rent and other outgoings.

It was an amazing experience which really helped me to grow as a teacher. I wasn’t just teaching middle management employees in offices anymore, I was teaching and learning from students from Iran, Bangladesh, Syria, Ukraine, Ivory Coast, Senegal. All of them coming at the language from distinct linguistic angles and sharing their culture and experience with the class. They were challenging classes for me but I feel I am a better teacher having taught them.

The value that organisations such as Asilim and Project Amal can offer those new to a culture and struggling to find their way around is huge. As stated on Project Amal’s website:

“According to historical statistics, if people get refugee status in a country but do not have the knowledge of other languages, are not updated at an educational level, do not know the new social codes and are not welcomed with a good plan of integration, the chances of finding a good job, continuing to study and having a decent life, are dramatically reduced.”

Project Amal and Sarah from Teatime English have recently teamed up to launch an ingenious project to help those new to Europe to integrate more easily upon their arrival here, and to help spread knowledge of cultures and languages. What I love about the initiative is that it’s all online, so it doesn’t matter where you are. If you have just 45 minutes a week to spare, an internet connection, and speak English, French, German or any European language fluently, you can help. You don’t even need teaching experience or a qualification to get involved.

Visit Sarah’s Facebook group and click ‘join’. She’ll partner you up with someone who needs to practise your language and you can organise the best time for both of you to chat online. If you’re a teacher, I promise you this will expand your skills while at the same time leave you satisfied that you are doing something worthwhile. If you’re thinking of becoming a teacher or looking to practise with speakers of other languages, this is a good start and will look great on your CV. If you are neither a teacher nor looking to be one, just do it because you’ll be helping someone out!

Speaking to Sarah and hearing about what motivated her to start offering free classes to refugees, I could draw parallels with my own experience. I started working with Asilim in 2013 as a summer volunteer teacher and was inspired by the stories of the students I met. Sarah explained that having decided she wanted to help somehow, she posted on a Facebook group for refugees offering free classes and quickly gained students from Iraq and Syria, before meeting and starting to teach an acid attack victim from India who, no longer able to find work locally, needed English to work online. Seeing that there was a real need for what she was doing, she expanded and started bringing other teachers into the fold.

That’s where you come in! Instead of promising yourself that you’ll go to the gym every day in 2018 and be beach-body-ready by April, why not make a NY resolution that will make a difference to someone’s life? You’re guaranteed to be helping another human being in need and it costs nothing. Give it a go, join the Facebook group, I promise you won’t regret it.

Happy New Year!