Thursday, June 7, 2012

Creating a Safe and Fun Classroom Environment

Teaching English to Adults was new to me, so when I first started I was a bit nervous. I knew that many Spanish Adults although they might have a high level in reading and grammar did not feel as confident in speaking and listening. Therefore I relied on what I knew about teaching children and decided to use some of those same concepts to create a safe and fun classroom environment where they would be comfortable taking risks to speak.

Establish an atmosphere of Mutual Respect
Being prepared for my classes was essential to showing my students that I respected the time they took from their busy schedules to come to class. Respecting their time to answer questions.  Sometimes we are in such a hurry to cover the material we have prepared that we don't give our students enough wait time for them to formulate their answers. Correcting them respectfully and knowing my students enough to know who I could correct publicly and who I couldn't.  I also let my students know that they have a say in what we cover in class. I have them turn in questions on a sheet of paper the size of a post-it note and then go over the answer with them at the beginning of the next class or if it is something the whole class can benefit from I do a short lesson at the beginning of the next class.

Establish Goals from the Beginning
At the beginning of the term I have them establish goals for themselves and celebrate with them when they have reached them.  One of my students goals was to be able to go on a trip and rely on her English speaking abilities to get around.  This past week she went on a trip, she told me that it was the first time that she had gone on a trip where she had to be in charge of the communication and that she was able to do it because her friend did not speak English.  She shared it with the class and we all congratulated her.

Modify Your Lessons
They also know that I am willing to modify lessons if the lesson is not working for them.  I was teaching ed endings for regular verbs one time and they were just not getting it I told them we would go on to something else and I would go back to the drawing board and we would try another time.  When we tried again with some manipulatives where they had to figure out what patterns determine what sound to use the lesson went a lot smoother and I have seen some definite improvement.

Laught at yourself when you make mistakes.  Make it OK to make mistakes. I was teaching the prepositions "in, at and on" and I misread a sentence and thought it said "The roses are in the field", it turns out it was Horses and not Roses, so the proposition should be on the field and we all laughed.  One of my students the other day said "my girlfriends" and I asked "Does your girlfriend know you have more than one. He started laughing and said "Oh, I am glad she wasn't here to hear me," and then we all laughed with him. We have fun together and it makes it easier for them to let go and make mistakes because they are practicing more.

Go the Extra Mile
Finally go the extra mile.  Since the class started I have been emailing them different links for them to improve their listening and comprehension.  Directing them to resources that are available to them, so that they continue to make progress.  I also push them to do their best to improve their level and constantly make comments on their improvements. My greatest reward is to see them make progress and they know that.

The other day when my boss came to observe, she said that they were speaking a lot more than she expected for an Lower Intermediate class, I thought about it and realized how far they have come.


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