This is a continuation of the post located at https://hyugasuccessinjp.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/transforming-your-esol-college-classroom-into-an-educational-entertainment-center/ feel free to read it first before proceeding.
By Hyuga Higuchi
Ideas continued: creating the perfect ambiance for your classroom
- Chose classrooms that allow student mobility—avoid fixed desk classrooms at all costs. This point is self-evident and does not require much explanation. Basically, you want to have a classroom that can be easily rearrangeable in order to fulfill a particular classroom need you and your students might have. To create study/discussion groups, conduct debates, have presentation competitions and role-plays/skits within the classroom, it is necessary to have a classroom in which desks can be moved around and chairs set aside. The extra space will also help your students get away from the classroom environment while within the classroom—which breaks many of the classroom communication inhibitors that most J-students have had encoded in their brains after years of indoctrination in the “no talk allowed” Japanese education system.
- Games of all kinds are always welcomed. Most research says that learning better takes place when it is “gamified.” I couldn’t agree more. Make sure you have an arsenal of game-like activities at your disposal will definitely help you become a more versatile instructor. Especially when you must deal with the introduction of difficult grammar points, it is important to have some games handy. This will help break the monotony and get students re-engaged in communication activities once the game is properly introduced right after a Teacher-Talk-Time heavy part of the lesson. I have a comprehensive list of games and I will be writing more comprehensively about them and how I use them to complement my class in future articles in this blog. Stay put.
- Have sound effects available—having a microphone and other sound equipment ready to be used will also be very helpful in improving classroom dynamics. I have a tablet attached to a sound box that I usually use for sound effects. I will have a “pin-pon” sound for answers students answer correctly and a “fail trumpet sound” for students who say things that are funny/silly/unrelated to the topic. Those will play with the click of a button on the tablet’s screen and will just enrich the classroom environment. Students usually get a good laugh out of some of the sounds and it helps them enjoy their class a little more.
- Work with printouts rather than books—this is just another small little tweak that can assist you in getting the students mindset away from the bind of the traditional classroom. If they are not bringing books to class, in their minds, it means that they are coming to a learning center rather than a simple class. Please, don’t get me wrong at this point: I still believe textbooks play an important role in the ESOL classroom. But I simply don’t see the necessity of bringing them to class every single class. Teachers should be able to find out ways in which they can customize their classes’ contents to give space to a larger variety of teaching tools, rather than just using the same textbook every week.
Classroom practice changes: implement core teaching principles to improve your lesson’s content
As you could see, all of the ideas mentioned in this short blog-entry series were really focused on the aesthetic aspects of the classroom, instead of teaching methodology. Rather than advising teachers on how to teach, this was an expose of tools teachers can use, no matter what teachings strategies they have, in order to enhance the atmosphere of their classroom and make it livelier. All the ideas here do not need to be introduced simultaneously for their benefits—so long as they are implemented with the students’ best interest in mind, they will be an effective way to upgrade your classroom.
It is extremely important that teachers find ways to motivate their students to be passionate about their learning. If students are being properly encouraged by their instructors, they will be motivated to do anything to support their learning. They will be proactive in welcoming these changes in the classroom environment and will, overall, develop a greater sense of respect and affection for their teacher and for the efforts of the same.
To accomplish that, I usually have an entire first session within my curriculum dedicated to helping students understand the importance of the English language in their lives. As I mentioned in the first part of this article, giving them clear language goals will help them visualize how to use English in their future and create the spike in interest in the English language they need prior to starting language learning. This is what I mean by having a solid “core” in which your lessons, in the mind of the student, are based.
In the next coming up articles, I will be writing about my specific approach to creating that “core.” I hope it can serve as a basis to help new teachers develop their own insight in helping students understand how important it is to learn how to communicate in English.
Good luck to all my readers and may your classrooms be the most exciting classrooms present in your respective schools.