Language Sensei

Thoughts on The Journey of Teaching Languages

Changing Seating/Changing Teaching – What My Classroom “Set Up” Says…

| 2 Comments

Teaching ClassI looked out at my room the other day – the same room I started to teach in when it was a new school in in 1997. The blackboard is now a whiteboard, the screen is there for my computer…and wow – is that the same old TV in the corner for video announcements? (Yes!) But even more interesting for me is what has really changed. There is a big difference in ‘how’ my students use the room – how they sit, what they do, and where the focus on learning is. It took me a minute to connect the change in my room setup and my changing educational practice.The journey mirrors the evolution of my teaching…

Single Rows – Focus: Teacher at the front of the room:  Those first few years, with their long nights of prepping material and me trying to wrap my head around what I was ‘teaching’. Note the word ‘teaching’. With my students in rows, facing the front, it was clearly a ‘teacher as the driving force’ kind of space. And in those early years, as I worked to discover who I was as a teacher, and even what kind of things I wanted my students to explore it probably needed to be this way. The first few years can be chaotic, challenging and oh so much fun…and clearly, if you looked at my desk arrangement, I was the one ‘in charge’.

Pairs – in a “U” shape – Focus: Teacher at the  front of the room/another student: Gradually my room saw a change – from single rows to pairs – and, daringly, not even in rows. This coincided with my degree of comfort in the what and how that I was teaching. Notice again though that the focus was on me and the front of the room. Yes, I thought it had to be as that is where the screen for the overhead – replaced by computer/LCD is located. My degree of comfort in ‘letting them go and interact’ was growing – and I injected lots of partner/interactive time into the class. But clearly the setup still said ” ‘Focus on the teacher – and then shift to practicing with your partner’ (but remember who is in charge! )

“Tables” 4 desks- all facing each other – Focus: Fellow Students/Teacher when needed: And this year – another change for me – and another ‘leap’ in my style of teaching. I had tried the group of 4 in the past – but hadn’t made the permanent shift. But the changes in my teaching, and a visit to Catherine Ousselin (@catherineKU72) and her ‘table setup’ did it for me. If I was going to let my students, and a communicative/interactive focus be a priority, I needed to put my ‘desks where my teaching philosophy is’. So now they sit – pods of 4 desks – a partner to talk to beside them – and pair across the table for broader consultation/interaction. It’s a challenge at times – but remarkably easy to pull them all together for the ‘coaching’ moments at the screen/board. I don’t even think of it as the ‘front’ of the room any more – the focus is now on the students – and my teaching, okay my language coaching – is improving because of it.

I hope that my room now says to my students “the focus here is on you and using your language skills to communicate.” What does your setup say about what you value in your class?

Colleen

 

 

2 Comments

  1. My students are currently in traditional rows, but the more pair/group work I implement, the more unnatural this setup seems. I am considering a change to groups of 4 after the holidays, but the one thing holding me back is the worry that it will make classroom management a lot more difficult. Did you find that there was a lot more off-task chatter when you changed to groups? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated! 🙂

  2. Hi Kristen, I really like the 4’s – there is a bit more incidental chatter – but as expectations are set by you it drops off. The toughest to adjust are the first year’s – they are more chatty in part because they can do less in the TL. The older they are the better it seems to go – so its a learning process for both. The key for me is that I set the seats. I do it for every grade I teach (even the seniors) – I set it all semester except for 1 unit when I let them choose (with the warning that if they are too chatty I will switch seats!). Having some ‘how am I working in class’ self-assessment also serves to pound home the message vis a vis your expectations! I hope you try it – the benefits do seem to outweigh the concerns. Colleen

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.


Skip to toolbar