My secondary class (age 14+, B1) are exploring education in our latest module. We are building up to a ‘design your ideal school’ task. The first step was to consider what makes a good classroom/learning environment.
Step 1: General discussion questions as a lead-in, about what they think of their education system, their schools and learning environments, etc. Brief critique of our own learning environment.
Step 2: Brainstorm these concepts
|A traditional classroom is / has…||A non-traditional classroom is / has…|
|An inspiring classroom is / has…||An uninspiring classroom is / has…|
I considered different wording here – controlled, free, etc, but it was far too leading. I considered defining the terms myself, but it worked much better with the students doing this together (thanks to my line manager for pointing that out).
Learners discussed where they might place a) their own school, b) our language school on this grid.
Step 4: Give learners loads of images of classrooms from around the world. They discuss each image with a partner and place it on the grid. They then have a chance to discuss others’ decisions, make changes, etc. I displayed the grid on the wall – good visual.
Step 5: Using the visual for ideas, learners work in pairs to come up with criteria for an ideal learning environment:
The ideal learning environment should…
Step 6: Learners make sure that all the items in their criteria are justified – they must explain how they think their decisions will impact on learning. Example:
- The ideal learning environment should be painted with mellow, calming colours.
- The ideal learning environment should be painted with mellow, calming colours. This will help learners relax and focus.
Students mingle, share ideas and magpie good ideas from each other.
Step 7: Learners drafted a letter to our school director. They explained what they liked about our classroom environment, and how it might be improved.
How did it go?
There were some really interesting discussions, and lots of emergent language too. Learners seemed engaged throughout. Overall, they were more positive about their own classroom environments than I’d anticipated. The visual activity didn’t reflect that, but the follow up task(s) did.
The weeks ahead…
The order is a bit arbitrary (my fault), but next up we’ll be looking at the curriculum – what to include / omit and why.
We’ll cover a few other topics too – educational values, access to education, inclusion, etc. In the final week, students will design their ideal schools and present these to parents/staff/each other.