Creating Successful Learning Atmosphere

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For anyone learning a new language in a classroom setting, the experience can be daunting.  No matter what the age of the student is, there is an overwhelming fear of making mistakes that can threaten to paralyze a class before it’s had a chance to take off.  Here are some helpful things to remember when trying to create a successful atmosphere for learning.

 

Learning Should be Fun

Learning isn’t a punishment so a classroom shouldn’t feel like a sentence.  Students of all ages respond to an atmosphere that is creative and visually appealing.

If possible, avoid a classroom set-up that looks institutional and opt for something more interactive and inviting.  Even the way desks are organized can have a profound effect on a student’s willingness to participate actively in the lessons.  Make an effort to arrange seating in a way that encourages conversation and sharing.

Give the students something to look at!  Bare walls and a talking head standing in front of them for 2-3 hours isn’t going to stimulate anything.  Decorate the room with images that inspire comment and spark discussion.  Remember, you don’t always have to adhere to a lesson plan in the strictest sense. Learning can be inspired by a simple comment about a picture hanging on the wall and that comment can enhance the intended lesson… use it!

Make Learning Relatable

Students learning a new language will respond more quickly to lessons which incorporate everyday items and actions.  Make the lessons relatable for the students by giving them common context.  If your students are a group of young people who love hanging out at the mall, going to movies or listening to music then find ways to brings those elements into your lessons… get creative and make an effort to relate to them in their environment.

Don’t Just Instruct, Demonstrate

When teaching a new language, it isn’t enough to simply issue instructions and expect your students to comprehend your expectation.  Demonstrate to them what it is you are asking them to do to give it some context and don’t be shy about using visual aids. If you can give the students a visual to attach to the verbal instruction you are giving them, you are reinforcing their understanding of it.

Instructions to ESL students should be given both verbally and in writing to ensure broader understanding.

There’s No Rush

As an English language instructor, take your time when speaking. Make sure that you speak slowly, enunciate carefully and pause often. Give your students time to catch up with you.  Remember, they are processing your words in two languages!

Also remember to periodically check to make sure everyone understands and is following you. Develop a system for checking progress throughout the class to make sure no one is struggling… perhaps a red-light, green-light, amber-light system to know who is with you, who is not and who isn’t sure.

Encourage Birth Language

It is no longer considered necessary or advisable to ban the use of students’ birth language in the ESL classroom. Instead, encourage your students to use their birth language to enhance what they are learning to build their skills.

The result will be students who feel far less inhibited in the classroom and relaxed students are more open to learning.

Create a Safe Environment for Learning

Even long-time speakers of English as a second language still express anxiety about how well they speak it… do they still have an accent, do they still get their prepositions confused, etc.

For students just beginning to learn English, there is a tendency to feel nervous about making mistakes, especially in front of other students because they all imagine everyone else in the classroom is more proficient than they are.

It is the teacher’s responsibility to create at atmosphere in which students understand that mistakes are inevitable and the basis on which we learn.  Take a gentle but firm zero-tolerance approach to criticism in your classroom and encourage free expression.

Creating Successful Learning Atmosphere

For anyone learning a new language in a classroom setting, the experience can be daunting.  No matter what the age of the student is, there is an overwhelming fear of making mistakes that can threaten to paralyze a class before it’s had a chance to take off.  Here are some helpful things to remember when trying to create a successful atmosphere for learning.

Learning Should be Fun

Learning isn’t a punishment so a classroom shouldn’t feel like a sentence.  Students of all ages respond to an atmosphere that is creative and visually appealing.

If possible, avoid a classroom set-up that looks institutional and opt for something more interactive and inviting.  Even the way desks are organized can have a profound effect on a student’s willingness to participate actively in the lessons.  Make an effort to arrange seating in a way that encourages conversation and sharing.

Give the students something to look at!  Bare walls and a talking head standing in front of them for 2-3 hours isn’t going to stimulate anything.  Decorate the room with images that inspire comment and spark discussion.  Remember, you don’t always have to adhere to a lesson plan in the strictest sense. Learning can be inspired by a simple comment about a picture hanging on the wall and that comment can enhance the intended lesson… use it!

Make Learning Relatable

Students learning a new language will respond more quickly to lessons which incorporate everyday items and actions.  Make the lessons relatable for the students by giving them common context.  If your students are a group of young people who love hanging out at the mall, going to movies or listening to music then find ways to brings those elements into your lessons… get creative and make an effort to relate to them in their environment.

Don’t Just Instruct, Demonstrate

When teaching a new language, it isn’t enough to simply issue instructions and expect your students to comprehend your expectation.  Demonstrate to them what it is you are asking them to do to give it some context and don’t be shy about using visual aids. If you can give the students a visual to attach to the verbal instruction you are giving them, you are reinforcing their understanding of it.

Instructions to ESL students should be given both verbally and in writing to ensure broader understanding.

There’s No Rush

As an English language instructor, take your time when speaking. Make sure that you speak slowly, enunciate carefully and pause often. Give your students time to catch up with you.  Remember, they are processing your words in two languages!

Also remember to periodically check to make sure everyone understands and is following you. Develop a system for checking progress throughout the class to make sure no one is struggling… perhaps a red-light, green-light, amber-light system to know who is with you, who is not and who isn’t sure.

Encourage Birth Language

It is no longer considered necessary or advisable to ban the use of students’ birth language in the ESL classroom. Instead, encourage your students to use their birth language to enhance what they are learning to build their skills.

The result will be students who feel far less inhibited in the classroom and relaxed students are more open to learning.

Create a Safe Environment for Learning

Even long-time speakers of English as a second language still express anxiety about how well they speak it… do they still have an accent, do they still get their prepositions confused, etc.

For students just beginning to learn English, there is a tendency to feel nervous about making mistakes, especially in front of other students because they all imagine everyone else in the classroom is more proficient than they are.

It is the teacher’s responsibility to create at atmosphere in which students understand that mistakes are inevitable and the basis on which we learn.  Take a gentle but firm zero-tolerance approach to criticism in your classroom and encourage free expression.

 

 

 

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