Brain and Heart: Creating an Optimal Climate in the ESL Classroom

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Information about Brain and Heart: Creating an Optimal Climate in the ESL Classroom

Published on September 28, 2013

Author: CarolCostello1



What ensures optimal learning in the ESL classroom? Creation of a positive atmosphere seems obvious; however, typically, little time in academia is devoted to this topic. Tips and tricks for achieving a relaxed yet attentive atmosphere are demonstrated.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you say . . . what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Remember Your Favorite Teacher? Dr. Sharla Jones

If the Walls Had Ears . . .

Before the First Class . . . What are students thinking? Teacher: easy or strict? Male or female? Young or old? Tests: afraid of failure! Grades! Strangers: New friends? How to communicate? Speak my language? Other cultures different—can I connect? English Skills: Embarrassment! Don’t want to look foolish! How good is my English vs. others?

Brain and Heart: How to Create an Optimal Classroom Climate Carol A. Costello M.A.-TESOL Dept. of Foreign Languages, ESL, and Philosophy San Antonio College

Optimal Classroom Climate: Overview I. What’s NOT Taught II. Manage Anxiety/ Elements of Rapport/Trust III. The Big Picture / Your Thoughts

Case Study: Melissa • Serious about teaching • Likes being in the classroom, but . . . • Well prepared and organized • Knows ESL teaching • Experiments with different techniques • Stays on top of her courses • First class technology resources

Melissa’s Dark Side • Feels uncomfortable in class • Senses a chasm between herself and the students • Students may not take another course from her

What’s missing? • Melissa is doing what she was taught in school • Affective filter hypothesis: Krashen

Affective Filter Hypothesis Motivation Self- confidence Anxiety L 2

Blame the Student?

What is NOT Taught Foundation upon which effective teaching occurs

Rapport / Trust • The positive relationship between the people in the classroom Subject Matter

The Classroom is an Emotional Environment! • Building Rapport – Day One – Throughout the semester “Rapport Index” Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Midterm Final

Effect of Rapport / Trust Cause: Connection between student and teacher Effect: Students want to come to class Students participate in activities willingly Become interested in their education

Lowman, 1995 “The ability to stimulate strong positive emotions separates the competent from the outstanding college teacher.”

What Can You Do with a Room Full of Strangers? • Make Them Feel Important! • Every Person is My Teacher

Principles of Creating Rapport Be Approachable Connect Care

Be Approachable: Work the Audience

Be Approachable, Be a Person Go into the class. Teach from the back of the room Be Approachable

Be Approachable: Mingle with the Students

Be Approachable: Stand More than Sit

Connect: Show Your Personal Side

Connect: Roll Call • Names • Countries

Take Photos with Names Connect: Cell Phone and Names

Connect: Use Passport or Similar Game

Connect: Different Cultures

Dr. Nel Noddings “The student is infinitely more important than the subject matter.”

Care: Tell Them “Why” • Activities are not random • Everything has a purpose

Care: Tell Them Why You Love Teaching

Care: Show How Rules Help Them • Police or teacher • Absences • Cell Phone Addiction • Speaking Native Language • Tardiness

Care: Be Easy to Reach “I don’t come here to go home!”

Care: Praise Them! • In front of class • Use their name • Find “excuses” • Write on their tests

Care: Vulnerability • Refugees • Culture Shock • Poverty • Bullying • Immigration status

Principles of Creating Rapport Enthusiasm Use your entire person to promote learning You Tube! Classroom as Theater Check for Engagement!

The Classroom as Theater • Relaxation, smiling face • Voice • Space • It’s like a reality show!

Show Enthusiasm • Professor S. Ceci’s experiment/presentation style – Constant • Books • Tests • Grading – Variable • Enthusiasm – Speaking – Gestures

Are the Students Engaged? • On task • Show understanding • Using English • Look happy • Homework completed

Show Respect and Understanding • Ask permission to touch them or use their items • Explain the emotion of grades • Give non-credit/extra credit tests occasionally

Classroom Rules Show how rules make it easier to teach/learn • Be consistent! • Be positive!

Final Thoughts Students have strong feelings about education

Can I Be Replaced by YouTube?

A Recruiting Station • Show the students the benefits of ESL and academic education • Engender a desire to learn • Show them they can learn and do • Benefits for you, your colleagues, and the institution!

Conclusion • You can do small things and make a big difference • You get swift feedback on your actions • You can change your teaching & life!

References • University of Alberta: Olga Bilash • • Buskist, W. and Saville, B. (2001). Rapport-Building: Creating Positive emotional contexts for enhancing teaching and Learning. APS Observer, 14,. Retrieved September 19, 2013 from • University of Southern California: Center for Excellence in Teaching your_students.pdf • Affective Filter Hypothesis • • Noggins, Nel A Morally Defensible Mission for Schools in the 21st Century (Reprinted from Clinchy, Evans, ed. Transforming Public Education: A New Course for America’s Future. (New York: Teachers College Press, 1997, pp. 27-37) Retrieved September 20, 2013 from

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