Teach English in TiAnchang Zhen - Yancheng Shi

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Seating arrangements in the classroom The seating arrangement used in an ESL classroom should not be left to chance. Careful, well-conceived planning makes your classroom space comfortable, functional and a pleasure to learn in. It is also equally important to continually assess and modify the seating arrangement and classroom environment organically. Our expectations for our classroom environment should mirror our expectations for the growth of our students. For our ESL classroom learning let’s first consider using a U-shaped seating arrangement which promotes good eye contact and where students with softer voices will be heard more easily. Students will find it easier to interact and collaborate and interact with their teacher without extra effort as compared to when using a traditional row or column layout. This U-shaped arrangement allows the teacher to move about, interact with and monitor all students freely. At other times, younger students can make use of the space this configuration offers to engage in learning activities on the floor. Carpeting or suitable floor cushioning should be on hand for this purpose. Continuing, we need to consider possible sources of distraction when establishing the orientation of all moveable furniture. Imagine the flow of students entering and leaving the classroom. Will those students in transition disturb other students still at their desks focusing on last last-minute work? Will students from the next class or parents be likely to congregate near classroom doors or windows? A whiteboard on wheels can be positioned to hide areas that might become visually distracting. Perhaps wall clocks can be placed behind, not in front of students. Consider creating a floor plan on paper or on your whiteboard to help visualize and plan your starting arrangement. While keeping in mind that every class is different and that every teacher will understandably have their approach, show your floor plan ideas to and discuss them with a more experienced teacher. After you have done your best to prepare your classroom you can begin using it with students. Over time make careful notes regarding what you feel is working and what is not. While adult students may be less receptive to assigned seating, younger students will be receptive and can benefit most. Where did students choose to sit first and with whom? Which students participate most? Which participate least? Do any of the students have a physical handicap or mobility issue? Are there any students that are particularly advanced or students that are likely to need more of your time? Do any students appear to be natural leaders? Are there any students that might get distracted or bored easily? Can you identify students that are often absent or come late? For planning purposes consider creating a chart and arrange students in a way you feel will foster the best learning experience for all. Be prepared to experiment and update as you learn more about your class. Avoid explaining the reasons for seating arrangement changes and avoid using them as punishment. It is well known that students who require more attention should be seated closer to the teacher (usually in the center, not at the end of a row). Quiet students who struggle to participate can often be seated next to students with more confidence. Students who are friends outside the classroom can be seated next to each other as long as they can focus on their lessons. Students that are likely to be absent or late could have assigned seats nearest the door. That way their absence and/or late arrival might be less distracting. Understand that these and others are only guidelines. We have at our disposal a much greater tool than previously established guidelines. We have the learning power of experimentation. It would be a shame for a teacher to simply create a permanent U shaped seating arrangement and allow students to sit where they please each week. This would be a regrettable missed opportunity which would undermine the potential of the students and teacher alike. Instead, we should experiment with numerous student-centered seating arrangements and have students sit with and interact with each of their classmates in various combinations. We do not live in a static world, we do not communicate in a scripted way. Our classrooms need to echo that. Experiment often and gather the results of that experimentation to better your classroom.