The TEFL Life: A TEFL blog

a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures

what a difference a desk makes

A classroom is a classroom is a classroom.

There are so many things to think about before we even step into the classroom that it’s no surprise that we often forget the most basic theory we’ve learnt. I’ve been teaching for almost 15 years and last week in the classroom I was reminded of something I had long forgotten about.

The power of classroom layout.

I think it’s something we make use of so regularly that we forget how important it is.

I was teaching a small conversation class of 5 students. The classroom was quite big – it could sit about 10 – 12 – and it had 4 long desks in a u-shape. All the students were sitting behind a desk, facing the board – in other words, in a line.

I had taught them already for 2 days but on the previous days there had been 6 students and the lessons had gone really smoothly. But on this day something just didn’t feel right. The conversation was awkward, people were interrupting each other or not hearing each other – it was just very disjointed and I was getting frustrated.

And then it hit me.

They were all looking at me. I was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible to try and encourage conversation between them but because they were all facing the front they were automatically directing their conversation to me, whereas when there had been 6 they had naturally been able to speak easily in smaller groups.

So I asked them to put away their books and I rearranged them so they were all sitting around one desk in a closed group, facing each other.

And just like that, all was good with the world again.

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