Organizing any residential school activity off site away from the “safe zone” of the controlled school environment is a challenge. A great way of off-setting both a lot of workload and filling the experience gap is to work with a skilled and experienced tour company. However like any competitive field of work, there are those companies who are good at tours and should be trusted and those who aren’t so good.
So how do you know who to entrust with your tour? It isn’t easy but here are some pointers that will help you to spot the good and the bad tour providers.
Be wary of choosing the “cheapest”
It will be tempting to gather multiple quotes and then choose the best offer. However beware of this approach. Whilst price must be a decision factor in any tour, it should never be the foremost. Quality has a certain price and 9 times out of 10 a more expensive but quality programme will save in peace of mind, in parental complaints and potentially in the long run in preventing add on costs. Not to mention it will be more likely to really fulfil the set educational goal of the trip. If a company over-states being the cheapest, my tip would be steer clear as at best their focus is more on sales than production and at worst they are dangerously cutting too many corners. Saying this you can find bargins but make sure to check the bargain has never come at expense of a core programme feature.
Don’t choose a “yes” company.
Whilst admitedly when going through the tiring process of organizing a trip it can be a relief to have a trip provider always telling you “yes” to your every request, this actually could be indicating something to worry about. “Yes” answers without additonal “but if” information may mean you are organzing a trip with someone very willing to promise things but perhaps not so likely to deliver. A good quality trip provider won’t just tell you “yes” (or “no”) rather what they will do is tell you honestly about the impacts of requesting additional things, be that on the programme or in adding cost. In short you shouldn’t look for the company that promises perfection, you should rather look for the one who impresses you that they know best how to protect the quality of their core tour features.
Ask “what if” questions?
“What if” questions are a great way of spotting the difference between a tour provider who knows how to sell a school tour and one who actually knows how to organize and deliver one. You should be giving importance to seeking to find the latter. “What if a child falls sick?” What if an emergency happens in the accommodation in the middle of the night?” How well the tour provider answers these questions will tell you a lot about their actual experience and even more so about the ethos of the company. You should be seeking a tour provider who has experience dealing with the unexpected and in planning how to prevent problems. These are core features of a quality tour provider.
Choose a tour provider who puts the kids first.
Whilst we teachers are no different to anyone else and love our personal perks, you should nonetheless be wary of choosing a company who sells you a tour overstressing what “extra things” teachers get. Teacher perks might be nice to receive but it shows where a company places its focus and at the end of day a poorly organized tour with great teacher perks will almost certainly cause you more stress and strain then the benefits you got from the perks. A company who puts kids first will be on top of safety, will have plans Bs in case of bad weather and will usually be run by group of educational people who know the core aspect of teaching is putting the educational and safety needs of the children first.
Judge a company on the quality of their organizational documentation, not on the gloss of their catalogue.
Whilst it is the nature of the world that all companies and people need to sell/promote themselves and their products, we should see selling catalogues for what they are which is a way to catch our attention and get us to make contact. However where we should start judging a tour provider is on quality of their programme documentation. Do they provide quality comprehensive risk assessment on request? Does a quote come accompanied by well thought out and minutely timetabled programme? Does the company have class/workshop material? It is this organizational level documentation that tells you a lot about the company and the way it operates and you should be looking to be impressed by that side more than by the initial gloss.
Ask for a recommendation from someone who has done the tour or search for quality reviews.
We live in the age of 4 stars being the min for any service we consider. However we should pay more note to the comments people write than the gradings they give. Any quality provider will be able to point your towards an impartital teacher who has done a tour with them before. Ask that person the things you need to know and check the tour is a fit for your school. Consider asking them about the staff in the company as this will tell you a lot about tour company. Also ask the teacher openly if anything went wrong and seek to judge the answer by how well (or not) the tour company dealt with the situation that came up, as in many ways how it dealt with a challenge tells you the most about quality and committment of the tour provider. You can also ask similar questions on teacher forums.
Trust is what matters most
Whatever the type of tour you do off site: an outward bounds adventure trip, a residential language tour or sports tour it is advisable to find a specialised tour provider. You need to spot the difference between those who care about your kids and you and those who just want the money. Most of all make sure you trust the company and the people who run it as no tour will be perfect but if trust them you will find they will always be there to help and sort out anything that comes up.
Aprendí muchos buenos hábitos para trabajar y ser más independiente, incluso escribi un mission statement y usaba “power statements” para enfocarme a desarrollar profesionalmente en las cosas que más me hacia falta. Tres “power statements” que voy a llevar conmigo para seguir haciendo en mi vida después de Spark son:
“I wont let doubt stop me”. “I will set my self goals and reflect on them”. “I will always find at least one positive thing in every situation“.
The challenges of first organizing and then taking a primary or prep school on a school trip abroad can at first seem overpowering. The prep work is time-consuming and arduous, the difficulty of taking kids through the airport is real and the worry that accommodation or activities might not fit required safety standards is constantly in the back of the mind of any trip leader. However it is not all doom and gloom, and most challenges can be planned for and overcome by working with quality language trip providers, and there are even more positive reasons than challenges that more than justify the workload. Here are 10 TOP reasons why it is worth it:
1 A change of scene
Young people are at their most energetic stage of life and need new and intriguing stimulation. Taking a group abroad and getting them learning in a completely new place is the perfect way to reward them after a year’s hard study; and if learning can incorporate activities like visiting new cities, sampling foreign cuisine or kayaking in the Atlantic Ocean, so much the better! Get students engaged and energised so they can return to their studies next year with a fresh perspective and new dedication. A trip abroad can both act as a motivator to the kids in lead up and a fantastic memory afterwards.
2 Forging new connections
In a new environment, outside of the classroom, students have the chance to build stronger friendships with each other than they would normally have cause to do — travelling together, sharing dormitories and participating in exciting activities are all great bonding experiences for young people. Moreover, they will not just create more special bonds with other students, they will also build up their special connection with their own teachers as the shared experience has a unique way of creating mutual empathy.
3 Inspiring a future
Students study foreign languages for different reasons, but actually seeing a language like Spanish in action in its native country can be enough to inspire a lifetime of passion for foreign languages. Prep school students aren’t necessarily thinking much about their futures in secondary and tertiary education and beyond, but what if an inspiring trip abroad is the key to unlocking a student’s love of a foreign language and leads to further visits, modern language A-levels, a degree and an entire career? You never know what formative experience at prep school could shape an entire lifetime.
4 Fun for you
Never doubt just how much fun it can be to lead an expedition abroad! A bonding experience like travel always forges stronger connections between students and teachers, and aside from that you’ll get plenty out of the trip on your own terms: with exotic food to sample, exciting new cities to explore and, if you come to Spain, constant sunshine. A well organized trip abroad can be rewarding for hard-working teaching staff.
Students enjoy Spanish food!
Spanish food is renowned the world over, with tapas (small sharing plates) being particularly popular. From satisfying tortillas and patatas bravas for hungry stomachs, to the deliciously refreshing gazpacho and salmorejo so popular during the sunny summer months, there’s plenty here for even the pickiest of eaters to enjoy – and you never know what they’ll soon be asking their parents to cook up when they get home! Learning about different food is important to opening young student’s minds.
6 Investing in students
An advantage for any school is being able to say on a prospectus that it takes its students abroad during the summer to study foreign languages; a special cutting edge for a primary school as not many have the confidence to do so. This is a perfect way to show parents exactly how much you care about students experiencing the real world of the language and becoming committed and invested future citizens of the world.
7 Begin a new tradition
Building a firm working relationship with a language school abroad can be the start of a long and happy partnership. A trip abroad can become a staple of the school year, something that young students and their parents look forward to as a major event in the school calendar. A successful trip abroad, and the stories and pictures that come from it, can even act as motivation for younger kids and their parents if they know they will get to the tour themselves when they are, for example, in year 5-6.
8 Their place in the world
Very little can better help a student (or indeed anyone) understand their own place in the world than travel. To see how the citizens of nations half a continent away bear themselves and live in ways both similar to and different from one’s own country is to see better the diversity and unity of the world, and the opportunities there are to engage with such a world in the future.It is highly beneficial to start students with this “openness” at a young age.
9 Real language exposure
Seeing a language in its natural environment is the key to getting students to think of it as an important and useful skill for the modern world, instead of simply a subject to be memorised from textbooks. And all the textbooks in the world can’t show students how a modern language sounds spoken by natives, sung on the radio or graffitied on walls. Bring your students abroad and they’ll see just how potent language really is.
10 Holiday time
Finally, any good school trip abroad will factor in plenty of time for students to simply enjoy themselves in an educational setting, be that time on the beach, enjoying each other’s company or visiting historical places like the port from Columbus set sail to the Americas. The more students associate learning with enjoyment and cultural enrichment, the more eager they’ll be to throw themselves back into their studies when they get back and face the year ahead.
A school trip abroad — to learn a language in its natural environment, to experience the sights and sounds of another place entirely, and to see the world from a different perspective — can truly be a highlight of a young prep school student’s year. It can be something they look back on for many years afterwards with a smile and fond memories; and in some cases it can be the catalyst for some later life decision like studying a language at university so that they can be like their fun teacher who took them abroad to Spain all those years ago. 🙂
When children learn their native language, they do not see it as a subject nor a chore, it is communication. It is the means to interact with their peers and parents and their mechanism to let the world know: who they are, how they feel and what they want. It is an integral part of their identity. However when most British children learn a second language, their relationship with that new language is often similar to that which most children have to mathematics. It is a subject to study and often a chore to learn. The new language is frequently only experienced as a collection of phrases to memorise and rarely are children able to see the new language as what in the long run it should be which is the way of interacting with people from a different country.
This is where language trips abroad come in to bridge the gap between viewing the new language as a subject and experiencing it as real communication. It is essential to make this connection at a young age in order that children link the hard work done learning the language in class to real practical usage with native speakers. This is exactly the connection that excellent English speaking countries make to English. At a young age Dutch children experience English not merely as a subject enforced upon them at school, but as a language: to watch television in, to listen to music in and they frequenly witness Dutch adults using it to communicate with non Dutch speaking people. In short Dutch children experience English as another language to use, rather than just a subject to be learned. If the British are to catch up with the rest of the world, this is exactly how we need to view second language acquisition and naturally language trips abroad have a huge role to play in providing this real contact to the second language at a young age.
At a moment Britain argueable looks inwards, due to Brexit, it is more essential than ever that our primary and preparatory schools be at the forefront of getting our future movers and shakers looking outwards from a young age. A language trip abroad not only provides that vital link to using a new language as real communication but it also exposes young students to new experiences and alternative ways of doing and seeing things, providing that all important cultural awareness. Add to this the unique bond that can form between teachers and students as they experience together a trip abroad and primary schools have so many positive reasons to run, what will may ikely be, the first trip abroad for many students. Organizing a school trip abroad also looks great in school prospectuses, as it proves to parents the importance the school places on language learning and building greater cultural awareness.
Of course saying all of this, the challenges of taking primary school children abroad should never be underestimated. A school trip abroad can throw up many headaches: the challenge of moving children through an airport, worry about whether safety standards are the same as at home and concerns about whether the accommodation is suitable for children to name but a few. However all of these can be planned out to be prevented from causing issues. First and foremost it is vital to look for a quality local supplier who can do the bulk of the organization and take careof risk analysis and assessment. Not to mention providing vital on the spot local knowledge and support which is also why you should look for companies that provide local chaperones to accompany your students throughout the trip. Choosing a supplier who can provide residential accommodation on exclusivity basis is also a must for primary schools as this provides a safe and controlled environment for young students. Next it is vital to do an inspection visit of the residence and area and experience the activities and excursions first hand. Not only does this allow you to check safety standards but also meeting the local supplier in person builds up vital trust and allows for tweaking of your school’s bespoke programme. Via doing all these things a school trip abroad need not be a strain to organize and certainly the gains linguistically and culturally more than provide payback for any time put in.
We at Spark had a fantastic time with the group and their teachers, Anabel, Sarah, Mike and Rita, and were impressed by how well behaved and full of energy the students were. The students were also motivated with using their Spanish, and it was lovely to see how well they all integrated with the Spanish families. We hope all the students had a great time and we hope to see Emanuel again next year!
Pues ya se van nuestros estudiantes de Emanuel School , que estuvieron alojados con familias de nuestra ciudad, para experimentar la verdadera cultura española. Hemos hecho muchas excursiones y visitas interesantes. Fuimos a Cádiz, el tiempo no nos acompañó mucho, pero hicimos cosas divertidas como comer nuestros deliciosos churros o visitar la Torre Tavira. Más tarde el tiempo cambió a mejor y tuvimos buenísimos días de playa.
También, visitamos nuestro Castillo de San Marcos, donde los alumnos estudiaron un poco sobre la historia de El Puerto y de Cristóbal Colon. Disfrutamos también mucho del kayaking en San Fernando incluso los estudiantes tuvieron rato de compras y helados.
Y por ultimo como siempre, visitamos la gran Sevilla con su catedral y Alcázar. Los estudiantes aprendieron sobre la cultura andaluza y sobre nuestros antepasados musulmanes. En líneas generales fue un viaje muy interesante, los estudiantes tuvieron contacto directo con nuestra cultura y practicaron su español como nunca. ¡Os esperamos veros pronto por aquí!
We at Spark had a fantastic time with the group and their teachers, Holly and Monica, and were impressed by how well behaved and full of energy they were. They were also motivated to practice their Spanish, and it was lovely to see them integrating with the Spanish families. We hope all the students had a great time and we hope to see Tudor Hall again next year for a 4th time!
Todo nos ha acompañado; el tiempo ha estado genial por lo que hemos disfrutado de las preciosas playas de Cádiz, La Caleta y La Puntilla en El Puerto de Santa María. Además de español, hemos aprendido mucha historia gracias a las visitas guiadas de ciudades muy antiguas, ¡más de 3000 años de historia nada más y nada menos! Todo ello recorriendo varias civilizaciones: romanas, árabes y cristiana. ¡La semana ha pasado volando!
Por otro lado, lamento decir que, las chicas de Tudor Hall ¡se han vuelto adictas a los churros con chocolate!
Ha sido un enorme placer conoceros, chicas. ¡Y espero que hayáis (subjuntivo?) aprendido mucho conmigo! ¡Hasta pronto!
I would highly recommend Spark. They always endeavor to tailor our trip exactly to our requirements and collect feedback throughout the week so they can immediately remedy any issues. The trip provides and excellent balance between academic and cultural enrichment so that the student can get the most out of their experience.
We at Spark had a fantastic time with the group and their three teachers, we were impressed by how well behaved and full of energy they were.. They were also extremely motivated to practice their Spanish, or so it seemed! We hope all the students got a chance to appreciate Spanish culture and history and that they had a fantastic time together. See you next year!
Bueno!, las chicas de Headington School de Oxford nos visitaron en plena Semana Santa para tener unos maravillosos días de aprendizaje de nuestra lengua.
Como siempre, disfrutamos de nuestras excursiones por tierras andaluzas; Cádiz con su torre Tavira y su playa o Sevilla con su gran catedral y Alcázar y también nuestro Puerto de Santa María, donde visitamos el histórico castillo de San Marcos con Cristóbal Colon como invitado.
También tuvimos tiempo para nuestras clases de español, donde las chicas practicaron y aprendieron cosas nuevas o para adentrarlas en la Semana Santa, algo muy cultural y típico de nuestra comunidad. ¡Incluso tuvieron clases de flamenco! Sin olvidar el ansiado desayuno de churros con chocolate o los helados en la playa J
Fue un placer tener a este grupo con nosotros, esperamos que les vaya todo bien y que ¡vuelvan pronto!
We pride ourselves in providing high quality bespoke tours to Spain for schools throughout the world. We have summarized some of the great points of our school tours in the slides below. We hope you enjoy! Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need anything.
School Trip to Spain: Andalusia and El Puerto de Santa Maria
Norwich School 12th February- 15th February 2016
Norwich School group hug
We were delighted to have Norwich School with us on their first school trip to Spain with us in El Puerto de Santa María this last weekend. All students stayed in our Spark residence during their time with us, and they enjoyed their various excursions and activities, as well as their Spanish classes.
Despite their early start on their first day, they seemed to enjoy their visit to Seville, their tour of El Puerto, witnessing the carnival in Cádiz and a flamenco show with tapas on one of the evenings.
We at Spark had a fantastic time with the group and their two teachers, we were impressed by how well behaved and full of energy they were (they even got up dancing flamenco to “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias in one of the bodegas. They were also extremely motivated to practice their Spanish, or so it seemed! We hope all the students got a chance to appreciate Spanish culture and history and that they had a fantastic time together.
Inge Hol – Director of Educational Programmes
Bueno! Pues tuvimos una gran experiencia con estos chicos y chicas de Norwich School durante su viaje escolar en españa. Hicimos muchas cosas juntos y sobre todo, ellos practicaron mucho su español que por cierto era muy bueno!
Visitamos ciudades como Sevilla con su catedral y alcázar o Cádiz en plena fiesta de Carnaval. Los estudiantes pudieron ver cómo se vive el Carnaval en la capital. También hubo tiempo para hacer un tour por nuestro Puerto de Santa María, con la visita al Castillo o al mercado.
Y por supuesto, pudimos vivir en directo un gran espectáculo flamenco donde los estudiantes y yo mismo pudimos mostrar nuestras habilidades como bailarines, ¡fue muy divertido!
Norwich school in Cádiz
Ah! y que no se olvide, el grupo pudo probar la gastronomía española con los deliciosos churros con chocolate, ya que comieron churros más de una vez! o cocinando una magnifica paella!
Las clases fueron muy interesantes para nuestros alumnos y para mí también, llenas de debates donde todos pudieron hablar y practicar su español para sus exámenes, a su vez y a modo de presentación hicimos una exposición de diferentes temas de la cultura española con representaciones artísticas como la escena del camarero y los clientes, muy divertida también!
Concluyendo, esperamos que tanto los alumnos como sus profesoras hayan pasado un buen rato con nosotros y que sobre todo hayan practicado y aprendido mucho su español. Un abrazo grande y suerte!
Mario Baez – School Group chaperone and Spanish teacher
To download photos please do so from here. All you need do is right click on an image and then insert the correct password. The download password was given to teacher leading the school trip.
We loved it, the students loved it, thank you so much!! Inge made organising it all so easy and stress-free, Mario won the kids’ hearts, the activities and classes were great, and well organised, and the flamenco performance was the wonderful last touch. THANK YOU!
A great revision game for the language classroom that a friend of mine once showed me on a summer camp is the Spider Game. It’s extremely easy to set up but will allow for lots of revision and fun of either grammar or vocabulary items and will add a Spark to your lessons!
You need some cards (I usually work with 12) with whatever language items you’d like the students to revise.
Set up in class
Stick the cards on the board with some blue-tac and underneath each card (so that students won’t see) draw a picture. I usually use three or four different pictures:
a spider = 5 points
a present = 3 points
a lightning bolt = -1 point
1 tornado or whirlwind = -3 points
How to play
Divide the students into groups of 3-4 students.
Create an area on the board to score points and ask the students to come up with a team name. (If you have a lot of students, you can divide the students into teams of 6-9 students and then divide them into smaller teams of 2-3 students. They then compete as three small teams against each other).
Select a person from the first team and ask them to pick one of the cards on the board.
Give them a set amount of time to complete the task (say 20 seconds), after that time you ask for their answer: they either write it on the board or on a paper that they then give to you or to team B.
If the answer is incorrect, move onto the next team, there are no points for anybody. If the answer was correct, remove the card to reveal what is underneath the card to find out how many points they won or lost (depending on the picture, i.e. if it’s a spider they won 5 points, if it is a lightning bolt they lost a point).
Keep track of the points on the side of the board. Winner is the team with most number of points at the end of the game.
Examples language points:
Spelling: flashcards (if you have any) or pictures to review vocabulary or spelling. Students have to name and spell the word correctly.
Grammar: using flashcards or a picture you give them a grammatical structure they have to use along with the word in a sentence. e.g. you have a picture of a whale and would like them to use the past simple: “George the big blue whale ate a buffalo on his way back from school.”
Grammar: instead of pictures, write a grammatical structure on the card and tell them to come up with a correct sentence including at least 8 words or ask them a question or gap fill related to this grammar point.
Idioms: using pictures, key words or a description, ask them to tell you the idiom you are looking for.
It’s a very easy game to play and requires very little preparation time, but the fact that the points are hidden (and could be minus points!) adds to the excitement of the students, which makes it a very motivational tool to review the language points.
Inge Hol is the Director of Educational Programmes at Spark Languages in Southern Spain. Originally from the Netherlands and with a degree in Clinical Neuro Psychology, she decided to follow her passion and become an English teacher in Spain in 2007. After teaching for many years, she moved on to teacher training, language programme management and conference speaker until in 2010 she started Spark Languages together with her partner Douglas Haines. Spark organizes Spanish and English courses for children, teens and adults as well as school trips to various areas in Spain.