Teach English in Chengxi Zhen - Lianyungang Shi

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Creating a safe learning environment is essential to a functioning classroom. Students need to feel at ease when learning any subject, including a new language. For establishing this kind of space, a teacher needs to find ways to enhance rapport between themselves and the students, as well as amongst the students’ peers. The best teachers start day one with “getting to know you” activities and getting to know students in general. Starting on day one, a teacher can create a space that brings forth a harmonious relationship. The teacher can greet the students as they enter the room. This helps the students feel like they are “seen” and are given one-to-one contact with the teacher immediately. Beginning the class with a welcome and a smile can make an enormous impact to the student as well. Going to any new class on the first day can be a scary experience, so having the teacher alleviate any fears will help to promote learning. Also on the first day, it would help if the teacher learned names. This is obviously easier for smaller groups. The teacher could go around and ask a student name and have a small discussion, or, in a more advanced ELL or monolingual class, have students interview each other and then introduce them to the teacher (in English if in an ELL classroom). In a larger classroom, the teacher could have small groups get to know each other so that at least there is peer interaction and familiarity. The groups could create teams and decide on a name for their group. The students can also form groups that have a common interest which will allow the teacher to cater to these topics for lesson planning, and thus creating more student-teacher rapport. This bonding and sharing between students will give them a safe place to explore and feel more free in using speech in an ELL classroom, or any classroom where a larger group can seem daunting. Some other basics to help tie students to the teacher is giving constant positive reinforcement. Instead of saying “no” to an incorrect answer, the teacher could say “almost” or “so close!”. Overcorrecting a student will essentially shut down and cause a negative effect and this will inhibit the learning process, so it is best practice to choose times for correction such as during the study process rather than during an activity where students should feel free to communicate. Getting to know the students helps to further their development as the teacher can then create topics based on their own experiences and likes/dislikes. In doing this, you are showing the student that you care about them not just as learners, but as people. One method to do this easily would be to have a worksheet with bingo squares for say “Adventures”. Each student walks around the room asking if other students have done a specific activity. Once they have five in a row they yell “Bingo!”. The class can then share the result and see who has done what adventure. This can then promote class discussion about the said adventure or more about the student’s experience. This type of activity could work for small or large groups. Working in pairs is also an effective way to establish rapport. If two students are working on a worksheet or doing an activity together and something is incorrect, the students can still feel responsible without having to be called out individually. The paired students can work as a team throughout the process of a lesson plan and establish rapport with each other as well as with the teacher. One large group activity that has worked well in connecting my classroom of 38 students is the game “Do You Love Your Neighbor?”. The students all sit in a large circle with one person in the center. The “it” person asks someone random, “Do you love your neighbors?”. The person answering will say “Yes. I do love my neighbors, but I really love people who _____.” The blank is filled with an answer such as “can jump on one foot” or “like to sing”. Those people who do these things/like these things get up from their chair and try to find a new seat. The person left standing is now “it”. It is a wild game and the students have a great time coming up with new answers. In a new classroom, I usually have them also say their name such as “I am ____ and yes I do love my neighbors.” This helps to learn names fairly quickly as part of establishing a class bond through an activity. Also, this is a great game for almost every level of language development and virtually every classroom, and can be altered to fit the needs of the students easily. Developing a rapport with students should be a first priority in any classroom. Once this has taken place, the students are more at ease and feel that they can connect and communicate with the teacher in a positive environment. Disciplinary issues also lessen greatly due to the fact that the teacher is aware of what is going on with that student (or students) and can resolve issues quickly and effectively. The whole point of the classroom environment is to create a space for communication and learning growth opportunities. Getting to know students, and finding ways to use their experiences within the lessons can only enhance a common bond and promote learning.