By Mihaela MOLDOVEANU
"WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF CLASSROOM LAYOUT ?"
The layout of a classroom can influence the classroom atmosphere, by creating, for example, feelings of isolation or togetherness. It can also affect the effectiveness of our teaching. For example, when a teacher is teaching a language, it is essential that everyone can see his lips when he is speaking so they can see how he shapes new sounds.
A very good way to arrange the class is to place the tables and the chairs in a "U" shape. This means that: the children can see the teacher's face perfectly; he can create more intimate area for the moments when he is telling stories or singing; he can put the children into pairs or groups by simply taking some chairs from the outside and placing them on the inside.
While this "U" shape layout is very useful, it is a good idea to have a break from routine from time to time by changing the layout.
Whatever the layout of the classroom, it can be useful to divide the class into smaller, more manageable sub-groups. This can be especially helpful with pupils aged three to five. Working in groups gives children the opportunity to learn to work as a team and help each other, to identify and look after their material. This is easier for them if they can share the responsibility among the members.
But the groups of children should be monitored. The teacher can go round the classroom to check that each group is working. When groups are playing a quiet game, he can check occasionally that everyone in each group is participating and paying attention. He can get the whole group to say: "It is your turn".
As the teacher knows to manage his class, the children can manage themselves, too. With children aged five an older the teacher can get them to manage themselves when they are doing an activity in groups.
It is important with young children to have a class routine. Young children have no sense of formal time , so saying 20 minutes mean nothing to them, but a routine helps them to know what to expect and do and starts giving them a notion of time passing . The way the teacher begins his lesson and the way he finishes the lesson is very important for them. The teacher should always begin the lesson with something normal, common for them. He could use an activity which will both draw the class together and make them realize that the English lesson has begun, such as a song or rhyme that they know well. Then, for example, he revises a few items of vocabulary with pictures (obligatory for young learners) and add one or two new ones. Or he asks them a question that they know but have not heard with those pictures. This will prepare them for learning something new.
MANAGING THE CLASS ALSO MEANS MANAGING THE MATERIALS.
A teacher should check that everyone has everything they need before starting an activity and always have extra materials ready for the child who needs to start again or who has broken his materials. He should always have more materials available then necessary. He will need them for when a class works quickly or for those children who always finish before the others. A child with nothing to do is a potential source of trouble, so a teacher should have extra pictures to color, puzzles to do, cards to play with or books to look at.
There are 3 types of resources:
1.) Resources for activities mean crayons, pencils, felt-tips (with no - permanent ink), round-tipped scissors; paints (see that they are washable) and thick and fine paintbrushes; glue sticks - they are much cleaner to use than paste or glue in a bottle; colored card for backing pictures, making flashcards, crafts; large pieces of paper for making murals, displaying class projects; magazines and comics which children can cut out to make pictures, flashcards, collages.
2.) Resources for storage mean large plastic bottles, with the tops cut off, handy containers for scissors, pencils, paintbrushes. Cover the cut-off edges with masking tape so children do not cut themselves; envelopes to keep your own and the children's flashcards, in a few big boxes to hold toys. Lego, etc (depending on the age of your children). Cover them in colored wrapping paper and put the picture on the front or top of what is kept inside.
3.) Resources for identification - with younger children a teacher could try to tie different colored ribbons onto scissors, or other objects. Children identify their group's scissors by the ribbons (scissors with green ribbon are for the green group and the red ones are for the red group); with older children, a teacher can write his children's names on a piece of ribbon and then he can tie it on the various objects. Children should have a lot of toys, books and pictures around them all the time.
MANAGING THE CLASS ALSO LOOKS AT HOW TO GIVE THE CHILDREN AN EVIRONMENT IN WHICH THEY CAN LEARN AND FEEL SAFE AND TO ESTABLISH AN ATMOSPHERE OF ORDER AND INTIMACY.
A healthy and good environment at kindergarten means a good discipline with and among young children.
There are some important questions regarding the discipline:
"WHY IS THE WHOLE CLASS DIFFICULT ?"
A class that loves their teacher will on the whole, work for that teacher. However, external events affect young children more than the older ones. A teacher should take into account that:
His class will be excited and difficult to deal with when the weather is about to change.
At the end of the day, week or term, children will be tired and excited, so the teacher should lighten the work load.
Anything new or different will enthuse children and make them difficult to handle (but their pleasure and pride at the end of a new activity make it worth the effort).
Children may be troublesome either because they have not really understood what their teacher is expecting them to do, or they are bored, or the activity is too long. In that case, it is easier for the teacher to stop the activity and return to it another day when he had a chance to re-plan it.
"WHAT CAN A TEACHER DO WHEN HIS CLASS IS DIFFICULT ?"
Shouting at a class to get its attention is a short term, very limited approach and one which sets a bad example (although an occasional shout will not hurt when necessary). Other methods to try are as follows:
the teacher could use a well-established signal which means "Children be quiet and pay attention". For example, he claps three times and put up his hand, saying nothing. As the children see him, they should put up their hands and be quiet. Little by little, silence will spread. For younger children, he could ring a little bell which means they have to show him their work.
if the class is restless, the teacher uses a favorite game as: "If you finish quickly, we will play..."
some days are impossible. It will be better for the teacher to forget his lesson plan and go outside and let the children play (if the weather is fine, if it is not, you may try to read them some jokes, sing some songs, or play some funny games)
a last resort is to "hypnotize" the class. If he has already played the game to teach adjectives. Just say: "One, two, three sleep!" and the children will react by habit and pretend they are sleeping by putting their heads on their desks and being quiet. (No giggling or snoring allowed - this is serious). When they have calmed down, the teacher should speak to them quietly and calmly .then let them "sleep "a little more before continuing. If they rush into the next activity, they have to go back to sleep again. Do not worry if they spend a good part of your lesson "sleeping": what you lose in time you will gain in training them in concentration and discipline. Children always prefer to do something instead of sleeping, and, given a choice ("Do you want to sleep or ....?"), they will choose the later. - the teacher should remember to praise the children when they have been good. "You are working hard and are learning a lot. I am very proud of you".
"HOW DOES A TEACHER DISCIPLINE INDIVIDUAL CHILDREN ?"
Individual discipline is exactly that individual. With time, the teacher will learn what works best with each child.
If a child is disruptive he just walks over to him and place his hand on his shoulder or head and continue with the lesson.
Likewise, if two or three children are misbehaving the teacher should place himself physically in their midst.
If he is sitting on the floor while doing an activity with young children, place the disruptive child on his lap or right beside him, and continue with the activity. There is no need to tell them to stop talking. Teacher's proximity is enough to silence them and he has not interrupted the activity.
"HOW SHOULD A TEACHER SPEAK TO A YOUNG CHILD ABOUT HIS MISBEHAVIOUR ?"
When a teacher has to speak personally to a child about an incident of misbehavior, it is better to tell him that he wants to speak to him after class. When he is on his own with him, he should get down to his level and speak to him face to face, holding his hand or putting your hand on his shoulder or hip. That way: - he will communicate with him more easily; - the child will be obliged to pay attention; -he is showing your concern and the importance of what he is saying.
If a normally cooperative child suddenly starts misbehaving, there is usually a reason for this. For example, his parents have separated, his mother his expecting or has just had a baby, the family is moving, etc. The teacher should find out what is happening and take it into account.
He should remember that a child that constantly misbehaves is very often a discouraged child that needs help and attention.
"WHAT CAN A TEACHER DO WITH QUIET CHILDREN ?"
Some children are very shy and quiet and need to grow in confidence. It is easier to try and help them feel more self- confident through physical activities before trying to speak English.
In class, the teacher should place carefully his shy child with children who are open but who will not overwhelm him.
Give him opportunities to do things in front of others.
e.g: "Do you want to sing a song with me for the class?";
"No ?"; "Then do you want to hold my music book and I will sing the song?”; "O.K. ?"; "Let us give it a try".
Use physical opportunities so that the child can start enjoying being the center of attention. Make sure that at the beginning his role is not demanding. If the teacher wants to review a new English vocabulary or some new expressions he will have to be very careful in stimulating the quiet child to say those things. For the beginning, he may try to persuade him to tell, to pronounce the words with him. The shy and quiet children feel secure especially with the teacher.
When it comes to speak in class, even seven-and eight-year-olds can "lose" their voices occasionally, especially if they speak in another language. They will whisper their answer and he will have to sit right beside them and strain to hear them. When they have given a good answer say: "Very good!" "Now how about telling it your friend beside you?" and later "Now about telling the answer to the class" "Your friends would like to know".
"WHAT CAN A TEACHER DO WITH ACTIVE CHILDREN ?"
Here, we are referring to children who need a lot of activity, not naughty children. These children learn to slow down and acquire longer concentration spans as they got older, but in the meantime, the teacher should:
always have extra activities to give them, especially ones that will help them to concentrate.
make them feel that they are doing something useful and that they are helping, not annoying, him.
disguise that fact he is just keeping them busy: "Anna do you think you could do this puzzle for me? I need to know if there are any pieces missing" or “Do you think you could color this poster for the class?", etc.
Another important issue is recording pupils' progress.
Whether a requirement or not, it is very useful to keep a record of your pupils progress.
"When and how should a teacher assess his pupils progress?"
It is a good idea, that three or four times during the kindergarten year, to sit the pupils beside him, either individually or in pairs, to assess their progress. He will need about five or ten minutes per child to do this exercise, depending on the child. He should use a day when the class is particularly excited and is unable to work, or when he himself is having a bad day. He should let the class play either in the classroom or the playground while he calls each child to him. He is giving his children a break from routine as well as getting some valuable information on his class and individual pupils. Or, taking time while the children are busy doing something quiet to call them over individually.
After he decides himself when he assesses his pupils progress, he has to think carefully how to assess his pupils progress.
For example, he shows the child a picture on the subject he wants to check and ask him to describe it. In his agenda, the teacher writes the date and what he is saying. The teacher should be sure to record faithfully what he says. He should note:
-if he corrects himself
-if he does not complete a word (for example: Br-..... from Broomstick)
-if he has to help him with a word
-if his influence or pronunciation has improved
anything else of relevance (e.g: Is he starting to create his own sentences ?) The teacher should not worry about nothing down every grammatical or lexical error.
He should try to help his pupils unless it is really essential. Some children get" stuck" if they cannot find the word they want, others simply cannot think of anything to say. The teacher should help them by asking questions, miming an action, etc. and encourage them throughout the exercise.
Here is an example of such an assessment. The child is six years old. The lesson was held at the beginning of his second year of English. The class had been learning about animals and the teacher asked the child to talk about the picture of the jungle that he was coloring. (The rest of the class was busy coloring the same, too).
First the teacher starts by commenting that his picture was very pretty: What is this ? It is a jungle. That is right Good\ Now, what can you see in the jungle ?"
The child: "The jungle is big. In the jungle is monkeys, elephants and lions. In the wat... (The teacher wrote what the child said, and added on his agenda "water") Is hippo. The hippo is fat and red. (The child has colored his hippo red)."The hippo is swimming. One parrot flying .The gorilla is funny .He is behind thr elephant. In front the elephant is lion, girafe and kangaroo. A girafe is Hungary. A tigrt is orange. I like my picture".
The teacher wrote :
Improvements : Is /are, prepositions
Problems : a/the, there is/there are
Fluency: improved a lot
After the child finished speaking or presenting his picture the teacher has to think carefully how to tell him about his progress. He should never show them with his ringer and say "You are so weak”. This will definitely upset the child and he will feel very disappointed. The children are very sensitive, do not forget that.
To a weaker child a teacher could tell "It says you are making a lot of progress and I am very happy" or "It says your -work is not too bad but I think you can work harder"
Since the children see it written down (they give your comment a lot of importance).
Pupils' work should be kept a record of them. These records will be useful in many ways:
• The teacher will be able to see exactly where each pupil is having problems
• The teacher will get a general view of what the class has and has not assimilated and what needs working on.
• The teacher has something to show parents when they come to see him and he will be able to explain to them perfectly how their child is doing (parents will feel proud to see that their children are able to say something in English).
• The teacher has a record which he can use when he has to write reports.
•And finally, the teacher will feel encouraged when he reads his pupils notebooks. There are periods during the kindergarten year when he can feel that his pupils are just not progressing, which is a very frustrating, if not depressing, feeling. However, if the teacher goes back to the beginning of his pupils notebooks and look through them, he will see that he is wrong and that his children are in fact improving.
MOTIVATION AND PARENT
Young children do not usually ask to learn foreign language. From their position in society they are not often confronted with problems of communication with speakers of other languages. They are not motivated to learn another language in the way that older learners might be. If they are to take part in a foreign language course with success, the motivation has to come from another source. First it comes from their parents who enter them for the course, but above all it comes from the enjoyment and pleasure experienced in the learning situation.
Home and school are closely linked in the young child’s mind and activities in the classroom should in some ways reflect what he child does or talk about at home, for example new additions to the family, pets or bicycles. Most parents of young children are interested in knowing exactly what goes on in the lesson and teachers generally find that parents appreciate being informed or invited to informal class functions. Parents can be kept in touch in the following ways:
A parent’s notebook in which the teacher writes the information in Romanian and the parent replies in writing in the notebook;
Notes written jointly by the teacher and children asking parents to come to a play, read a rhyme together with children or listen to a certain part of a cassette recording;
A special time once a month when parents come into the classroom to fetch their children and see a small exhibition of work;
An end-of-term concert. Parents who speak English can be asked to help in turns by the teacher or be asked to come on special days like birthdays to help with the snack. There is not reason why parents who do not speaks English cannot help their children. However, the teacher needs to explain to these parents how to help their children by listening to a cassette recording together or watching them whilst they copy a poem or make some writing patterns.
There is often a considerable difference between the achievement of children who have parental support and children whose parent do not make any effort to help them or show little or no interest.
Concluding this chapter, it is obvious that in planning of an effective foreign language course for young children, the term “effective” applies not only to a structure of the course and the language to be taught, but also to the way the course is taught and the circumstances in which the children are learning. We should take in consideration the following:
Long years of experience have shown that the most important factor is the teacher. Without a suitable teacher, teaching young children becomes impracticable. A teacher of young learners first of all has to have the ability to communicate with them. The other essential skills, wich can be acquired, are competence in the foreign language and teaching experience.
The size of the group
The size of the group is an important factor. Ideally, it should not exceed the physical reach of the teacher – sitting in circle this will mean ten, at the most 12 children.
The length of the lesson
The length is another crucial factor. It is well know that young children cannot concentrate for long periods and hat forcing them to work for longer results in them learning nothing at all. A maximum 20 minutes active teaching at a stretch has been proved to be acceptable for both teacher and children.
REFERENCES AND NOTES:
1 Byrne, D. 1991 –Teaching Oral English, Longman.
2 Brumfit, C; Moon, J; Tongue, R. 1991 –Teaching English to Children from Practice to Principle, Great Britain.
3. Dunn, O. 1979 – Beginning English with Young Children, Longman