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One of the primary challenges facing teachers is encouraging students to participate. Particularly among students who are struggling with learning a new language, speaking in front of a group of peers can be a daunting task that can impede their progression significantly. Fortunately, there are several ways that teachers can address this problem and foster a more comfortable environment for students. One of the easiest ways for a teacher to control the dynamics of a classroom is through seating arrangements. There are a variety of seating arrangements that a teacher can choose from, each having a different effect on the classroom environment. A carefully thought out seating arrangement in a classroom can allow students to feel a greater sense of community and consequently feel more comfortable participating in classroom activities. The most traditional seating arrangement is desk rows with students facing the teacher. This seating arrangement fosters a very teacher-centric
environment and allows for easy control of the classroom. Therefore, it is often a popular choice among teachers. However, a tefl teacher has different factors to consider than a traditional teacher. In a tefl classroom, group work and discussion amongst students is often beneficial and encouraged. Unfortunately, although it allows for maximum teacher control, traditional desk rows tend to make communication between students more difficult and therefore are often not recommended for tefl classroom purposes. Another seating option is cluster seating. In this scenario, groups of three or more students are put together in groups facing each other. This makes it convenient for students to work on assignments in groups or to form teams for language games. Also, because cluster seating shifts the classroom from teacher-centered
towards student-centered, it encourages students to interact more with each other than with the teacher, who can take on a role more similar to that of a facilitator. In a tefl classroom where the primary goal is to gain confidence communicating in a foreign language, creating this dynamic in the classroom can be very beneficial. teachers can also place stronger students with weaker students, giving them the chance to assist their peers when they are having difficulty without having to look to the teacher. This method of self-correction has been shown to be more effective than correction from the teacher. The primary challenge teachers face with cluster seating is classroom management. The teacher must make a special effort to maintain control of the class and guide it towards productive activities
without allowing students to get off track. Students placed in cluster seating, particularly in a monolingual class, will have a greater tendency to revert back to communicating in their native language, which can be disruptive. In relatively small classrooms teachers may also choose to arrange students in a horseshoe arrangement. In this scenario the focus is more evenly distributed between students and the teacher, as everyone is able to see everyone in the class easily. It poses similar challenges to cluster seating, as students sitting in close proximity may be tempted to talk amongst each other. However, the fact that the teacher can easily see and reprimand them, as well as their visibility to the rest of the class, makes it less appealing for students to get off task. Pair seating also has similar implications to cluster and horseshoe seating arrangements. Like clusters, students sitting in pairs can easily work together and can be paired together based on ability to ensure that weaker students can get assistance from stronger students. Pairs are more likely to be disruptive than students
in traditional row seating, but because the groupings are smaller than those in cluster seating, they are less prone to distracting behavior and are easier to correct. Each teacher has a preference as to how they want their classroom to operate. In some circumstances seating arrangements may seem to be of little importance. However, in a tefl classroom, where the use of language skills is of the utmost importance to the success of the class, controlling how students interact with each other is crucial. Understanding how seating arrangement can play a role in how the class performs can make a world of difference in the success of a tefl class. Jody. "Seating Arrangements in the Classroom." tefl Articles. ITTT, 07 Sept. 2006. Web. 25 Aug. 2012. .
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