Maintain an English only classroom
Learning English is tough, teaching it is just as tough perhaps even tougher. But this article is not about how tough it is to learn nor teach the English language. It’s about how you can get your students to learn it faster through immersion.
It is hard for students to learn another language once they are over a certain age but you can increase their chances of success by providing even a small immersion area for them, your classroom.
Why an English only classroom policy?
There are a number of reasons you want to impose an English only classroom rule. One obvious one is that the noise level in your class drops dramatically. When students are required to only communicate in the language they are learning, suddenly the trending topic they want to discuss so bad doesn’t seem so important anymore.
But that’s not what you are after as a Teacher. What you are really after by imposing an English only classroom are…
- To increase their level of comfort with the language
- Give them the confidence to express themselves and communicate with not just each other but those outside of the classroom as well.
Follow these four steps in maintaining an English only classroom and you will be able to eliminate the student’s native language in your classroom and replace it with English.
Have a plan in place. Ask yourself, how will I reward the students that only speak English in my class and how will I not reward the ones that don’t? If you need such a plan then see my article on class management: The Super Duper System. Without a reinforcement system, you will have a hard time getting the rule to stick.
Be fair and consistent
Walk in the classroom, say nothing and wait for the students to quiet down. When they are silent tell them, this is an English only classroom, no more Korean or whatever language they speak in the class. The students will try and test you to see if you mean it. They will make an effort to break the rule. Others will obey and speak their native language by mistake. In either case, you must punish the offender.
If you punish one without the other you instantly lose credibility and fairness. If this happens you will have a hard time getting it back.
When you punish a student for the first time the air in the class will get thick and the class comfort level will drop but do not waver. This is okay. It’s for their own good. Do not allow the English only classroom rule to be broken at any time during the class, not even in the last 5 or 2 minutes of class.
Give it 3-4 days or even less and you will see the students get quiet as soon as the bell rings. This is good for you because you can begin class right away and it’s good for the student’s language acquisition. Everybody wins.
The more consistent and less forgiving if the rule is broken, the sooner it will become a part of your classroom.
If one student sees another student get rewarded for doing something, they will model that behavior because they want to get rewarded too.
As a Teacher, you too should always remember the rule of English only classroom by heart. With this, you should always be speaking in English. It is a boost for the students when you explain something to them in English and they understand. They build a kind of confidence that says maybe this language is not so hard if I just pay attention. They already think that learning English is hard, it’s your job to prove them wrong.
Don’t be a failure
Give the students the tools they need. You have never had a Doctor treat you without his or her tools, have you? In order for this to work you need to equip the students with the tools they need.
They will need vocabulary, understanding of sentence structure, simple phrases like: may I go to the bathroom? What is this? How do I say?, How do you spell?, I don’t understand, etc. Teach them question words and how to use them and try to increase their vocabulary so that they are able to communicate with you. If not they will just get frustrated and add to their reasons for hating learning English.
You can even hand them flash cards with pertinent questions on them of essential phrases. To lessen the number of flashcards you can group the students to use a particular set. That way when they have a question they don’t know how to ask yet, they can just hold up a flash card. And slowly you take the flash cards away so that they are forced to memorize and remember those questions or phrases.
Because just telling them to use English without giving them the tools they need will not work. Have a system in place and stick to it.
The class size problem
This rule will work effectively with a small class size but you can make it work for a large class too.
Divide the class into groups or sections and for each group assign a leader who monitors who is keeping the rule and who is not. Because monitoring a large class can become a headache and take away from actual teaching. So it is best to assign teams and pit teams against each other. And each day you can reward the best performing team with points that lead to something else or stickers. If you need reward ideas to see my article: 7 reward ideas for Teachers. I hope you can get your students speaking English only very soon.
Follow these steps and you will soon have your students speaking only English in your classroom. As a result, they will also be well behaved, attentive and learning more. Good luck.
If you have any questions or comments there is form below that begs for your thoughts.