Classroom Set Up

Classroom set up: how the ESL Classroom should be set up

by Kevin Burns

I think one thing to strive for in your teaching, whether you teach in Toronto or Tokyo is for less teacher centered and more student centered classes in your classroom set up.

With this in mind, you should try to set up the classroom to emphasize this. You may be stifled somewhat by the designers of the classroom. If there is only one white/blackboard at the front, the designers, designed the classroom to be very teacher centred. However you can negate that with your teaching style.

Whenever possible have the students face each other. Studies have shown that when students sit facing each other, they talk more.

*Any way that you can make it easier for students to communicate will improve your class.

Be sure to move them around, to give them chances to speak with different partners. Give women and men chances to speak with each other.

Physical attraction can motivate students to talk more. Or less if they are shy to start with. But I think it is good to experiment with different strategies.

Do they talk more standing up or sitting down? Does he talk more with the girls or the guys? Try different things with different students. Never stop tinkering!

Certainly putting boys and girls together in junior high school classes in Japan has the effect of creating an exquisite silence, and often students will speak less. You will need to limit contact between the sexes in junior high classes.

In junior high classes, I have found that friends working together works well. For the most part, the students work well together and don`t fool around too much. If they do, just put them with different partners.

Classroom Set Up: Circular Seating Style

If possible, for a change of pace, you may want to try arranging the seats in a circular fashion. This allows everyone to feel a part of the group.

Or you can arrange the chairs or tables into small groups of 4-6 students with students facing each other 2×2 or 3×3. This allows for more face to face intimacy than the: “all desks face the teacher style.”


Don`t be afraid to tinker to find what works best with each of your classes. All classes are different even if the name of the class is the same. Each class has a totally different group personality and therefore, class atmosphere.

Move amongst the students monitoring them. Don`t sit ensconced at the front of the room. Move amongst them monitoring them, and be available to answer questions.

When I have to do some marking or other administrative work during a class, I often sit amongst them. They feel more comfortable about asking me a question (they don`t have to walk all the way to the front of the room–in front of everyone), and it breaks down the teacher-student hierarchy to some extent; (which of course is pronounced in Japan).

If your school allows, have some English books, DVDs, and posters of exotic destinations in the classroom. These will inpsire and improve the atmosphere. I sometimes have a DVD or the radio playing as students enter the class. It helps to get them in the mood for English.

About kintaro63

Writer and teacher in Japan
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1 Response to Classroom Set Up

  1. Pingback: Motivation to Learn | How to teach English in Japan

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