Teaching children can be wonderfully rewarding.
They learn by leaps and bounds, and we are often very proud of our young ESL learners’ achievements. But just as rewarding is to be able to share your students’ progress with their parents. And one of the best ways to give mommies and daddies something to be proud of is through a class exhibit.
What Exactly Is a Class Exhibit?
A class exhibit is an event in which ESL students (young learners and teens) display their work and special projects to their parents. They may also act out a short play or skit, sing a song or play games with their families.
Why Hold a Class Exhibit?
There’s only so much a parent can gather regarding their child’s progress through test results and report cards. They may be able to surmise their ability to communicate in writing. But there are skills that are harder to gauge, from a parent’s point of view. Can their child truly speak English? Can they interact with others in this foreign language? What is the extent to which they can communicate? An effective class exhibit should be able to dispel these doubts.
5 Keys to Hosting the Perfect Class Exhibit
When Should You Host It?
As soon as you take on a fresh, new group of students, you should at least start thinking about hosting a class exhibit. Why? Because a successful class exhibit is not the kind of thing you can improvise. It’s not the kind of thing you can plan a week in advance. You can give your students’ parents a couple of weeks’ notice, but a couple of weeks is not enough to plan and create everything you’ll want to display. Also, consider that you won’t want to show the parents what the class has learned in the past two weeks; you’ll want at least a couple of months’ worth of progress to show. Which is why a class exhibit should be held towards the middle of the school year or towards the end. If you only choose to have one per school year, then an end-of-year class exhibit is the best way to go.
Getting Your Class On Board!
Next comes the essential part, something that is more important than the exhibits themselves or the invitations you’ll send out. It is essential that you tell your class that before the end of the school year, you’ll be inviting their parents to come to the school for a very special event, something they’ll have time to prepare for, and which will be the culmination of all of their hard work and effort. Have the class brainstorm ideas for things they’d like their parents to see. Get them excited about the prospect! It’s their chance to show off what they’ve learned. Make sure they understand that the class exhibit is something they will prepare for all year, and just as they work towards accomplishing their learning goals, they will work towards finding ways to display their achievements for their families to see.
Displaying Their Creativity
A class exhibit is more than a place for your students to display their art and crafts. There are plenty of other things to show parents. However, student art is a colorful addition to any class exhibit, and it should not be left out. Try to choose artwork that showcases what the class has learned, perhaps comic strips they’ve created where you can see their artistic talent but also their writing skills. As you go from lesson to lesson, keep an eye out for the kind of projects that can stand out and that your students will be proud to display. Save this work. This will be the first thing that parents see when they walk into the classroom.
Achieving Communication Goals
Arts and crafts projects may bring color and joy to your class exhibit, but you need to give the parents something more. This is the perfect opportunity to have the class show off the kinds of things they’ve learned to say. Have they learned to order food from a menu? Talk about past events? Can they make suggestions or offers? Choose a few short skits or role plays students can act out in small groups. You can even have them dress the part. Be sure to give them plenty of practice before the actual day comes so that they feel confident in their roles.
Annual Class Project
Parents might be happy to see bits and pieces of their children’s work, find out what words and expressions they’ve learned to use or what situations they can handle in English. But it’s a lot more difficult for them to see the progress made from start to finish. This is why I recommend that you choose a project at the start of the year, which your class can develop, maybe work on once a month, and which will give them a finished product to show at the end of the year. Here are a couple of ideas for an annual class project:
- How Much I’ve Learned Video Series: Film your class, or have them film themselves, introducing themselves on the first day of class. Then film short videos throughout the school year as students reach specific learning milestones, like a new verb tense. Have them talk about something they’ve learned or any topic of interest. More often than not, and especially with children, there is a huge difference between the first video and the last, something that not only the parents will appreciate but the students as well.
- My Big English Book! Get two big Styrofoam or cardboard sheets to use as the front and back covers of your book. You can make the book as big as you like. Add a new page to the book every month with pictures of words they’ve learned, descriptions they’ve written, or research they’ve done on a specific topic. Try to have a theme for each page, maybe a special holiday or the class trip to the zoo.
Don’t keep your students’ achievements to yourself.
Share them with their families and celebrate together how far your little ones have come. A class exhibit is more than simply “showing”; it’s a time of celebration – celebrate your students’ achievements for the year and prepare them for those to come.