Volunteering: Helping Primary school kids learn English

I’ve wanted to volunteer for a while, so I decided to browse the web and see what I could do in Hong Kong.

I came across an organisation called Hands On which lists various volunteering events and does not require long term commitment as you since up for each event individually.

One of the events was helping primary school children learn English.

It just fit me perfectly: all you needed was to speak English; it was on Saturday morning and lasted 1 hour ½. I signed up and Jeff came with me since it was the first time.

I was given very little information about what was going to happen or was expected of me, all I knew was:

  • There was a proper teacher leading the class
  • Volunteers would help small groups of children with their pronunciation


I’m not going to lie, I was quite nervous about this, I’ve never taught before and I know kids (especially in groups) can be little monsters…But I thought the teacher would know how to control their class.


When we got there we realised:

  • The person teaching the class was a substitute teacher
  • This teacher only taught playgroups and not formal classes
  • The 2 other volunteers didn’t turn up.

This meant Jeff and I had to take care of 6 kids each. Now this may not seem like a lot, but for someone who has never taught or dealt with a classroom before it is a LOT.



The lesson was divided into 2 parts:

  • Learning new sounds (o, oo, u)
  • Dictation time


Out of my 6 kids 3 where disruptive…by that I mean standing on their chair, rolling on their desk and chatting with students. One was actually quite rude and defiant.

2 others were extremely shy and lacking self confidence and the final one was attention seeking.

The first part of the lesson was the most disruptive, with the students shrieking “pool”, “mum” or “blue” at the top of their lungs.

The second part was much better, for a couple of reasons:

  • I had realised that the substitute teacher was not going to implement order in the class
  • I started moving around my group of kids, stopping at each one of their desks
  • I had made one disruptive little girl change seats
  • The students didn’t want to perform poorly in the dictation


At this stage I have very mixed feelings about this volunteering, but I have learnt a few things:

  • I actually enjoy helping the children, when they are eager to learn and when there are only a very small number of them (3max).
  • There should not be more than 2 tables in a row.
  • All bags should be hung on hooks far from the desks, as kids will fiddle with them
  • I already knew this but teaching a classroom requires proper training with specific methods to manage a classroom


I’m unsure whether I will go again, I may give it a try to see if the “proper” teacher can handle the children better.




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