TOPIC 22. VARIABLES TO BEAR IN MINDIN THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ENGLISHCLASSROOM: GROUPINGS, THE USE OF SPACE AND TIME, AND THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER.
INTRODUCTION The best lesson will be collapse into a chaosif we don’t organize the classroom. This topicdeals with the main aspects that we have to bearin mind when organize the classes. It includeslesson planning, the use of space, variousstudent groupings, and management resourcesto minimize disruption and undesirablebehaviour and to maximize good performanceand optimum student achievement. This unit provides ideas and strategies withthe demands of classroom diversity according tostudents’ abilities, in a safe and good classroomenvironment.
THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER From the teacher as controller to the teacher as facilitator represent the two opposite ends of the spectrum.• The teacher as controller takes complete control of all aspects of the curriculum experience. They control not only what the students do, but also when they speak and what language they use.• The teacher as assessor evaluates student’s progress to see how well they are performing. It’s important to differentiate between correction (the teacher points out errors and help students to see what is wrong) and feedback (when students have performed a task and they are waiting for teacher’s guidance about how they might improve).• The teacher as organizer. When we organize an activity it is important to give very clear and unambiguous instructions. The children must understand why they are doing the activity, and the teacher must be sure that they have understood the instructions. It’s a good idea to demonstrate or show an example of what is expected from them. It’s very important to establish rules and routines for a good classroom management.• The teacher as prompter facilitates learning experiences, giving students suggestions towards the desired outcome through participatory and challenge activities. Teachers must judge when they have to interfere and when they have to let students to work at their own pace.
THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER• The teacher as participant. There is no reason why teachers shouldn’t participate in activities but he or she should avoid dominating the task. It’s a good opportunity for students to hear good English, and also allows the teacher to check students’ progress and informally correct errors.• The teacher as a resource helps students when required since we shouldn’t interfere too much during communicative activities.• The teacher as a tutor incorporates parts of some of the other roles. It’s a counselling role offering advices to students.• The teacher as investigator tries to look for the best way to enhance his/ her own language learning/ teaching process. This continuous training could be carried out through action research, courses or seminars among others.
THE ROLE OF THE TEACHEROf course a wise teacher should play different roles throughout the year depending on the activities, students’ characteristics, goals, etc. but always taking into account a communicative way of teaching and the students centred approach.The communicative approach and the constructivist learning perspective promote a more dynamic learning style in which students take a more active role and assume responsibility for their own learning.It’s vital that some control of the learning process be handed over the students at an appropriate stage in the lesson, so they can practice the language.Errors should be considered as natural parts of the learning process. Correction shouldn’t interrupt the flow of a dialogue. During communicative activities, errors should be corrected in a subtle and indirect way. Teacher as assessor must decide when is the proper moment to correct the children depending on the activity goals.
STUDENTS GROUPINGS• Lockstep refers to a class grouping where all students are working on the same activity, at the same pace, and the teacher controls all the session.• Pair work creates the opportunity for each student to speak many times in a single lesson and allows to use the language in a meaningful exchange of ideas and information; it enhances student participation, cooperation and provides motivation to learn, this helps to create a positive learning environment.• Group work provides collaborative learning situations, gives students more opportunities to communicate and creates a good opportunity for discussion. We can give students the opportunity to work in flexible and mixed ability groups. The number of students within the group should not exceed of five. The teacher needs to be mobile and visit all areas of the classroom providing feedback, while staying aware of what is happening overall.
The organization of space It’s important to be aware of the different possibilities for groupingsand organizing the classroom. There are fixed items such as lighting,blackboard, projector screen, and other furniture or audiovisualequipment, but the distribution of the desks in the classroom should beflexible and organized depending on the type of activity to be done. Wecan use the following physical distribution of the students in the room:• Class in rows. E.g. exams.• Class in U –Shape. E.g. role plays and other games.• Class in circle. E.g. discussions.• Classes in pairs and in groups encourage communication and social interaction between peers. We should have an English corner where keep all materials:dictionaries, stories, posters, maps, flashcards, books, videos, etc.
THE USE OF TIME Analysis of actual time spent on the different classroom activities canbe useful indicators of how to improve our work. Our main objective is tomaximize the time of communication in each lesson. We should consider: PROGRAM TIME USEFUL OR FUNCTIONAL TIME TIME AVAILABLE FOR PRACTICE COMMUNICATION TIME TIME DEVOTED TO THE TASKGraph 1. Different times within the lesson. Adapted from Piéron (1988)
THE USE OF TIME• Program time is assigned by the Administration.• Useful or Functional time starts when we begin to explain the activities.• Time available for practice, once the pupils begin to work after teacher explanation and materials distribution, is the amount of time students are working on the activities.• Communication time is the time that pupils are speaking in English.• Time devoted to the task is the time that pupils are speaking in English about the topic we are working on and therefore fulfill the objectives.
THE USE OF TIME The time organization should be flexible and natural,not forced. We should follow the rhythm of the class andnot the syllabus or the lesson plan itself. We have two hours or three hours per week with ourEnglish group. Our main objective is to maximize thetime of communication in each class. We have to thinkabout the times the students need to pass from oneactivity to another, to set up student groupings, toexplain the activities, to distribute and collect thematerials, if we use computers, technological problems,etc. Routines are particularly very important to maximizeour teaching, create students’ stability, security andavoid discipline problems.
MANAGING CLASS DISCIPLINE It’s really important to design theclassroom rules, routines and proceduresat the beginning of the year or the didacticunit. Evertson and Woushan (2003) notethat the first few weeks of school areespecially important for classroommanagement because during this timeyour students will learn behaviours andprocedures needed throughout the year.When children internalize the rules is thefirst step to develop self –discipline.
Causes of discipline problemsThe behaviour and attitude of the teacher have effect on discipline. We should consider in order to avoid problems:• Do not go to class unprepared.• Do not be inconsistent.• Do not break the code. Do not issue threats.• Do not give boring classes. Tasks should always be interesting and motivational.• Do not be unfair.• Do not have a negative attitude to learning.
Causes of discipline problemsThere are, of course, a number of extrinsic reasons why students behave badly:• The time of the day. In early morning classes, students may be sleepy and in the last hours tired.• The students’ attitude. Students may find the English classes too challenging. The teacher has to try change negative attitudes by giving interesting lessons close to their tastes. A bored student is a discipline problem while and interested student is not.
To avoid discipline problems• During the first week of the school year, establish a code of conduct with the agreement of students and the teacher and display the rules on the wall.• Routines are very important for good classroom management and because the students feel confident with them.• To designate Bosses of Peace.• Discussions about problems and disruptive behaviours.• To create a positive learning environment.• Everyone has to have something to do.• The task should be meaningful, either too difficult or too easy (ZDP Vygotsky)