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Escola Pia de Terrassa

Ashleigh Hough is a Conversational Assistant at Escola Pia Terrassa. She works with both Primary and Secondary classes, from 10 to 16 years old. For her, CAP’s has turned out to be a big challenge but also a great opportunity to learn about new methods of teaching and to get to know a different culture.

Thank you for your e-mail and photos, Ashleigh!


Since the end of September, I have been working as a Conversation Assistant in Escola Pia in Terrassa, a city forty minutes from Barcelona. I work with children between the ages of 10 and 16. I am helping to prepare the Primary school children for the speaking section of their English exam, and I am helping to give the Secondary school children an opportunity to speak English and to hear a native English accent through a range of activities. I knew basic Spanish before arriving here, but it was a shock at the beginning to find that everybody speaks Catalan in the centre of Terrassa – the classes in my school are all taught in Catalan and the teachers all speak Catalan in the staff room and at lunchtime. The little Spanish that I knew suddenly felt useless, but as the weeks and months have passed, it has become easier to hear the similarities between Catalan and Spanish. Furthermore, I am sure that by the end of the nine month programme I will have learnt a lot more Spanish and some Catalan! Besides, everybody here is capable of speaking fluent Spanish as well, so whenever I want to practice my Spanish or require help with my Spanish homework, there are plenty of people willing to help me.

Me playing ‘Quinto’ (Bingo) with the children in Primària

The school days here are long – mine run from 9am–5.30pm but a lot of the children begin at 8am on some days. We begin the ‘afternoon’ classes at 3.20pm … the children could not believe it when I told them that in England we finish school at this time! I have spare hours in my day to use the computer facilities, to plan the speaking activities and of course to visit cafés with friends! At the beginning the whole experience was a little overwhelming and sometimes lonely, but now I have many friends and I am rarely stuck for something to do. The teachers and the pupils are really friendly with me and they like to practice their English. I get invited to go on school trips … in April, for example, I am going on a school trip to England! My first family was great and now after three months I have moved in with my second family. In April I am due to move in with the third. Living in a different ‘home’ each term means that I improve my knowledge of the city and get to meet more people, and by living with Catalan families I am learning how true Catalan people live.

Me teaching a special Christmas class

I would recommend this programme to anyone who wants to learn about their own capabilities, a new culture, the methods of teaching, and to someone is ready for a challenge. I am certainly enjoying myself and I am already contemplating the possibility of continuing to live out here after my time with Escola Pia finishes at the end of June.

Ashleigh Hough

Col·legi Sant Vicenç – Sant Vicenç dels Horts

Luke Brennan, converstional assistant at Col·legi Sant Vicenç, and his tutor Maite, wrote us this great e-mail about Luke’s experience in the school, what he does with the kids and how his presence is helping improve everyone’s English! Col·legi Sant Vicenç is a primary school, so reading this can help other schools get new ideas about what their conversational assistant can do in English lessons with kids from 3 to 11 years old.

Thank you, Luke and Maite!


Luke Brennan, conversacional assistant at Col•legi Sant Vicenç in Sant Vicenç del Horts, is writing about his experience in the school and with his host family and how his spanish is improving day by day.

All the teachers and the students in the school feel very happy with Luke because he’s helping us in the English language classroom. The students are so motivated to speak with him in English. Some of them are making an effort to improve their english.

We all think this is a great experience for all of us!!


My name is Luke; I’m working as a Conversation Assistant in Col.legi Sant Vicenç, in the town of Sant Vicenç dels Horts, just outside Barcelona.

I arrived in Barcelona 8 November 2010, and I was met by the family with which I’d be staying and the tutor from my assigned school, Maite. I was greeted with the traditional kiss on each cheek, and was immediately made feel welcome, before being taken back to the house.

I have basically been adopted into the family as one of their own, and they have been incredibly hospitable and friendly. It is a little strange when you first start living with a new family, especially when you speak no Spanish or Catalan, which was the case with me when I first arrived. The family speak varying levels of English though, and this has aided communication greatly. Meanwhile, I’ve been learning Spanish, and the odd word in Catalan, and it’s getting easier and easier to talk with the family and with various other people that I’ve met. I’m still somewhat shy about using Spanish, and so, mostly resort to English when talking to the teachers in school, but I’m trying to use a little Spanish with them now too. The experience really does improve as time goes by.

As for the actual work in the school, it has been very rewarding. Col.legi Sant Vicenç is a primary school, and I work with children from as young as 3 up to 11. The children were exceedingly enthusiastic when I first arrived, and the enthusiasm has yet to lapse much. The levels of English differ drastically between the different years, but they are all willing to try and are eager to learn, which is good for me. It is definitely easier to work with the older children though, as they understand that bit more and it allows from more varied activities.

The activities that I do and my level of involvement in the class depends on the age of the students. With the youngest students, those in P-3, P-4 and P-5, I mostly just read them an English children’s story, such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, etc. In other classes, I assist the teachers with activities and games, and help the students with their exercises and with pronunciation. The children also like ot try help me with my Spanish, which is always welcome.

However, the main work that I do is with the older students, in 5th and 6th class. With these classes I take small groups of 4 or 5 aside for conversation practice. For these groups I usaully have an exercise or game to do with the students, which provides a good for the conversation practice. The students are usually very enthusiastic, and have a near ceaseless supply of questions about my likes and dislikes, so it’s rarely quiet in these groups.

The other teachers have all been very friendly towards me, and they have been very helpful, especially my tutor, who gives me many ideas for things to do with the students, and supplies me with the exercises and activities I use in the conversation groups. With such support, this experience has never proven too difficult. It really has been a very rewarding time so far, and I look forward to the coming months.

Luke Brennan

Col·legi Claver – Raimat

Karina Burrell, Conversational Assistant at Col·legi Claver from Lleida, has written to share her experience  and feelings in Spain and in the school so far. We thank her and her tutor Blanca for the e-mail and the photographs they’ve sent along with it!


My name is Karina Burrell; I work as a Conversation Assistant at a school called Claver. I first arrived in Barcelona on Sunday 26th September, this is where I met my family. I didn’t know what to expect as I all was given were small details about the family. I would say I was I feeling apprehensive and nervous but the family were very welcoming and friendly and probably felt the same as me.

My host family have two small children, which I am not used to, as I am the youngest in my family. The children always keep you on your feet and they have a lot of energy. They are willing to share details of their day or include you in the games they are playing. At some points, we have been hand in hand walking to places, I couldn’t believe how comfortable and trusting they are with someone they have only known for a few months.

My first day at school I didn’t know what to expect as I don’t speak Spanish and I thought this could be a possible barrier. However, when been introduced to the teachers and staff of the school, many of them didn’t speak English or just knew the basics, but they made the effort to speak as much as possible in English as they could. This made me feel more at ease on my first day at school. This has continued throughout the weeks I have been at school, but now I am trying to speak Spanish back to them.

My role in the school is to assist in classes that are using or been taught English. Within the school, I don’t have a precise class I work with, I work in many classes such as library, math’s and sport, within different ages ranging from 3 to 12 years old. I am enjoying this because I never know what to expect from class to class and with the different age groups too. Also, as I want to be a teacher in a few years, this is helping me to decide what age group I want to work with. Another point is I am experiencing different teachers and their teaching styles and how they compare to each other.

I have started Spanish course online and the school has been very accommodating, as they have let me sit in on Spanish classes. I get to sit in on classes listening to the pronunciation of the words and join in activities where it is possible. One thing I am starting to get used to is meal times because here lunch is a big meal and their main meal for the day. While dinner is sometimes just a snack and late at night too, they have snack time at the time I would normally have my dinner in England. In a short space of time I have tried new and different types of food: from fish to bread to soup… some I have liked and some I haven’t, but this is part of the experience.

Mare de Déu del Carme, Bellpuig

Deborah is a primary school teacher who works as a conversational assistant at Mare de Déu del Carme (Bellpuig) this year. She’s here to gain experience in teaching and also to learn some Spanish.

She writes about her experience in Spain and in the school, and about the cultural differences she’s been dealing with, specially those regarding eating habits!

She also gives some tips about how to teach English to little children in a Primary School, and gives us a list of topics that she has covered with her students, which can be very useful for other Primary Schools that have a Conversational assistant this year.



¡Hola! I’m Deborah; I’m a primary school teacher, working as a conversation assistant at Mare de Déu del Carme Primary School in Bellpuig in Catalonia.

I arrived in Spain on the 26th of September, and was greeted by my host family at the airport. They were very friendly and welcoming, but I did find communicating at first difficult, as they had little English and I spoke no Spanish. They integrated me into their family life; as though I was part of the family, and made sure I had everything I needed.

As part of my time here in Spain, I have had to learn Spanish on the computer, I have tasks to complete and an exercise book to work through. I have found that learning to speak Spanish is very important in assisting in the problems with communication. For although there are teachers at school who speak English who I can speak to if I have a problem, I have found that a lot of the parents in the families I’m staying with have little to no English.

Due to working with the school for the totality of the school year, I am staying with numerous families. This can be quite unsettling, having to re-adjust to different families each month but it does allow you to meet lots of people and have a more varied experience.

The eating times here are different to in England; they eat at numerous times of the day and late in the evening. They tend to have four meals a day, plus snacks, and the meals are large portions. Instead of only eating the whole meal off one plate, they are inclined to eat two plates, for example a plate of vegetables first, followed by a second plate of fish or meat. I am vegetarian and have found eating here very difficult but everyone has been very accommodating, trying to find food that I can eat.

At the school I work with all the children from the babies and toddlers in P1&2, right through to the older children in class 6. However, a larger proportion of my time is focused on working with the older children, as it’s my job to help them improve their pronunciation and to extend their use of English vocabulary.

I assist the children with their English through a variety of means: reading stories, games, songs, reciting, dictation and playing together. I work in classes across the curriculum, so the children and I get a broader experience during my time here in Spain.

Here are some of the things we have been learning about in school:

  • Colours
  • Seasons
  • Numbers
  • Toys
  • Classroom Objects
  • Clothes
  • Animals
  • Living and Non-Living things

We have read popular stories in English and enjoyed learning new words related to the stories.

  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Cinderella
  • We’re going on a Bear Hunt

(I would recommend bringing some English books with you, as the children really enjoy the stories, and they are expensive and difficult to purchase in Spain.)

We have learnt songs:

  • I can see a rainbow
  • Wheels on the bus
  • We wish you a merry Christmas (verse 1)

We learn about festivals in England:

  • Halloween
  • Christmas

I have found my experience in Spain challenging but rewarding, everyone is very friendly and I’m glad I had the courage to take this opportunity. It is great experience for the future.