TESOL Tips: Foster a Social Community in Your Classroom

Classroom Management tips to foster a social community in TESOL Learning a language, in many cases, is as much a social occupation as it is a professional  or academic one. Students studying abroad, for instance, rely on their school as a place to meet people and to practice English with. It can be emotionally difficult for many students to cope with being away from their family, friends and daily routines, so it is crucial that students quickly find others to spend time with. Students studying in their own countries also need to feel socially engaged, because learning and using a language is an inherently social task. If they can’t connect with or relate to their classmates, they will be losing out on opportunities for practice and growth.

Be a Social Leader – Classroom Management TESOL

In order to encourage the development of a strong social community in your class, you need to be a social leader. You can set standards for interaction by ‘personalizing’ language activities so that, in addition to learning grammar or vocabulary, students are also learning something about each other.  For example, whenever I have classes that are intermediate or higher, I have them get to know each other during the first class while they do a challenging language task.  At first, I get them to read the first pages from famous novels narrated by memorable characters (Great Expectations, Moby Dick), do a little work with the language in the material, and then pair up and interview each other. The final product is a one-page piece of introductory writing, which can take the form of a poem, a Facebook profile, a traditional biography, a story or an interview transcript. I also ask them to take a picture, which I  print, and to put both picture and writing up on a wall of the classroom. I make sure that they invest effort into making the project look good, because it’s a representation of a classmate, and I find that the care they put into that project sets a precedent of care between them.  For lower level students, I would do the same thing, but with lower-level readings, which I perhaps make myself, and with lower expectations and more guidance around the writing.

Be Inclusive – Classroom Management TESOL

It is important to model inclusive learning practices by taking interest in students who may feel like outsiders, thereby showing other students how to ‘take care of ‘ their classmates. If you can spare the time, offer extra help to struggling students to help them catch up a little so that they can participate more in communicative exercises. In general, it’s very important that you spend time with students one-on-one in order to build a professional and personal relationship that allows you to know and help them better.

Facilitate Social Engagement – Classroom Management TESOL

Facilitating social engagement between students is very important. If you teach students who are studying abroad, suggest activities that they can do together, which also have a language focus, like reviewing an art show or a restaurant or seeing a film that you have discussed in class. Or, better yet, ask them to share their extracurricular plans with each other, so that they are doing the things that really interest them. That way, students have a great reason to both get out and meet people and also practice English. You don’t need to be with them, of course, because they will slowly (or sometimes very quickly) develop a community that isn’t so reliant on your leadership. Stronger bonds will  improve the quality of interactions between students in class. In turn, students will be more comfortable, have more fun and learn more.

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