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Setting Up Your ESL Classroom and Organizing Your Students

I always find that the key to having a successful lesson is planning properly and that includes setting up your classroom properly too. There are many ways that you can set up your classroom. My personal preference is to have the students chairs at the edge of the classroom, in a horseshoe pattern, giving you lot's of room in the middle when playing ESL games and activities.

For most of the activities you will need to organize teams. I always organize my students so that they are standing in lines. One good tip: If you have square tiled flooring, you can get the students to stand on them and if they move off the square their team loses a point. This helps to stop the students from moving around and it will also make your lessons more fun. If you do not have squares on the floor, then you may want to consider using the student books placed on the floor. When you want the students to change their position in the line, you can call out "change" and then the students should change their position. This could be timed to make it a bit more exciting. Useful tip: Try shouting "Chicken" or "Chalk". If the students move then you can take points away from their team. This will also create some laughs. Also, if the students don't get to their allocated square before you finish the countdown, they have point(s) deducted.

It is generally recognized, that the use of regular instructional language i.e. commands, evokes class control. in my experience, this has proved to be true and I always spend a couple of minutes at the start of each lesson giving various commands. Examples are:

Classroom Instructions (TPR)

sit down

stand up

point to the....

look at the....

Open/close your book

open your bag

Pick up your pencil

put down your pencil

get your notebook out

Stand in a line

Stand in 2/3 lines

stand in a circle

Stand in pairs

boys in one circle and girls in one circle

one line: boy, girl, boy, girl....

When giving these commands and for the students to carry them out speed is of optimum importance. It is therefore expedient for the teacher to count 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, thus encouraging the individual to complete each action within this given time limit. This adds to the fun factor.

To encourage integration, alternate seating arrangements with a boy, girl, boy, girl mix.

Flashcards are probably the most important resource that any teacher can have especially when teaching younger children. Flashcards can be used for much more than drilling exercises. These games will show you how to use flashcards in a way that is both fun and educational for your students.
Using a points system in the classroom is an ideal way to bring fun and order to the classroom. A point system in the ESL classroom can be used to reward good students and punish bad students.
Teaching a conversation class without a text book can be a complete nightmare. I'm sure you have all had moments in the classroom when the conversation just dies and nobody knows what to say. These easy to use questions will help keep the conversation going.