3 Ways to Teach a Chinese Kid English


It’s a cold and dry Shanghai night on a Tuesday evening. I quickly finish eating my soup with a poached egg, as I head towards my 13th hour of teaching for the day. Lately, I find myself working longer hours and more jobs than I ever have. China hasn’t changed me as a person, but seems to have brought the inner-workaholic out of me by choice.

My name is Trevor, and my life in China is like Blues Clues.

How to Teach a Chinese Kid English

  • Entertain
  • Inspire
  • Use Humor and Laughter to Guide Attention

Recently I was teaching a Chinese kid some English – but our lessons were dragging on a bit and I knew I needed to do something different. My student that I tutor is named Jim. He had a little brother who always giggled, and began to say “Bye Bye” after a month of our tutoring.

One lesson began with my student laughing historically after learning the word for “Gargling” water. We incorporated gargling into our lesson. With a hilarious result.


Trevor: Jim, can you tell me your brother’s name?

Jim: He’s Jim!  (laughs)

Trevor: No, you’re Jim. Unless if he’s… Jim II?

Jim: (Laughs) – No, he’s Jim Too.


The Adventures of Jim Too

So I Used My Travel Photography

To Take Our Lesson Across the World

I created a caricature of his little brother, Jim Too. And cut a paper cut-out of him and pasted it on my iPad screen.

I began telling the story through my travel photos, but instead of it being me, we posted Jim Too along the photos of my travels.

IMG_1999Jim Too Lands in Russia

We traveled to Russia, where I lived last year. I retold story that he thought were fiction, but to me were retelling experiences so uniquely, as sitting her in China rewriting them with new people met along the way.

We traveled to The Caucasus mountains… to go hiking with bears.

Click the Photo to Read about Georgia.IMG_1997

To Vietnam…

Click the photo to read about my time in Vietnam.




Jim Too driving on the Ha Long Bay

Click the photo to read about Chernobyl.


Even Chernobyl

Jim found the whole lesson to be hilarious – and we had never laughed harder since we began our lessons many months ago. But it had a different affect on me, something I have realized teaching English has had all along.

I came to China saying I’d never be a teacher. I also came to China, saying that I’d learn to speak Chinese. But as a paradox, I’ve come to realize it’s hard to learn a language like a student – to live like a student – when your motivations take you across the world to work work work.

Through teaching two classes of 30 kids per day at an international school, which some compare to being baptized by fire I’ve been forced to learn and pick up pieces of Chinese from caregivers, teacher assistants, and even the kids themselves. Which is one way of learning languages I never considered could be so profound. 

The Learning was Mutual

As the youngest child in my family, it’s a fun role to play. And as the feeling of living in China hits my 8th month, I have realized that teaching has proved to be a valuable exercise for me and adapting to living abroad.

Memories of my grandparents, older brothers, and sisters, are subtlety brought back as I have helped kids learn to read, write, speak, and draw the things that I can remember my grandmother, my parents, and older brothers and sisters teach me when I was their age. At just 3 years old.

It is simply by sharing the laughter of experiences, that you really see the joy in learning. Because we’re all always learning something. Regardless of where we our, how we talk, or our age. Maybe it’s a sign of more things to come.

Where Can You Learn More About Shanghai China and Living Abroad?

Subscribe to Trevor Abroad, or Contact Trevor at TrevorAbroad@gmail.com

– Trevor



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