I wonder how common it is for a teacher to see a classroom as his or her own rather than a classroom that belongs to the students as much as it belongs to the teacher. Does the cushy seat on wheels, coat hook, coffee mug, and set of whiteboard markers create a warm welcome when you step through the door? What do your students feel when they enter the same room? What a classroom looks like and the kind of learning that takes place in it create either a communal environment or the sense that one has just entered the teacher’s domain. What can teachers do to make students view the room as “our” room? Here are just a few ideas. Feel free to add to the list.
1. Create a wall display of class photos and/ or student work.
Did you go on a field trip together? Post some snapshots. While there are a growing number of options to share photos and students compositions with your students online (e.g. class blog), it’s still nice to have hard copies in the classroom to promote a sense of group.
2. Establish a common library of resources.
You can still have your personal library of reference books on your desk or in a closed bookshelf behind your desk, but in one corner of the room you can make a collection of books available to the students for in-house use only. You can also bring in magazines from home once you are done reading them and allow students to take them home overnight. They should feel that there are both people and materials in the room that can help them learn the language.
3. Post goals.
I’ve talked about setting goals more than once. I can’t stress enough the value of doing this. One additional thought I’d like to share is the idea of identifying common goals among students and posting them somewhere in the room. Two students may have the goal of passing the written driver’s exam. If the students are aware of their common goals, they can support each other. Also, one’s student’s goal may inspire another to achieve the same thing. If such goals are posted, you can more easily bear them in mind as the teacher.
4. Set up a comments/suggestion box.
The students themselves may have ideas about how to improve the classroom and your lessons. Provide at least one way for them to voice comments and suggestions. Can they send you e-mail? Do you have office hours? Even a physical comments/ suggestion box can be an option. Some may like the anonymity of using it.
5. Allow students to choose lesson themes.
Without starting a discussion on the principles of learner-centered teaching, allow me to suggest the idea that students can have a say in choosing lesson themes. The curriculum may confine you to a certain list of language topics, but perhaps there is some freedom in choosing the context(s) in which you can present and practice those topics. Sure, the textbook teaches the simple past using the biographies of Jane Austen and other English writers, but if you know that your students are music lovers, you can give further practice using biographies of their favorite artists. Find out some of their interests within the first week of your course and consider how to tailor some of the lessons to suit their interests throughout the school year.