Dealing with the physical aspects of the classroom: Epilogue – The perfect classroom

When I started thinking about the classrooms I would be teaching in this semester I thought it would be a good idea to write a full critique of each, in terms of what opportunities they created and the constraints they placed on me. To be honest, though, after a couple of posts on this subject I don’t really feel the need to go on, as I’ll just end up repeating myself. My posts on the rooms G062 and G045 (I’ve linked to these posts at the end of this post) probably contain everything I want to talk about. With this in mind, I thought I would round things off with a brief epilogue.

What better way to do this than with a visual display of what is considered to be the ultimate in early 21st century classrooms. Below you will see two images from a really good report that I found from the University of Oregon, which looked attempted to define the perfect classroom based on instructor and student use. Their findings are comprehensive (and available as a PDF download here).

As you’ll notice, I’ve captured these screen shots from their report. There are annotations describing the features of the perfect classroom (those dashed lines that you can see in the pics). Here are a few highlights:

  • Provide a shaped ceiling to create a sense of enclosure, maximize sight lines to screen, and improve acoustics.
  • Provide wall mounted light switches and motorized screen and shade controls for easy access from podium.
  • Provide integrated, quality sound system with even distribution to maximize student comprehension.
  • Provide ample space for instructor movement at the front of the classroom and throughout student seating areas.
  • Use sled base chairs and movable tables to allow for flexible use of space.
  • Provide lightweight, stable tables but assume table configuration will not change regularly.
  • Provide white board wall. Avoid covering with screen or use full wall white board.
  • Provide evenly spaced wall outlets near student seating areas. Avoid cost of data jack at student areas by providing robust wireless connection.
  • Provide clock- locate for easy visibility from students and instructors perspective.
  • Provide color and interest on walls.
  • Provide visibility into classroom from hallway.

So, how does your classroom shape up to this idyllic image? Looking at it from this perspective, I haven’t got too much to complain about. I’d love to hear how this contrasts to your experiences.

If you’d like to read more about people describing their classes, you could start with my other posts in this series (Dealing with the physical aspects of the classroom: prologue, Dealing with the physical aspects of the classroom: In search of teaching paradise?, and Dealing with the physical aspects of the classroom: The curious case of G062). Also, please take a look at my concurrent series of posts in which I investigate the emotional aspects of classroom management!

I’d also recommend the posts written by Tyson Seburn (What classroom is perfect?) and Vicky Loras (The Ideal Classroom – My Post for Tyson Seburn’s Blog Challenge).

Posted in Classic posts, Life inside the classroom, The life of an english teacher, Theory | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Investigating the emotional side of the classroom: What can we learn from Glasser’s Choice Theory of classroom management?

Having focused on the discipline-based theories of Skinner and, to a lesser extent, Jones in my last two posts, it’s definitely time for a shift of gears! What better way to do that than with psychiatrist William Glasser’s theory of classroom management, an effective blueprint to enable teachers to organize and sustain a flourishing learning environment.

Glasser is a world away from Skinner in particular; he asks that we as teachers educate our learners as to how they can make good choices and take responsibility for their behavior in the classroom. When adhered to, Glasser’s Choice Theory can make education a rewarding experience for both learners and teachers alike.

The features of Glasser’s Choice Theory

In the classroom

‘In the classroom’ by @SueAnnan from #ELTPics

The theory is based on the notion that the classroom environment – and the curriculum -should create a safe place for learning by meeting the needs for freedom, a sense of belonging, a share of power, and the need to have fun. Glasser furthermore stresses we are, in fact, helping learners achieve success by teaching them to make appropriate behavioral choices.

According to Glasser, behavior boils down to a matter of personal choice. A learner’s behavior stems from their choices; it’s the teacher’s duty to help the learner make good choices, resulting in first-rate behavior.

In this framework, teachers should;

  • stress the importance of learner responsibility,
  • the establishing of rules that lead to success,
  • accept no excuses for inappropriate learner actions,
  • require value judgments from learners,
  • suggest suitable alternatives,
  • bring into play responsible consequences, and
  • carry out continual review with the class.

The benefits of Choice Theory

Glasser believed in providing learners with a choice in deciding not only classroom rules but also in the curriculum itself. This helps the learners take ownership of the learning process, leading to increased enthusiasm, confidence and participation, or so the theory goes!

We’re still not left with a magic solution, though

Nevertheless, this theory alone won’t eradicate all classroom behavioral issues. Glasser suggests that we as teachers need to organize our learning environment in the best way possible to meet the learners’ needs and then intervene to ‘improve’ behavior as and when it is deemed necessary. Indeed, Glasser concedes that even when the theory is adhered to, about a quarter of your learners may remain unproductive.

Considerations

The Glasser Theory enables – or, rather, requires – us to deviate from the conventional learning environment structure to attain success. This is not necessarily an easy thing, especially if you’re new to the profession. It does promote a lot of what I consider to be good classroom practice, nonetheless, meaning that even new teachers can employ elements of Choice Theory. Glasser, for instance, favors learners working together in small groups. This;

  • helps foster a sense of belonging,
  • motivates learners to work towards the group goal, and
  • reduces learner reliance on the teacher.

According to the theory, when divided into smaller groups, the stronger learners will help the weaker ones, which enhances classroom relationships.

Summing up in three sentences…

  1. On a cline of extreme discipline through to trusting the learner to control themselves, this theory lies on the exact opposite end to that of Skinner’s behaviorism.
  2. If you are a new teacher, think carefully about mastering the physical aspects of classroom management before you jump head long into giving too much choice to learners: it might spell disaster if you lose control of things.
  3. Using group work in class is a great way to get started with the Glasser model, as this necessitates that learners take some responsibility for their learning.

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Infographic: Past perfect tense

Following on from my triumphant award for the British Council TeachingEnglishFeatured blog of the month’, I’m once again in the mood for making another infographic for you all! Today’s infographic shows us how to use the past perfect tense. In addition to highlighting the forms of this verb tense, the main functions are clearly explained, with many examples.

As usual, I used Piktochart to design the infographic.

comparing thingsYou can download the original, full size image here (800×2180).

Additionally, there are a number of share and embed options available from Flickr here.

Finally, you can share the image using the QR code on the right.

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Investigating the emotional side of the classroom: What can we learn from the Jones model of positive discipline?

Those of you who’ve visited the blog recently will know that I’ve been tackling a two-pronged series, looking at both the physical and emotional aspects of effective classroom management.

In my last ‘emotional’ post I looked at Skinner’s behaviorist theory of classroom management. My hope is that you all found that a little too extreme and desire something a little less authoritarian. If that’s the case, today’s post is for you! The Fredric H. Jones Positive Discipline Model is a classroom and school management system. Jones is the author of ‘Positive Classroom Discipline’, hence the name of his model. His system focuses on;

  1. teacher body language and the teacher as an example of appropriate behavior,
  2. the presence of firm, easily understandable rules, and
  3. having a backup plan for when things don’t go to plan.

Let’s consider each of these in detail.

The teacher models what is considered appropriate behavior

The main tenet of the Jones positive discipline system is that the teacher models the kind of behavior that is expected:

  • The teacher adopts a calm tone of voice that assumes that the learner will follow directions.
  • The teacher uses positive language that nurtures a learning environment in which learners are encouraged to speak with one another thoughtfully.
  • The teacher focuses on the learners and what they are doing in the learning environment, organizing the classroom so that they are able to quickly assist any learner.

What this all means for the learner is that their teacher provides a role model of acceptable adult behavior in an environment that supports their ability to learn.

Decorations

‘Decorations’ by @pysproblem81 from #ELTPics

Simple to apply rules, posted clearly

Another significant element of this model is that the rules are straightforward, direct and placed within the learning environment where they are visible at all times. Commonly, classroom rules might include; not talking when the teacher is talking or other learners are responding; coming to class with all the necessary class materials, such as coursebook and notepaper.

When applying the Jones model of positive discipline, the number of rules should be as few as possible and should deal with precise, concrete actions that are appropriate to making the learning environment a safe place to learn.

Responding to misbehavior

Even in the finest of classroom situations, learners sometimes behave inappropriately, or in a way that disturbs others. In the Jones Model, the first step in correction is a timeout in the classroom. If the learner is being sufficiently disruptive, they can be sent to another room to give them and the teacher time to calm down.

If the behavior is persistent, such as not bringing materials to class or distracting other learners while the teacher is talking, the teacher might work with a counselor or administrator to develop some kind of observation checklist.

Summing up in three sentences…

  1. As with behaviorism, this approach depends on there being a right and a wrong way of behaving in the classroom; again, this is dependent on a set of rules.
  2. Unlike Skinner’s theory, though, this approach positively assumes that the learner is able to recognize the right way to act and respond to an exemplary example of behavior, i.e. that of the teacher.
  3. Although a much diluted down version of Skinner’s behaviorism, you may still feel that this approach is too disciplinarian for you (the rules dictate behavior, even if they have been agreed upon by the learner); if so, please proceed to my next post when I’ll examine William Glasser’s theory of classroom management!

Posted in Opinion, The life of an english teacher, Theory | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Dealing with the physical aspects of the classroom: In search of teaching paradise?

After a brief, award winning-inspired interlude, I’m back on track with my duel series on classroom management. While a lot of the posts in this series will be looking at the emotional aspects of keeping control of your learning environment, today’s post looks at how we might choose to manipulate the physical contours of the rooms in which we teach. Let’s get right down to business, then…

My favourite classroom out of all those I’m using at the moment is the functionally named G045. Please take a look at the video clips below (there are four and one should play immediately after the previous one finishes) and you’ll get a good idea why.

So, on first impressions it seems to offer me everything I could need to conduct any number of activities. It’s big, the furniture is movable and yet comfortable. There is a nice area for me to conduct my business, while there is also space for the students to get up and move around when necessary. The room is also fully kitted out to meet my technological needs and those of the learners.

So, how does this room measure up to the perfect classroom?

When I was thinking about putting this series of posts together (read my prologue post here and my first room discussion here), I did a bit of research to see what had been written about this phenomenon. One really good report that I did find was one by the University of Oregon, which looked attempted to define the perfect classroom based on instructor and student use. Their findings are fairly comprehensive (and available as a PDF download here) and detail everything that you might consider were you trying to create the perfect learning and teaching environment. I’ve picked some of their descriptors here to give you an idea of what their report looks like. Look at these and think about the room I showed you in the videos. Also, try to reflect on the rooms you have to use: this might help you identify problems in your classes that you couldn’t put your finger on before.

Room Size & Shape:

  • Avoid rooms with long, narrow proportions
  • Avoid rooms with low ceilings
  • Avoid rooms with no windows
  • Avoid rooms with columns or other obstructions

Ceiling Height & Shape:

  • Provide minimum ceiling height of 10′-12′
  • Avoid over-illuminating the ceiling or creating a shadow under the light fixture

Daylight & Views:

  • Control daylight and views with opaque shades
  • Provide motorized shades with simple control from the teaching area

Finishes:

  • Provide carpets
  • Provide colored walls
  • Avoid white walls unless used with accent color
  • Avoid hard, sterile surfaces and “timeless” color palettes
  • Plan for room upgrades every ten years or less to keep the room “fresh”

Acoustical Control:

  • Design the room so students can easily hear the instructor, but consider how students will hear each other as well
  • Provide low-pressure air systems when forced air is used
  • Provide sound-insulated walls
  • Provide amplification so the room’s performance is not dependent upon enhanced audio
  • Avoid movable walls
  • Avoid hard ceilings

Furniture & Adjustability:

  • Provide chairs that move easily, but are steady when in use
  • Chairs with sled-style supports are recommended
  • Position tables allow small groups to form around them, but be close enough to allow a “critical density” of students to create engaged lectures and discussions
  • Assume that tables will not be regularly moved but that lecture format courses will have to transform into small groups easily and vice versa – arrange table to allow both uses easliy
  • Avoid round tables unless lecture style presentations are unlikely to ever occur in the space
  • Avoid tablet arm desks
  • Avoid room layouts that assume a high level of user-directed changeability

Connectivity:

  • Provide robust wireless connectivity
  • Avoid unnecessary costs of added hard wire data ports in classrooms

Lighting:

  • Provide an easily controlled variety of lighting, including general lighting, perimeter accent lighting, and instructor area highlighting
  • Provide dimmable or stepped lighting
  • Provide override control for room occupancy sensor
  • Avoid suspended lighting

Controls:

  • Provide simple, intuitive controls that require no special knowledge to operate
  • Use simple switches where possible
  • Provide labeled switches
  • Place light controls near the primary teaching area
  • Limit the number of switches to about 3-6 switches

Student Arrangement & Area Requirements:

  • Provide 40% internal circulation area
  • Program space allocations based on the number of students, recommended instructor area and internal circulation based on observations

Electrical Supply for Student Use:

  • Provide perimeter plugs evenly distributed around the classroom to allow use for those who need power
  • Avoid column drop outlets
  • Avoid hardwired data connections for student use

Instructor Arrangement & Area Requirements:

  • Provide a generous teaching area (on average about 180 Square F)
  • Position podium to provide good visibility of both students and the screen
  • Assume that instructor will generally teach from one location regardless of teaching format
  • Plan instructor area to have direct connection to the door of the room allowing the instructor to arrive late or leave early if necessary

Technology & Media:

  • Provide a ceiling mounted projector
  • Provide instructor podium with connection for instructor laptop
  • Provide amplified speakers connected to the projector system
  • Provide instructor podium with:
    - desktop mounted power supply
    - easy access to lighting and daylight controls
    - access to writing surface
    - under-desk storage for backpack
    - stool stored under knee space (to allow standing presentations for most of the time)
  • Provide a large whiteboard near the instructor podium
  • Provide additional whiteboard around the room for small group break out and teaming activities
  • Provide a robust, high speed wireless system
  • Assume that all technology is temporary and will be replaced in less than 10 years
  • Assume that instructor will use personal laptop for media presentation
  • Use surface mounted or easily accessed wiring systems where possible

See, I told you it was a comprehensive list, didn’t I!

By now you can probably see why G045 is one of my favourite classes. I’m not sure, though whether I’d like to walk into any room with these descriptors as a checklist: I’m sure I’d come away from most feeling fairly despondent! Nevertheless, it is useful to look at these and consider the ways in which your teaching environment is most constricted, be it in terms of furniture, acoustics, or any of the other factors mentioned above.

How does G045 measure up?

I have only two gripes with this room…

Too darn big

Firstly, it’s too big for the size of the class I teach. I have on any given day fifteen students in this room and they do so enjoy sitting way at the back. This can mean me moving to them to get their attention, although I also then have to return to the teacher zone as and when I need to utilize the technology. The white board is also very distant when they choose to sit at the back.

Solution

I pointed out that the furniture is moveable, so, guess what? Never be afraid of giving the furniture layout a good makeover before a class starts. If you’re in a room that is blatantly too big for the number of people occupying it, group them together and group them fairly near you, otherwise the open space can be intimidating and even a bit creepy.

Lack of control over lighting

Secondly, the lighting is really clumsy and difficult to control. There are two light switches, one of which turns on the lights at the front and one the lights at the back.

Solution

As with the first point, group the students so as to try not to allow any of them to lurk in the gloom. Having them all operating in the same lighting conditions may seem like a small consideration, but, believe me; it can really affect the dynamic of the class if you don’t get them all in a well lit part of the room.

All in all, for a classroom that was built about twelve years ago, it has really stood the test of time in terms of how it is fitted out technologically. It is a bit gloomy when it’s dark outside, and the limited control over electric light in a big room like this is an issue. Nevertheless, you can really go for it in terms of varying activities and it is an extremely flexible environment.

What’s your take on all this?

So, what do you think about this room? How would you go about making the most of this environment? How does this compare to the rooms in which you teach? I’d love to hear your comments on this.

Posted in Classic posts, Life inside the classroom, Theory | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Infographic: Comparative and superlative adjectives

My recent award for the British Council TeachingEnglishFeatured blog of the month’ has put me in the mood for making another infographic for you all! Today’s infographic shows us the various ways of comparing things in English. There are examples to help you clearly understand how we use comparative and superlative adjectives.

Also, we see examples of irregular comparative and superlative adjectives. As usual, I used Piktochart to design the infographic.

comparing thingsYou can download the original, full size image here (800×2277).

Additionally, there are a number of share and embed options available from Flickr here.

Finally, you can share the image using the QR code on the right.

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British Council Teaching English featured blog of the month for July, 2014

I’m delighted to say that a blog post of mine has won the award for the British Council TeachingEnglish ‘Featured blog of the month’ for July, 2014. This is the second time I’ve won this award (click here to see what won last time), but this time around is no less of a joy than the first.

Many thanks to all those who voted for me on the TeachingEnglish Facebook page! Recognition like this is exactly the kind of thing that keeps bloggers like me going.

My infographic on prepositions of place was voted for by almost 2,500 visitors to the Facebook page. I designed the infographic to help students understand how the prepositions in, on and at are used in English. I used a combination of Piktochart and Bitstrips to create an engaging and helpful resource for language learners.

Posted in Teaching ideas | Tagged | 3 Comments

Infographic: Present continuous tense

Today’s infographic shows you how we use the present continuous tense. There are examples to help you clearly understand how we form positive, negative and interrogative sentences. Also, we see how this tense is used in contrast to simple present.

I used Piktochart to design the infographic.

present continuousYou can download the original, full size image here (800×2325).

Additionally, there are a number of share and embed options available from Flickr here.

Finally, you can share the image using the QR code on the right.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Investigating the emotional side of the classroom: What can we learn from Skinner’s Behaviorism theory?

Those of you who’ve dropped by recently will know that I’ve been tackling a two-pronged series, looking at both the physical and emotional aspects of effective classroom management.

Continuing our look into the emotional side of classroom management, today we look at behaviorism, as popularized by the famed psychologist B.F. Skinner. Generally, behaviorism is the idea that people respond as expected to stimuli; those who control the stimuli control the person.

The basic suggestion behind behaviorism, therefore, is that if you want to deal with unwanted behaviors, you must make certain that the unwanted behavior is punished. In contrast, the desired, or rational, behavior should be rewarded. As time goes by, the unwanted behavior stops as it is realized that this only ever results in a world of pain. In our classrooms, behaviorism states that we assume the role of controller of learner behavior, deciding what is appropriate and how to deal with what we consider inappropriate.

What does this mean in terms of language development?

IELTS class being creative making essay posters!

‘IELTS class being creative making essay posters!’ by @mubeenfk from #ELTPics

Skinner’s ideas on language development don’t really differ from his general theory of behaviorism. The theory itself is simple, based, as with all of Skinner’s work, around a structure of reward and punishment. Each reward and punishment serves to reinforce certain types of good or bad behavior. In other words, people tend to repeat actions that lead to pleasure, while avoiding actions that lead to discomfort. We refer to this as conditioning, which is basically the same thing as creating a habit. Help learners develop the right habits, Skinner suggests, and classroom management will be easily facilitated.

What’s more, there seems to be a precedent for this in first language acquisition. At first children speak “nonsense” words, what we refer to as babble. Typically, we don’t regard these as being anything impressive, so none of these are provided with any reward. When the infant child starts mimicking the language of their parents, however, the parent starts to take notice and get excited. Consequently, when children speak a recognizable word, they are rewarded by their parents. As a result, these words – and then phrases – are remembered, while the nonsense words that receive no positive attention are forgotten. Skinner suggests, therefore, that behaviorism is a key component of first language acquisition.

How might we utilize Skinner’s ideas in class?

At first glance, a lot of ‘classroom rules’ agreed upon by the teacher and learner at the start of a course might seem to lend themselves to a behaviorist approach. For learners, for example, the positive behavior of not using phones during lessons is promoted and then expected through the promise of rewards. The negative behavior of spending the lesson constantly texting results in negative consequences.

When these policies – which ideally have been agreed on by teacher and learner – are applied regularly over time and without excessive modification, the classroom can operate smoothly. Because pretty much any group of people can be treated in this way, the only real requirement is that the incentives should be applied habitually and predictably.

Benefits of behaviorism

If you’re new to teaching, seriously consider how behaviorism can help you get to grips with life in the language classroom. The main benefit of Skinner’s theory is that it’s extremely simple and easy to apply. People do respond to rewards and to being punished, especially over time, and language learners are just the same as people in any other situation. If you’re going to go down the behaviorist road:

  • lay down your rules from the outset,
  • make sure learners clearly understand what you expect, and
  • be consistent.

Criticisms of behaviorism

Skinner’s approach is much criticized. The main objection to Skinner’s ideas is that they treat human beings as if they were animals. What’s more, applied on a worldwide scale, Skinner’s theory would lead to Orwellian totalitarianism in which every thought and act of the individual would be the subject of scientific control.

Forgetting totalitarian nightmares for second, critics have also rejected the use of Skinner’s approach in the language classroom, stating that learning itself cannot be facilitated within a framework of rewards and punishments. Quite simply, learning doesn’t occur when people are merely responding in order to receive or to not be punished; learning is a fundamental part of the human makeup that should be nurtured freely, not by coercion.

Summing up in three sentences…

    1. Don’t underestimate the fact that people respond to positive and negative reinforcement, but don’t let it rewards and punishments rule your learning environment.
    2. Try to help learners develop a sense of self-responsibility, so that they know themselves what is acceptable.
    3. If you feel that your classroom management style is too rooted in behaviorism, I recommend that you read the next post in this series, in which I look at Fredric H. Jones’ Positive Discipline Model

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Posted in Life inside the classroom, Opinion, The life of an english teacher, Theory | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Dealing with the physical aspects of the classroom: The curious case of G062

How much does the physical environment of the classroom affect what we teach and how we teach? Let’s take a look, in my second post on the physical aspects of classroom management…

Probably, I’d say, the physical environment has a bigger effect than it is given credit for. This is a shame really, when you think about how much attention is given to describing pedagogy and teaching techniques: rarely do you find such discussions taking into consideration the size and the shape of the classroom. I hope this series of posts, along with the prologue I put on the blog at the end of last month, helps to readdress the balance. I also hope that this is a theme that will be picked up by other teachers. With this in mind, I’m delighted to say that my comrade from across the pond, Tyson Seburn, has already critiqued his classrooms in the blog post ‘What classroom is perfect?’ He has also prepared a checklist of things he looks for in a classroom, which I hope he doesn’t mind me quoting here. His checklist reads as follows:

Tyson’s ten requirements of the perfect classroom

1. long, solid desks in a semi-circle facing the front, enough room for everyone to spread out their work
2. capacity for about double the number of students in the class
3. ample chalkboards (or whiteboards), preferably that shift to reveal more
4. an electronic console controlling the audio system and ceiling-mounted projector
5. reliable internet connection
6. concrete architectural features
7. good lighting, preferably not too bright
8. a big window with a view of the outdoors
9. dark hardwood elements (e.g. floors or desk)
10. close proximity to my office

I think that’s a very healthy list to get started on. To be honest, there isn’t anything there that I would disagree with, although I would prioritize some points over others. Nevertheless, I think that we always have to work with what we have. This was something I focused on in the introductory post of this series. Allow me to reiterate:

1. Making the room work for the activity: Bearing in mind what you want to do in class, you need to think about what adaptations you need to make to the room to best facilitate the outcomes you’re looking for.

2. Making the activity work for the room: If the room can’t be adapted, you need to think about what activities you can do within the constraints that the physical environment has placed on you.

Viewing the room in this way allows us to think of how we are going to utilize the room effectively, rather than assuming that we can make our plan first and assume that it will go OK regardless of the physical constraints.

Introducing G062

Ok, so let’s take a short break from all this theoretical stuff, so I can introduce you to the first of my rooms for this semester. This is the delightfully named G062 in the Faculty of management building. Please watch these short video clips and, while you’re doing so, think about what might and might not work in such a room. There are five clips, one should play automatically after the other.

Your homework for today is to think of one constraint this room would place on you in terms of planning, as well as one way you could use this room to your advantage. If you can’t be bothered, then, well, please just keep reading!

Strengths

It’s big (1): I can move around easily and distribute materials quickly and efficiently. The students have plenty of desk space, too.
It’s big (2): There are enough seats for all of my students.
There’s a huge board: If at any point I get better at planning board work, there’s huge potential in this room.
We hooked up technologically: The speakers and projector are in full working order and the projector screen is visible to all. Furthermore, there’s a phone in the teacher’s desk so I can call someone when there’s a problem.
It’s isolated: We can make noise and do some interesting stuff without worrying about disrupting other classes.
Room to roam: There’s plenty of room for students to get up and move around, even if the seats don’t follow.
There is a focus: That big board and projector screen are a focal point of attention and lessons tend to revolve around them.

Weaknesses

The seating is fixed: Although the chairs swivel, they are mounted on a metal bar which keeps the person pretty much focused on the front of the room.
There are no windows: As I mentioned in the previous post, lack of natural lighting is never a good thing.
We’re away from the main School of Languages building (1): Students like to mingle with other students on the same course during breaks, so the fact we’re some distance from these other classes can be 1) dispiriting to those who don’t want to walk to meet their friends, and 2) a pain when it comes to trying to start the class on time and your students are still in another building.
We’re away from the main School of Languages building (2): On days when I teach here I have to try and remember everything I’ll need for the day, such as laptop, power cable, speakers, pens, paper, all handouts, books, etc.

How have these factors influenced my classes?

  1. I have tended to do things which utilize the ‘front of room’ focus, such as PowerPoint presented activities, showing videos and focused board work. Such activities are particularly effective with Generation Yers, so it’s great to be able to utilize the environment in this way
  2. I have also used this room for ‘information delivery’, such as explaining exam criteria and the like. Again, the seating makes it hard for students to be able to avoid me. Although the layout is drastically different from what we saw of the ‘dance floor‘ in the previous post, it nevertheless delivers many of the same benefits.
  3. We have, on a couple of occasions, co-constructed paragraphs in G062, by which I mean we look at the subject we’ve been studying and either 1) I write up the paragraph on the board based on student suggestions, or 2) the students co-create the texts themselves. This activity is a real winner, as it involves all of the students in spite of their ostensibly static position in the room.
  4. This room has quite a somber and serious air to it (we’ve started making posters for the walls so as to cheer the place up a bit), which lends itself to administering end-of-unit quizzes. Although I have no control over the scheduling of course exams, I can work my schedule to make sure the ‘unaccredited’ quizzes can take place in this room. While this is never the greatest of things to do in any class, the pseudo-’battleship‘ layout of this room – compared to my other classrooms, at least – does lend itself to such work.

Would it surprise you?

We have done a good amount of group work in this room. There is a lot of space between each row, so students can stand up and gather around an area of one of the desks quite easily and comfortably.

What would you do?

You’ve seen the videos; you’ve read what I do, so… what would you do differently? How can I get the most out of this room?

 

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Posted in Classic posts, Life outside the classroom, The life of an english teacher | Tagged , | 5 Comments