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The Ideal TEFL Classroom

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Extreme teaching conditions.

The Ideal TEFL Classroom is the best possible place where you can give your lessons.

And remember that since it’s probably the most important room in your professional life so it’s worthwhile getting it right!

In the world of TEFL‏‎ it’s not easy to predict exactly what your next classroom will be like. You could be teaching in an ultra-modern school in the Middle East with air conditioning, whiteboard‏‎s, computers and every modern convenience possible. Or you could be teaching out in the open, beneath the shade of a tree in a small clearing with nothing but a few scraps of paper and pencils for the students.

But wherever you are teaching and whatever you classroom is like, you need to make the most of it and make sure it is the best possible environment for your students and yourself.

This article goes over the major points you should think about when it comes to your classroom. Some you will be able to change, some you won’t (check with the other users of the classroom), but all of them make a difference.

General Ambiance

Think about the general feel of the classroom. Ideally it needs to be bright, airy, and welcoming. It should set a positive atmosphere with strong colors, clear posters, clean spaces and room so both and your students can move about as and when you need to.

When it comes to the decor, it may not be possible to do everything, but even in an old classroom it’s easy to put up a few posters and liven the place up and even such a simple thing can make a difference.

Remember though, don’t clutter the room; ideally you want to stimulate and offer useful props to your students rather than distract them.

Pictures & Posters

Make them bright, clear and relevant.

Your students are learning English and most likely a bit about your home country so why not have posters of famous landmarks and people, and a map of the world for good measure?

One tip here: if you need posters you can write to the tourist board of your country asking for some. You can also try writing to major companies in your home country who will send advertising posters over as well (and sometimes product samples which can be nice to have). And of course, with the right class you can make the object of a lesson to write to these people so your students become even more involved in the decorating of the room!

And student work is good, too. How about setting aside a large pinboard for your students’ work? Remember to display work as soon as possible – not weeks after it has been done. Also remember to change it regularly and keep it fresh.

By the way, try to avoid drilling or nailing or using drawing pins in the wall as it causes permanent damage. Blu-tac or similar is a better option.

Rules & Guidelines

If you are one of those teachers who likes to set rules and guidelines for your class, then be sure to put them up in a prominent position for all the class to see.

Some English teachers like the idea of English Only‏‎ in the classroom and to help with this you can have a poster telling the world about the policy in clear view to all.

Finally, how about some positive messages and quotes? The students themselves can get involved in finding these and writing them out to be placed around the room. You can easily turn this simple activity into a useful lesson!

Softness & Comfort

With younger classes especially, you want to create or suggest softness and comfort in the classroom. This reflects more a home environment and moves them away from the idea of school as a cold, antiseptic learning environment.

To do this, simply use fabric. Hang a cloth over your desk. Make sure there are drapes and hangings made of material and just a few touches like this will transform the room.

Finally add a few touches – a flower in a vase on your desk, a photo in a frame and so on – to complete the feel of the room and make it much more welcoming.

Other Aspects

But there are plenty more changes you can make to the classroom to make it a more user-friendly environment for both you and your students.

You don’t, of course, have to do all of these but any changes are for the good when it comes to livening up and taking the coldness away from a classroom.

Seating Layout

Make sure all the students can see you when you speak and that you can move around the class freely during group work.

There are a number of possible student layouts but making sure the classroom is student focused‏‎ should be a priority, this usually means small groups of desks/chairs or a move away from the traditional row layout of older classrooms.

See our main article about seating arrangements below.

Temperature & Fresh Air

Keep the classroom airy and cool.

If the room is too hot students get lethargic and turned off. If it’s too cold they get distracted and lose focus.

It may or may not be able to make a big difference in this area, but if you find the room stuffy and too hot/cold then:

  • Remember to close the curtains during break time to keep out the sun if it’s likely to heat up the room.
  • Use drapes to help keep the room warmer/colder.
  • Open the windows to allow fresh air in when you leave the room for a break.

Lighting

Make sure all the students can see you and the board clearly at all times, especially if there are students who have poor eyesight.

It is probably not practical to change the electrical lighting in the room but you might be able to organize curtains for the windows to block out annoying sunlight at certain times of the day or allow in more natural light at others. These are the kinds of things which need to be done before you start teaching and discover there’s a problem.

Acoustics

Echoing classrooms can be not only annoying but also detrimental to learning.

If your classroom suffers like this you can hang a few panels of foam on the walls to deflect the sound and remove echoes. You don’t have to completely cover the walls, just break up large flat surfaces. A few squares of ridged foam will do the trick.

Useful Links

Seating Arrangements‏‎ in your TEFL Classroom – making the most of the class layout.

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