January is the first month of the year and the midpoint for those teaching on a traditional academic schedule. This is a great time to consider ways to liven up the classroom for your students’ sake as well as your own. What kinds of changes can create positive energy and foster a sense of renewed commitment to language study?
- A new wall display. Are your walls bare? Or have you had the same displays up long enough that you yourself no longer take notice of them? Time for an update. See 5 Ways to Make the Classroom “Our” Room and my suggestion for a Wall of Proverbs in Teaching Proverbs.
- A new seating arrangement. Okay, if you’re short on space or in auditorium with immovable desks, this isn’t possible. However, if you do have the option of designing your own seating arrangement, you might consider trying out clusters as opposed to rows or using two semicircles rather than one large horseshoe formation. If your room is set up with whiteboards on more than one wall, you can keep the same arrangement but make a 45° or 180° turn. At the very least, you can reposition just the teacher’s desk. The idea is to create a sense of newness yet still have a practical workspace. What promotes interaction among the students yet allows them to focus on you during a presentation?
- New student resources. If you don’t have a designated space for student resources, it’s time to create one. The basics include dictionaries, both a standard copy and a learner’s edition. Be on the lookout for affordable additions. Occasional treasures turn up at yard sales and flea markets for little money. Libraries sometimes have book sales to raise money and get rid of old editions. A few paperback novels (even with old publication dates) can still offer language practice to students in their free time.
- New décor. Sounds silly, yet simple things like houseplants and a subtle air freshener can create a welcoming environment. (Just be wary of strong fragrances. Some students may have allergies.) Find your happy medium between an institutional setting and “home sweet home”. Knick knacks can add character and serve as conversation starters. They can also be functional. Do you play language games which require students to draw slips of paper? Bring in an old decorative tea canister or cookie jar for this use.
- A new practice. Try something new each month. In January, every Friday can be joke day. You start your Friday lesson by telling a joke (and see if the students get it). Encourage them to retell it to another person that day. In February, Mondays can be the day you share the riddle of the week. On Fridays, you see if anyone solved it. As for the other months? Try tongue twisters, horoscopes, anagrams, and more. The idea is to encourage playfulness with and in the target language, all of which is conducive to communication.