The Linguist

The Linguist 53,4

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Rory Gallagher now plans to make the following changes to his classroom: • Repaint my classroom, using a warm colour behind the board to highlight it. My room is very busy with flags and displays, mostly to hide the state of the walls. They could be a little less busy and painted in a bright, neutral tone. • Redesign my displays in consultation with my students to find out what they find useful and beautiful. These could be changed more often. • Put up more of my students' work on the displays. A lot of it merits being exhibited and can be used to demonstrate good work to other students. This work could also be interactive and useful for learning. • Move the desks around more often to allow students to walk around the classroom (vital for speaking exercises and activities where interaction is needed). • Film myself from different points in the classroom to see what the students' perspective is. This will help me to look at seating plans, and questions of visibility and audibility, as well as letting me see my body language while I teach. • See if it is possible to introduce another light source in the room, or to change the neon bulbs for a softer, more natural light. • Use an adjustable desk to provide a place for students to work standing up. • Keep my workspace tidy and uncluttered as an example of how I want theirs to be. • Put myself more often in the students' places in order to remind myself of their physical environment. variety to the students; and I can visit every student, see their work and talk to them regularly. Originally, I used a group configuration for the seating plan, and for most groups this worked very well, especially with speaking activities. Students can talk in their groups without having to speak in front of the teacher or the whole class. I changed to the plan below when some of the students in the larger groups told me they felt cramped and that it was difficult to see the board. I know that many teachers stay in a relatively confined area of the classroom but I try to avoid that. The red lines on the seating plan show how I try to move around the room so that students at the back or sides are not ignored. A colleague commented that I should map students' movements around the room. Unfortunately, there would only be short lines to the toilet, with perhaps a short burst of movement for a speaking activity. I can see how frustrating that must be for many. An environment for learning I try to be aware of my body language as I stand before my students, and especially as I stand near them. There is an inherent power relationship between someone standing and 18 The Linguist AUGUST/SEPTEMBER FEATURES Classrooms around the world look very similar, and they have changed very little over time. There are generally two features that allow an observer to know they are in a classroom: desks and chairs, and the possibility for everyone to see one side of the classroom (where a teacher and black/whiteboard is normally situated). This is the most efficient way of seating a relatively large group of children in a relatively small room, and allows a teacher to show and explain information to the whole class. My own classroom does not differ from this model, and although I have experimented with table layouts, the options appear to be limited. The first change I made was to add my own decoration. There are prayer flags, posters from art galleries, and various balloons and toys lying around, and I made a small garden on one of the window sills. I decided that my back would not cope with the chair I had been given, and persuaded the Deputy Head that a £200 office chair would be cheaper than paying for a substitute teacher if I had to take days off due to back problems (I have a slipped disk). As I settled into my room (and my lovely chair), I compared it to those of my colleagues. Some had fewer student lockers; others had a better view or a more practical position for the projector, but ultimately I had not got a bad deal. My room is neither too hot nor too cold, it has afternoon sunlight and, being towards the end of the corridor, I can leave my door open and there are rarely distractions from students walking past. None of these are a given in the school setting. I aim to move around the classroom as much as possible, for various reasons: it is better for my back than sitting; it offers Japanese and French teacher Rory Gallagher considers the physical environment for teachers and students alike Let's get physical SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHING MAKING IMPROVEMENTS

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