GeoVisions Blog

Participant Stories

Help Me Teach Abroad | Teaching in Spain

Posted by Randy LeGrant | Sep 4, 2012 11:10:00 AM

Each week, GeoVisions will post an actual email from a Conversation Corps tutor, a Conversation Partner or a full time teacher abroad on a GeoVisions program.  We are going to call the series, Help Me Teach Abroad.

Our Help Me Teach desk is manned by Betsy Bruneau, a full time ESL teacher here.  She gives teaching assistance to GeoVisions' participants by phone, email and Skype.  It is a FREE service that GeoVisions provides to all of our participants and they can have access to Betsy before they depart and during the program.  If we can help you be an amazing teacher or tutor, you will be happy, your students or host family will be happy, you will tell people they should try this out and we will have a repeat family and school.  And that's how we want to roll.

Browse By Tag boxYou can find a lot of these posts by clicking on the Help Me Teach tag.  You can find that over on the right side of this screen.  The tag box looks like this one.  We will put all of our Help Me Teach posts right there.  And who knows...one of these days we'll have enough to make up our own E-Book, which of course we'll give away for FREE.


I will be teaching 4 children from Spain. Two are 8 and 9. The other two are 14 and 15. I will be teaching them in different groups. I am getting my lesson plans from the ESL Lounge site that Geovisions has provides for free. My question is about the Teenagers. I'm not sure if I should pull from elementary, pre-intermediate, or intermediate for the teenagers. I have used the young learners lesson plan for the 8 and 9 year olds. This is my first time and could use any advice in preparing these accordingly to their ages.


My name is Betsy Bruneau and I am an ESL teacher in Connecticut. I teach Social Studies at the high school level and have many English-language learners in my room. Your trip sounds very exciting and very involved. I hope that you can appreciate the ages of the children you will be working with. All of them probably have some level of English under their belts. It will be your job to figure out which level to use in terms of lessons.

tutor teaching her host mom EnglishThis will not be a difficult task. You'll discover early on how much of a grasp they have on the language. They may have been taught formal English but are not able to use it in conversation. This is what makes your job so much fun. Your task is not to teach them formal English, but to have them concentrate on their conversational ability. Be aware of things like their use of idioms and their understanding of nuances in the language. This should give you a better understanding.

I would begin by introducing yourself. Bring pictures of your family and friends. Bring postcards or photos from your hometown. Share with the children what children, who are their ages, and from your home base do for fun. What is school like, activities, family life, etc. They will be interested. Share with them information about yourself. What do you like to do? Bring a cookbook from your home area. Show them some of your favorites. You can use the cookbook during your stay.Bring teen magazines with you.

Stay focused on the kids' interests. This allows for much more involvement from them. Try to base some of your activities on these interests. For your teenagers, think about things they might need to know if they were to visit an English-speaking nation. Have them role play different scenarios. Have them bring you into town and give you a tour in English. Have them order from a menu or shop in local stores. They can begin by doing it in Spanish but have them ease into English eventually.

As a whole group, you can prepare meals. Have them take turns choosing what they would like to make. Go to the market together, cook together and serve and clean up together. Let them teach you a few Spanish meals and vice versa. Take walks together and have them point things out to you. Tell them about schools in your area and then visit theirs. They can do comparison charts. They can do comparison charts for many things like the average day of a Spanish teenager vs. one from where you are from, foods, geography, sports, music, fashion, etc.

So, wait to see what level the kids are on before you start worrying about from where you should get your lesson. The ESL lounge has excellent ideas but be sure to move outside of formal lessons. I have a lot more ideas if you are interested. Please let me know how everything is going.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Hi Betsy,

Well, it is very nice to meet you. I was an AmeriCorps VISTA and received all sorts of experience through running different programs through the Office of Civic Engagement for the University of Maine at Augusta. Not exactly teaching English, but it sure taught me a lot.

I think all those sound like great ideas. I have been working on a list of games, songs, and conversation pieces. I'm just confused now. So I shouldn't lesson plan at all until I get there and meet the kids? I will be there for two months and want to make sure they have the best time. Thank you so much for your help so far. And yes, the more help the better off I am. I do know that the Mother and father wishes the kids to be in separate groups though too.

Hi again,

I wouldn't plan anything concrete until you know what they can do. Some ideas for any level are:

1. Writing prompts. There are a million of them on line. They can be high interest and personal. Most teenagers like to talk about themselves so they would probably enjoy this. You can also do this everyday.

Language entry in dictionary2. One of my favorite activities is to have the kids plan a fictional trip to the United States based on their own interests. So you set up the parameters and let them figure out the rest. For instance, if one of the teenagers is interested in sports, specifically skiing, you could tell them that they have to plan a three-week trip to the states. Where would they land? What resorts would they like to visit? What states would they travel through? How would they get from one place to another? How long would each leg of the journey be? How would they pack? etc, etc, etc. You get the idea. This is a research intensive project and can take several days. However, it can be modified according to ability and interest and so you could do it with all of the kids, even if you split them into two groups.

3. Make lists of idioms. Have the kids share idioms from their language with you and then you do the same. See how many you can come up with and have them add to it as your stay goes on. A true grasp of a second language means understanding the idioms.

If I were you, I would have a "bag of tricks" available to use if you are stuck. But, I think that you will be able to be much more affective if you can see what all of the kids like. Don't forget, you can do things like "movie night" with or without subtitles and you can read novels and short stories. But again, it all depends on ability.

I love Maine. Is that where you are from? I used to beg my daughters to apply to the University of Maine so that we had someplace cool to visit. And AmeriCorps is even cooler. Looking forward to hearing from you.


If you have comments for this tutor on Conversation Corps-Spain, feel free to use the Comments section below.  This is an open community and we're all eager to learn.

Written by Randy LeGrant

Randy is the Executive Director of the GeoVisions Foundation. He has spent the last 44 years managing organizations that send people abroad on cultural and educational exchanges.

Leave a Comment

Popular - Posts - Last - Month


See all blog topics