Class cohesion for online TEFL teachers
The most important thing in any class is that learners feel at ease and find the classroom (face2face or online) a welcoming and supportive place to be. As teachers, we play a major role in facilitating this TEFL group cohesion.
We often remember to do getting to know you tasks when we start a new class, but the route to group cohesion is through group responsibility and through tasks that encourage cooperation. They should feature throughout the course to continue to develop class identity and ensure students personal voices are recognised in class. Classroom management plays a huge role so make sure you keep mixing them up and give them a chance to meet each other.
I work in a multi lingual environment in the UK. Remember some students have never left their country and can have ‘fixed’ ideas about other nationalities. It is our job to help break down these barriers and help them see each other as people not a nationality.
Class cohesion for online TEFL teachers: 3 great activities you must try
1. Coat of Arms
Give each student an empty shield or get them to make them. Then then give prompts for either sentences or pictures for each of the four areas. For example something important to me, my ambition, my favourite animal, my zodiac sign, my favourite food, a country I want to visit, what I hope I’ll be doing in 10 years, my best friend….
Once you have filled in all the boxes, it will generate language ☺ Students can either explain their coat of arms to a partner or mingle and find out about each other’s shield. They also make a great classroom wall display! (In a CLIL environment, why not liaise with the art department so they can make them too)
I prefer to get them to draw, this often leads to great hilarity when they share their shields and a genuine information gap when they look at the pictures on their classmates’ shields☺. However, it will depend on the class and the idea is to make the task non-threatening.
Higher levels can add a motto if desired. Mine is “ Laugh every day!”
2. How did it feel?
Do a live listening, telling the students a story about an incident that caused a variety of emotions. E.g. happiness, fear, anger. The first time set general comprehension questions that DON’T focus on emotions but to assist students with understanding what happened.
Tell the story again, this time students listen and imagine themselves in your place. Stop at strategic points in the story and ask them how they feel .e.g. happy, confused, worried, excited etc.
Students now think of a story to tell their partner. As they listen to their partner, they should try to imagine the story is happening to them and think about they feel.
Finally each students writes their partner’s story but in the first person as if it happened to them. They try to put in the feelings as well as the events.
Pin up the stories for everyone to read.
Getting students to ‘walk’ in someone else’s shoes is a great way to break down cultural barriers and it will often lead to natural communication as they ask their partner for more information.
3. We’re all part of the puzzle
If you have young teens or YL classes, this idea from Twinkl is great. You could use it at the start of the course or during the course as a reminder that everyone is important.
Every student is given their own piece of a puzzle to add to and then it creates a whole display that shows they have to work together to make the whole. You could use it to recycle topic vocabulary (our favourite food/ my hero) or for students to put personal info on. The only thing you need is a little imagination!
For more great ideas for TEFL group cohesion and teaching inspiration visit Twinkl and try these books: Classroom dynamics by Jill Hadfield OUP 1992, Personalizing Language Learning G.Griffiths & K. Keohane CUP 2000