Teaching In Croatia

Hi everyone! Finally back and able to breathe! ๐Ÿ™‚
Let me explain my absence.
This past month has been really stressful! All thanks to teaching! I had to pass my state exam.

Let me say at the beginning that I would really love to hear your thoughts and experiences about this subject! I am really interested to hear how it is in your country?! Is it like this or different?
In Croatia it is something like this…


Joking aside (although it is kind od true :/), let’s go from the beginning. In Croatia,ย  elementary school is compulsory and free for all. There are 8 grades. These are broke down into two cycles. The first one is from grades 1-4 when children have only one teacher for all subjects (that’s me). The second cycle is from grades 5-8 when they have a different teacher for each subject and a head (class) teacher who takes care of them (this is also me because I can teach English from grades 5-8).

Now, I graduated from a 5 year Faculty for Teacher’s Education. I have my diploma, but it doesn’t stop there. You have to work for a year first and take a state exam if you want your diploma to be worth anything. Without the state exam it is considerably harder to find a job and your pay is looow. So you need to take it because, at the end, your 5 year diploma isn’t worth anything without it. :/

What does it look like?
It consists of three parts. A written essay,ย  a class you have to have in front of a comitee (4-5 people) and an oral.
The essay was complicated for me because I didn’t know where to start studying! It can be about anything! The topics are so diverse – ranging from psychology, methodology, didactics, important legal documents concerning school, teaching methods, communication, school life in general… and you have to connect the topic with the class you will be teaching.
You choose two subjects you would like to teach and they make the final decision. One subject isย either maths, Croatian or science and the other is PE, art or music. I chose science and PE, and I got PE. After the class, there is an oral.
The professor who is an expert in the class you just had asks you the theory behind his subject, the methodology.
Second person goes through your work journal which you have to keep for a year (classes you’ve held and you’ve been to, your professional development etc). He/She asks you about the journal, the essay you’ve written and teaching methodology in general. The questions can be about any subject you teach from 1st to 4th grade.
And finally, there is the principal. He asks you about the law and the legal documents concerning school life and the State.

However, if you pass the class and oral, but fail the essay, you have failed all! And they don’t tell you if you passed the essay until the very end! If you pass all of this stress, congratulations – you are a teacher now (because the diploma you already have isn’t enough :\).

I really hope they don’t torture you with all of this in your country because it really is a lot of work and studying and not to mention the stress! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I can honestly say this has been the most stressful thing in my life so far! I didn’t go out, I was studying all the time, I couldn’t sleep or eat! It was awful!
But I am pleased to say I have passed my state exam! =D And let me tell you I fell soooo much lighter and happier and that I am finally my own teacher now! =) I didn’t feel this good when I graduated! X)

This is the first reason why I haven’t been around. The other one, which has given me much food for thought, will be for the next time. A lot od really big life changes are coming! It’s kind od scary! :/
But I have to go now. Time to see all of my friends I didn’t have the time for during the hell month.

Be good! ๐Ÿ™‚
And comment your thoughts and experiences! Xo

Who stole the cookie?!

I can’t believe I didn’t try this earlier!

This is so simple and so great!


I tried it with 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade and they loved it! They could have played it the whole 45 minutes! I thought 3rd graders would be too ”old” for it, but they’re not. 4th graders probably are, haven’t tried it with them yet.

Here is a link to You tube (the most realistic I could find):

There are several versions.

Everybody: Who stole/took the cookie from the cookie jar? Ivan stole/took the cookie from the cookie jar!
Pupil: Who me?
E: Yes, you!
P: Not me!/ Couldn’t be!
E: Then who?

The pupil then nominates someone and so on.

I even sewn a little cookie which they love.

I think next time I’ll adopt it for when we learn food.

I’ll show a pic of a food we’re looking for (e.g. carrot) and the text would go: Who stole the carrot from the fridge?ย 
You just have to sing it so it would fit the rhythm, but it could work!

Anyway, a great game! ๐Ÿ™‚

Counting Choir

Two posts in one day. Wooow, I’m on fire! ๐Ÿ™‚

This one is separate because it’s about teaching.

I tried one game today and it turned out great so I want to share.

I don’t know what it’s called, but I’ll call it Counting Choir (you’ll see why).

It is a great game for learning new vocabulary and also revising it because it’s got lots of repetition (also a good time filler). The only thing is that the aimed vocabulary has to be something in a specific order (like numbers, days or months).

As an example I’ll take numbers now.

You as a teacher start counting and say 1. Anyone from the class has to continue counting and say 2. But the thing is, there is no order in which the children go one after the other. It is totally up to them. If two or even more of them say the next number at the same time, you start all over again. They have to listen really carefully to know when to continue and what to say and they are repeating all the time.

It sound pretty simple, but it is hard to get to 10. It will always happen that they start talking as a choir ๐Ÿ˜‰ all of them at the same time. I think it works better with smaller groups, not so much with classes of 30, but try it and see.

I tried it with my 4th graders today and they loved it. We did months. I plan to do days and months with the 3rd graders and numbers with 2nd graders.

Do you know this game? Have you tried it?


Present Simple vs. Present Continuous For The Little Ones

Haven’t posted about English in a long time, but I came across a good exercise for children to see the difference between the use of Present Simple and Present Continuous.

There is always a problem with that. They learn everything in PC from the first grade. They are so used to it that when PS is finally introduced they are confused (especially because in Croatian you translate it the same).

I took this idea from a collegue that theaches in higher grades (from 5th and 8th) and she said it was great for them. A bit confusing in the beginning, but once they got the hang of it and understood really why and when you use which tense, it is great.

I tried it in the 2nd and 3rd grade and I’m really happy how it turned out.
Here is how it goes!
You don’t need anything. You just have to stand in front od the class and you tell them sentences using PS and PC. They answer only with YES, NO or MAYBE.

I’m talking English. Yes.
I’m talking French. No.
I’m jumping (you do jump). Yes.
I talk Croatian. Yes.
I’m drinking coffee. No.
I drink coffee. Maybe (Because they don’t know the truth if you really drink it or not).

1. First I start with PC only and I put NOW at the end od the sentence (I’m jumping now.) to emphasise that PC is only for action that are happening right now.
2. Next, I stay with PC, but I tell them actions which are not true. I tell them I’m jumping, but I’m actually standing. So the answer is No.
When they see the difference between those two situations, I put PS in.
3. Add PS sentences. They will answer everything with yes at first, but they will quickly understand. Put same sentences one after another like the one I wrote above with the coffee (so the same sentence, but one in PC and one in PS). Do this a couple of times. They will see the diffrence.
4. Of course, take a minute and ask them why they answer something yes and sometnig no. There will always be one child who understands that PC is for NOW and PS is for something in GENERAL. When we get to this point, I always ask them to explain that. They will repeat the rule a lot and remember it.

And that’s it! Hope you understood me?!
I was really surprised and happy when I saw how quickly they caught on! I will spend a couple od minutes on it from time to time just to make sure they don’t forget it.

Do you have the same problems with PC and PS? How do you deal with it?

Friday Fun (Time fillers)

Finally Friday! =D I don’t think any other profession looks forward to that day like teachers!

Here are a few games that have worked for me really well when I have a few extra minutes.


This is great! My pupils always ask me to play it! ๐Ÿ™‚
You need 2 pupils. They face each other and hold their hand at their sides (like guns). You ask them: How do you say ____ (word in your mother tongue)?. They have to translate the word into English while ”shooting their guns” (hands of course ;)). The one who is faster and says the correct word wins. The other pupil who got shot goes back to their seat and someone else comes. You can also have them translate into the mother tongue.



I don’t know what to call it so it is as good of a name as any.
Draw a cloud on the board and have children tell you any letters. Write them into the cloud. Decide on how many letters you will write and don’t forget about vowels. Put them into groups and give them a time limit (2-3 min). They have to find as many words as they can in that time. Make up a pointing system (e.g. 1 point if all of the groups have the word, 2 points if only one group has it). Group with most points win.


There are two groups. Draw 2 stick men on the board (one for each group). A pupil from each team comes to the board. Give them a word to write/spell (however you want to play it). I usually have them both write it and then spell it. If it is correct, they get to erase a part of the body form other team’s stick man (a head, neck, leg, arm…). Winner is the team who erases the whole stick man of the other team… thus the invisible man. They love erasing their opponent’s stick man!
However, this takes a lot of time. If you want to shorten it, draw something else which has a lot less thing to erase.

That’s it for now. There are more, but for some other time (I will probably rewrite this post and just add the games on).
Let me know how it turns out for you or if you have any other games, ideas or adaptations.

Have a lovely weekend everybody! =))

Short answers

This is something I’ve been doing lately that has worked from the 1st to the 4th grade. They love it! And it is so simple!

It is good to practice vocabulary and short answers and questions that go with it (e.g. Is it…? Yes, it is. No it isn’t.; Have I got…? No, you haven’t. Yes, you have.)

I stand in front of the class with my FCs and turn them so I can’t see them, but they can. I mix them and they say when to stop. Now the guessing starts. Depending on how many FCs you’ve got, decide how many tries you will have. I usually have 5 tries in which I have to guess what’s on the FC. I ask, they answer as a class and if I don’t guess after all of my tries I call out one pupil to give me the correct answer (insist on full sentences).

1st grade – colours
Teacher: Is it blue?
Class: Yes, it is./ No, it isn’t.

4th grade – Have got
T: Have I got toy soldiers?
C: Yes, you have./ No, you haven’t.

When I do my guessing I hold up my hand above my head and count down the tries I have left. Children will instinctively do the same thing! They love counting down, especially if the teacher is losing. x)

After some time, a pupil comes in front of the class to take the teacher’s place. Everyone wants to come and guess! Even the children who usually try to hide and aren’t the best in English want to play this (at least that’s what happened to me for which I am thankful. Some children have finally woken up).

You can adapt this game to your needs. If you want to practice plural, we, just bring out two pupils and have them ask questions in turns (Have we got..?).

If you want to practice he or she, just tell them they are answering for someone else. Make up a character. They love imagining things.

I usually use this time to check their homework if they had to write something in their notebooks.

Next week I’m practicing physical descriptions, can/can’t and have got/haven’t got with the 4th graders.
I plan on playing Guess who?

First, I’ll have them write names of famous people on pieces of paper (because I have no idea who is famous with them these days except Justin Bieber, One Direction and Big Time Rush. Guess I’m getting old X)).

One Pupil is going to sit in front of the blackboard and I’ll write the name of the famous person above their head and they’ll have to guess who they are by asking questions and the rest will have to give short answers.

Am I tall/short/old/young…? Yes, you are./ No, you’re not.
Can I sing/dance/cook…?ย Yes, you can./ No, you can’t.
Have I got long/short hair…) Yes, you have. No, you haven’t.

If you want to practice questions with he or she, just tell them to guess the person and not to pretend they are the person. Only one student knows who or they can ask you.

And that’s it! Let me know how it turns out for you or if you have any other games you use in your classroom!
Keep calm and teach on! ๐Ÿ˜‰


I came across a game called Bang! or Zap it! on the internet.
It sounded fun and a good way to practice reading or spelling so I tried it.

You write a bunch of words you’re learning on pieces of paper and you write Bang! on a few. Children take the cards. If they can read it correctly they can keep it. If not, they put it back in the box. If they take the Bang! card, they have to put all of the cards back in.ย 

This is my box. I made it out of yoghurt ย bucket and with duct tape. Turned up pretty well if I may say so. ๐Ÿ™‚



Its advantage is that all of the children have the same chance to win. It’s is not just about who is the best reader because if they pull the Bang! card they are back at square one. So even the children who can’t read well yet have a chance to win.

How did it go?
I tried it in the first grade and they liked it. They wanted to play.
It didn’t work all that well because the classes are too big. 28 children is too much. It’s fine when they are drawing the papers, but they get bored while they wait for their turn. So, in the end it loses its purpose.
I ended up showing all of the cards one by one and they had to repeat the word after me.
It could work if you have two boxes and two groups of 10 or so, but they are too little in the first grade to do it by themselves and they need supervision.

Although it didn’t work for me, I still think it is a good game for smaller classes.

Did you try it? Or something similar? How did it go for you?

P.s. The one game that definitely always works is with the flashcards and fly swatters! ๐Ÿ™‚

Flascard games

I know I promised to write about flashcard games last Sunday, but last week I’ve been obsessed with looking up new games to do in my class. I’ve tried some of them in the classroom and they turned out pretty well.

So, flashcard. The must have in teaching younger learners (I have 6-10 year olds).



Have a bunch of FCs on the blackboard. You read the FCs and the pupils have to repeat after you. First you read them correctly, then you make a mistake.
Now there are two versions.
Stop game. When you make a mistake, they have to yell ”Stop teacher, stop!”.
Silent game. When you make a mistake, they have to be quiet.
Each time you make a mistake ask them ”What is this?” and they have to answer you in a full sentence ”This is…”
It helps if you stand there in wonder ”Whaaat? This is not a pencil box? Yes, yes it is! No, it isn’t? What is it then?” and it is extra motivating if you play against the class and give them pluses each time they get it right or to yourself if they get it wrong.

Works really well with 1st grader and 2nd graders. It is still ok with 3rd graders.


Put a bunch of FCs on the board, everyone closes their eyes, you remove a FC and ask ”What’s missing?”


Cover your FC with two pieces of paper and show them only a bit of a picture. E.g. if I have a picture of a desk I will show them only the leg of the desk, but a little, tiny bit. If it is too hard for them to guess, show them more of the picture each time. Be careful your papers are not see through.


To revise words, show them FCs but really, really fast and ask ”What’s this?”


After I’ve revised vocabulary with the FC, I usually have the pupils read the WC and then connect them with the right FC.

  • IS IT…?

A good way to revise vocabulary and reinforce ”Is it..?” structure and short answers ”Yes, it is. No, it isn’t.”
Choose a set of FC you wish to revise. Turn them so they can see them, but you can’t. Mix them up. They usually say Stop! when they see the FC they like.
Depending on a number of FCs you have a limited number of questions you can ask. E.g. last week I played with 8-10 FCs and had 5 guesses. I hold my hand up and count down with my fingers the number of tries I have left:
Ask ”Is it a rubber?”. The whole class has to answer withย ”Yes, it is. No, it isn’t.”. If I can’t guess in my 5 tries, I lose. Then a pupil has to answer what it is.
Next stage is for them to take your place. Have someone come up and ย ask questions instead of you. They love it!

  • SWAT IT!

Buy fly swatters. Really fun and they enjoy doing it.
Have a bunch of FCs or WCs (depending on what your aim is) on the blackboard. Two pupils come to the board with fly swatters. I say a word in mother tongue and they have to find the correct FC/WC, hit it with the fly swatter and say the word in English. Who is the fastest and says the word correctly is the winner, the other pupil goes back to their seat and someone else comes up instead of them.
You can adopt this also with sentences. Have them on the board and say the word they have to find in the sentence.
Really energetic game and they love it!

That would be it for now. These are not new at all, but work great.
If you have any games that work with your class please share! ๐Ÿ™‚

Teaching ESL

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I am a teacher! Yaaay! And proud to be one! ๐Ÿ™‚
Currently I’m teaching English from 1st to 4th grade, elementary school.

At firs I intended this blog to be about sewing and crafts, but after the tests my kids wrote last week I changed my mind. Don’t get me wrong, the test weren’t that bad at all, but after grading it, of course, I saw what needs to be worked on.

*Note* I am not talking about teaching native speakers (I am from Croatia), but about teaching ESL!

This whole weekend I am dedicating only to searching new, fun and educational games and activities to help my students with their English. And what better way to save my ideas and get your opinions and your teaching advice than through a blog?! ๐Ÿ™‚

Fellow ESL teachers will understand problems we’re facing in teaching and I’m sure native speakers encounter some of them too.
Number one problem for me now is spelling and writing. Lower grades are only starting with the alphabet and writing in our native language so naturally it is very strange for them to do so in another one. Not only that, but they are very impatient and they don’t even copy the word correctly! And I can’t give them a point on the test if the word isn’t written right!

Some of the problems I am facing:

  • I see them only twice a week for 45 minutes
  • Big classes
  • Copies I can make are limited to 200 a month
    (I have 10 classes and have to buy my own copying paper!)
  • I don’t have my own classroom

In a perfect world I would have my own classroom which I could organise however I wanted to, I would make as many copies as I wished, but we all know that is not possible. If that was possible I wouldn’t have problems with anything because each student in every class would get several worksheets during the class and everything would be great!
But since that world exists only in my imagination, I’m looking for some ideas to practice grammar and writing without too many worksheets having to be copied and without boring the children to death!

So, teaching posts from now on will be of a DIY nature and on a budged!
I love my kids, but don’t intend to spend my whole salary on making copies and buying necessities for the classroom (even if I did buy them (which is something a school should do), no one would be that grateful for it because they don’t think about how much goes into teaching and I don’t think we even need to talk about the salaries).

I will only post about thing I have personally tried in my classroom and write about how it worked for me.

I have already made the Bang! game so I will report about that next weekend probably, and tomorrow I will write about Flashcard activities.

I would love to hear your experiences, problems you are facing and how you overcame them! Where do you teach?

And for the end some encouraging words… ๐Ÿ˜‰


*truthfully, don’t get the Ryan Hey Girl craze, but I found some good ones ๐Ÿ™‚