classroom organization

Building a Classroom Structure

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Building a sturdy structure, such as a house, requires careful consideration of many factors. First there is the foundation which will support the weight of the house. The walls and bearing wall will support the roof and defend against winds, violent rains, or most things Mother Nature throws against it. Then there is the flooring, roof, pipes, wires, and aesthetic features of the house to consider. Classroom structure is just as vital to learning as the walls of a house. The educator can have a solid philosophy of instruction and learning, and create well thought out lesson plans, but the environment and students can ruin everything. There will be features that are out of the control of the educator, but there are a myriad of elements within control and should be considered to build a better classroom.So what aspects should the educator control, and how much control should the educator have over these aspects? This will totally depend on the educator and his preferences for the type of environment he wants to create. What works for one educator may not work for another, so Tesol Class will list areas of concern in regards to classroom structure and briefly talk about why it is important for the overall structure. There will be more detailed articles in the future to discuss the pros and cons of each aspect.

There will always be two categories in the classroom structure. The things the educator cannot control and aspects the educator has total control over.

Things that can’t be controlled

These elements are totally out of the educator’s control, so it might be beneficial to have discussions with administration to solve such issues.

Classroom Size: Classrooms are usually too small, but a classroom that is too large can be problematic also. If the classroom is too large, there are certain strategies to account for this, but one that is too small puts students on top of one another and really makes everyone uncomfortable. Discussions will need to be made with administration to handle this problem appropriately.

Number of Students: There are two issues with the number of students. The first deals with classroom size and the number of students and this has to be handled with administration. The second is conducting small/large classes and will be covered under the control section.

Classroom Temperature: This is normally not a problem in most classrooms, but some educators may be faced with this enormous problem. This issue can quickly destroy a class as the students will become focused more on the discomfort than the lesson at hand.

Things that can be controlled

These are issues the educator can control and have dominion over. As always, these areas can be acknowledged or not acknowledged by the educator as being pertinent. These topics will have more detailed articles coming.

Educator Personality: What is the educator’s personality in class and towards the students? It’s very important to consider how the educator wants to be viewed by the students as there are always pros and cons with each personality. An educator can be viewed as strict, lenient, outgoing, laid back, friendly, a friend, caring, cold or a mixture of many personalities. These personalities may depend on many different factors and go according to which age group is being instructed and the number of students.

Strategies for Class Size: What strategies must be implemented to account for small/large classes? A class of six students can be quite different than a class of forty students. How to handle the latter can be a cause of concern for most teachers especially if the class emphasizes communication. In addition, a lot depends on the age group being instructed.

Seating Arrangement: How are the students arranged in class? Are the students in lines, pairs, small groups, large groups or in a U-shape? The manner in which the students are arranged can have far reaching implications on behavior and productivity. Consideration needs to be made for objectives and the type of class being presented.

Rules: Are there rules in place for the classroom and do the students know them? There are always rules, but have they been explicitly conveyed to the students? When the educator signs a contract there is always a section explaining what is expected of the educator and what warrants dismissal. What standards do the students have to live up to and what repercussions are in place if they do not abide by the rules.

Expectations/Grades: Do students know how they will be graded? Sounds simple at first, but educators place various weights on certain areas of the classroom and grades reflect these criteria. Some educators put emphasis on tests, some on attending class, others on participation. There are numerous areas to weight classes and the grades, so do the students understand how they will be graded? Are students free to receive grades based on meeting predetermined criteria regardless of relation to other students’ grades? Or, are students put into a curve? This requires the educator to create a structure in which to evaluate who deserves what and students must be aware of expectations.

Student Management: How do you handle the different personalities in the classroom? Students carry in varying personalities can help or destroy a classroom. Predetermining how to deal with students who are shy, disruptive, too eager, disrespectful, etc… will help educators handle situations as they arise.

Self Rules: What rules has the educator put in place to monitor himself. Many educators rarely think of creating standards for themselves, like they create for the students, but this allows the educator to remain consistent by what is expected of him and free from being manipulated emotionally.


Building a Structure

In the near future Tesol Class will feature articles on each of the aspects, but until that time, we encourage the educator to explore and contemplate these elements on his own to find a structure that benefits him. A solid structure will not eliminate all the problems, but will surely make the problems more manageable. Start thinking of a structure today!