The Tricked Out Classroom: 10 Things Every ESL Teacher Wants
No classroom is perfect. If we try, we could probably list hundreds of improvements we would like to see in our classrooms. Unfortunately, budgets are often our biggest enemies when it comes to classroom updates. Still, it never hurts to ask your administration for improvements you would like to have.
And on the rare occasion that the administration has money to offer for classroom improvement, it helps to be ready with a list of ideas. What would you want for your ideal classroom? Here are some things other teachers have longed for, from the most practical to the ones that will take a little more convincing to get.
10 Things You Need for Your Dream Classroom
What does a teacher have if she doesn’t have stuff? Collecting teaching materials, props and supplies year after year makes every school year a little easier, but it also, ultimately, leads to a need for lots of storage space. Closets, cupboards, shelves full of crates, and filing cabinets are all useful storage resources for the classroom. Plus, most take little to no installation and do not require much financial investment. The next time your school has a few extra dollars to spend on classrooms, increasing the storage in your room might be a no brainer!
A Place to Read
What teacher does not want his students to read more? Creating a reading lounge in the classroom might be just the motivation your students need to crack open a good book. To create a cozy and inviting atmosphere, position some couches, beanbag chairs, and soft area rugs near shelves holding your classroom library. Allow students to add to the library or borrow from it at their leisure. During free periods, students will flock to the most comfortable place in the classroom, and will find themselves reading the best books you, their teacher, have to offer! If you take the time to ask, you may find that there are always people ready to donate couches. Try placing an ad online or simply ask parents to spread the word around their neighborhoods.
In today’s high tech world, computers are essential. Teachers who are lucky enough to have computers in the classroom often wish for more – enough computers so each student in class has one they can use. Once the computers are in place, it is time to add printers, scanners, and multimedia resources for students to use as they practice their listening and speaking. While we are dreaming, why not include a method to video chat with a sister class in the U.S. whose students are of comparable age to your class? Getting these resources may take some convincing, but the administration will be impressed when you show them how many resources your students will have at their fingertips when they each have a computer in the classroom.
Would any teacher turn down volunteers at any time? In elementary grades, not only can volunteers prepare craft projects and help with classroom activities like snack, volunteers in the ESL classroom are a great asset during reading time or as conversation partners. Though volunteers do not cost anything, they can be difficult to recruit. Put the word out. Try a classroom exchange. Invite parents to schedule volunteer days. The more people who are invested in your students’ educations, the more success they will see.
Do you wish you could bring the convenience of technology into your classroom without the expense of a personal computer lab? Classroom Wi-Fi can give your students access to technology through their personal devices. Though welcoming iPads, smart phones, tablet computers and the like into your classroom does have some disadvantages, the resources they make available to your students far outweigh the disadvantages for most teachers. Getting classroom Wi-Fi may not take much. Often an antenna booster will do the trick even through the thickest of cement walls.
How much time do your students lose every time they need to excuse themselves? Having your own bathrooms can give you a closer look into how your students are spending their time and might keep some kids from using hall passes as licenses to text lists of friends. If you do not already have bathrooms in your classroom, your administration may be reluctant to consider them. Still, it never hurts to ask, especially when you can outline all the ways those bathrooms will benefit your students.
Though some classes may have snacks or other food in class daily, ESL teachers probably have food related lessons every couple of weeks or even less. On those days, a classroom kitchen can be invaluable. What does every teacher need? A refrigerator, a microwave, hot plates, and a sink should all be on the list, in addition to assorted kitchen gadgets. Students will find the classroom kitchen useful when studying food units or talking about culture in relation to food. (And of course there is always popcorn to make on movie days!) You can create your own pseudo kitchen with a dorm fridge and inexpensive microwave. Getting the plumbing and sink installed may be more of a challenge.
A Class Website
Though technically not in the classroom, a website designed just for your class can offer many perks. Not only can you list testing dates and homework assignments, you can use your website for more unique activities. These might include student blogs, interactive activities and resources for students, and creating student podcasts. Getting your students to use the language that they know is extremely important, and having the class manage a website might be a more interesting activity than the traditional classroom fare. You will need a website administrator unless you have advanced computer skills, and you should be sure to keep your website up to date. As for financial investments, the annual fee for a hosting a website is usually rather small.
A Place Outside
Whether a garden, courtyard, or some simple picnic tables, many teachers wish they could give their students a comfortable and natural outdoor setting as part of language class. These areas can be used for independent study time, but they also come in handy when studying units on weather, nature, plants or sports. If you are lucky enough to have an outside study area next to your classroom, don’t forget to ask for a door leading from the classroom to your outside space and plenty of windows to enjoy the view. If an outdoor area is not in the blueprints, look into “adopting” a piece of the school’s property to use with your class at designated times.
An Interactive Whiteboard
If you have ever wished you could project your computer screen onto the wall of your classroom, you have wished for an interactive whiteboard. By using a stylus or the pressure of your finger, you can make presentations and web pages accessible to your entire class rather than just the few who can see your computer screen. Edit your presentations directly on the board and watch your students fix their attention on this high tech classroom addition! An interactive whiteboard will require a significant financial investment and is probably a decision several people in leadership will have to consider.
In some ways, our classrooms are like our homes.
We spend a large percentage of our times there and invest much of our hearts in the education of our students. When we can, we like to make improvements to our classrooms to encourage comfort and learning for our students. If you are lucky, you already have multiple items on this list in your classroom, but if not think about which of these or other improvements would mean the most to you. Then you will be ready for any opportunity when there are a few extra dollars in the classroom improvement budget. Remember, it never hurts to ask!
Susan likes to enjoy every day to its fullest whether she is freelance writing, teaching homeschoolers, or developing her special talent of instigation. When she is not imagining sand castles or catching others off balance, she cooks, sings, reads and takes walks in the sunshine. She earned an M.A. from the University of Delaware in Linguistics and an M.A. from Trinity School for Ministry in Youth Ministry. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband and her three cheepy cockatiels.
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