Create an Accepting Environment in your ESL Class

Often in ESL classrooms, there is a constant struggle to create an environment where all students feel comfortable to experiment with their new language. Teachers are constantly trying new ways to get students to interact with the language they are learning.

As teachers, we need to create an environment where experimentation with English is common and anticipated. This is something that needs to be established from the first day of school. It is easier to create this type of environment than to try and fix your classroom environment mid-year. In the beginning of the year/semester sit down and think “what does my perfect classroom look like”. Some of you might be thinking … I see all my students reading independently, I see all my students practicing their English without restrictions, I see a class that works together, etc. So if these are your goals they you need to take steps to get your class to this point. For example, if I want my students to work cooperatively when in groups, but I never assign group projects until the third quarter, am I going to see a class that knows how to work together … NO. They have not had time to practice and develop the necessary skills to work together, so my expectations are unrealistic.

In the same way we need to establish routines and practices that that will render us a classroom environment where our students feel accepted, comfortable, and free to experiment their language skills. I always strive to make this type of environment in my classroom and I always face difficulty. Naturally, students do not want to make mistakes especially in front of their peers, they do not want to be embarrassed. I do a few things to help my students overcome their fear of making a mistake. When I ask them to practice talking or sharing out in class, I give them a starter phrase. “Today I read about …”, “I think …”, “I like …. Because ….”. These starter phrases help them because they already know how to start talking and the rest is typically their opinion. The majority of the students I teach are Spanish speaking, so I try to talk with them in Spanish and of course I make mistakes all the time. This shows them that even adults make mistakes when they are learning a new language. These few things usually give my students the confidence they need to experiment and practice their English. But for those shy students who don’t want to try, you have to establish a relationship with them and show them that they are safe in your class.


Nafis said...

I wish I had had a teacher like you in my life.If I had, I would have been more successful than I am today.
I hope your students know the value of your efforts.

Good luck,

Melissa said...

Nafis, thank you for your kind words. I wish I had more students with your enthusiasm for learning! Keep up the good studying

Nafis said...

Thank YOU so much and It is very kind of you, but I think your blog give me the energy to study.I feel I am in the middle of a real class.So, thank YOU and thanks Tim Berenzli who invented the Internet and those who developed it.That is why I can study very easily.