“The problem with our profession is that there is too much teaching and not enough learning”.
I said this recently during a discussion and I think it is such an important point to understand about “teaching” a language – that we have to get away from delivery systems that are teacher directed and more towards models where students are self-paced, self-motivated and learning independently. The future IS learning not teaching.
English Language Teaching has been progressing towards an understanding of this. CLT (communicative language teaching), PBI (project based instruction), TBI (task based instruction), collaborative learning and other approaches have made big inroads into traditional teaching models. But they’ve been baby steps. The emperor still believes he / she wears clothes and won’t “give up the ghost” and stop swinging the baton. It IS all and too much, about control.
I’m not going to belabor the point nor expound on my own beliefs about why self directed learning is the future of language instruction and learning (given the access to curriculum technology gives us). No. Let me be down to earth and simply describe my “perfect classroom”. This will give you an idea of what I mean by SDL – self directed learning and giving students increasing choice and independence over what and how they will learn.
My Perfect Classroom.
It looks like this.
The class starts without any teacher talk nor any teachn’ and preachn’. Students walk into the classroom, sign in and head towards their assigned computer. They glance at the whiteboard for the assignment of the day.
The students work with a headset to produce language, finish projects, practice vocabulary word banks using quizzes/flashcards. The activities are leveled and self-paced. Low level students work with the right content – higher level students can challenge themselves. They help each other through English only chat or directly in the class. They are the experts.
The teacher sits in the middle, coffee and tea at hand. With a ring of the bell – she calls for a group to come meet. The teacher practices conversation with the students, using the target language and grammar for the week. She tests the students on the language they’ve been learning. He assesses their needs in a small group and gets valuable feedback about the activities. After 5-10 minutes, it is time for the next group.
The last 15 minutes of class, students get the choice to work on a variety of online activities. Games, songs, blogging, chatting, watching videos – all accessible as provided by the teacher.
The class doesn’t really end. The teacher flicks the lights and the students log off and walk out of the class. They can go online anytime and do the same activities and access the same content. The teacher can download a nice handy log with graphs of student progress and especially time spent on task/activity.
The teacher feels refreshed. He gets another cup of coffee. She skips into the staff room among her weary colleagues.
That’s my perfect classroom. However, it actually did happen and I actually did teach like that! It isn’t pie in the sky. Moreover, it all worked like that described. The trouble-making boys became engrossed learners. The unmotivated high level students became engaged and ignited. I, the teacher, felt invigorated after a day teaching, not weighed down and kaput. It was like Sugata Mitra recently quipped, “When the students are motivated, the learning just happens.”
But we all can do similar things and take steps towards getting to true self directed learning. It isn’t so difficult and in fact it is what YOU as a teacher are doing right now, right this minute.
It can begin with the simple step of deciding it should be so…..
Let’s hear your stories and struggles to be a SDL teacher. We can all learn from them.
Interested in SDL with your students? You might start with these excellent sites – Young Learners:Mingoville Teens/Adults: English Central (sign up as a teacher). Flashcards:EFL Classroom 2.0 Quizlet sets
Note: This article by David Deubelbeiss originally appeared on Teaching Village, and is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non Commercial, No Derivatives 3.0 License. If you wish to share it you must re-publish it “as is”, and retain any credits, acknowledgements, and hyperlinks within it.
About David DeubelbeissDavid Deubelbeiss is an EFL teacher and teacher trainer living in North Bay, Canada. He runs a social network for teachers called EFL Classroom 2.0 and a website of teacher-submitted teaching ideas called Teaching Recipes. Follow David on his blog, Teacher Talk and on Twitter as @ddeubel.
Essay on my ideal classroom set up for elementary school children. My ideal classroom is not entirely, but almost based on fun. My main objective is to have kids come into my class room and feeling that Ms. English’s classroom is a whole lot of fun. Not only do I want my classroom to be fun, but I also want it to be a special place for all of my children. My ideal classroom would have all of the services for all of my children to learn, grow, and thrive. At the same time, I want my classroom to be simple and not too busy.
I feel a busy classroom tends to make children feel overwhelmed and more easily distracted. As far as seating arrangements go I would have to be with my class for at least a full week to figure out the configurations of the classroom. I would most likely situate the children in a group format so that they can socialize and interact with each other. I would form this group configuration based on my observations on who works well together and where the distractions originate from etc. My desk would be situated where I could see all of my students.
If I were to get a Kindergarten classroom I would probably situate the seats in a group setting or large tables. If I had a third grade classroom I would definitely have a big group meeting mat where everyone can gather around during class meetings. I would also make sure to have comfortable chairs and a big couch for children to grab books and read. I want my students to have a comfortable place where they can read and relax. This furniture would be situated right next to my library area.
I would have a huge library for my students. The bigger the library, the more books and you can never have enough books in a classroom. I would also have a computer center in my classroom. I feel that children need many tools in order to learn and grow. Even though a computer is a machine, I feel that it is a vital part of the classroom. I would hope to have at least two computers for my students to work on. Some children do not have access to computers at home and I think that they are a huge tool for a child’s success.
They also bring in technology in the classroom which is important. Next to the computer station I would love to have a science center where children can work directly with their hands. I want a “hands-on” center where children can try new things and learn about animals and plants etc. I think it would be fun for my students to learn and at the same time just “fool” around with all the neat science “stuff. ” A “quiet” area is another part of my ideal classroom. I think a quiet area would be very beneficial for my students.
I would try and enclose a couple of desks off in a corner with bookshelves for any children who need some alone or work time. My classroom would also have many visuals. I want every part of my classroom to be learning aides. The children should learn from what I put on the walls. I would have many signs up for the different centers and put up the alphabet (in Murray format of course), drawings, pictures, colors, numbers, shapes, basically everything to cater to the grade level that I teach. I would also make sure that I cater to any of the special needs students that I probably will have.
This write up of my ideal classroom is obviously not perfect; however, I feel that it is an adequate sketch of how I would visualize my own classroom. I think being in the actual environment, and getting to know your students, along with learning from experience on what works and what doesn’t is what will help me set up my classroom. Daily Routine 8:30-9:00-Morning Meeting/Opening Circle 9:00-10:30-Reading/Language Lessons 10:30-11:00-Reading 11:00-12:00-Math Lessons 12:00-1:00-Lunch 1:00-1:30-Social Studies/Science 1:30-2:15-Movement/Physical Activity/Special 2:30-3:00-Reading/Class activity/Dismissal.