Classroom spaces – inside and out

This is a summary of the #ELTchat which took place on Wed 28 June 2017.  It is a chat which I took part in, at the end of my first teaching day with a new bunch of students in Norwich and this is my 11th summary overall, although it is partly written with the chat DJ, Matthew Noble (@tesolmatthew).  It was basically written a few days after but is only now being published.

Matthew had set up the chat with the premise of discussing the physical space where teachers had taught in the past – be it inside or outside the normal confines of a classroom ‘box’. In addition he began the chat began with the following prompts:


It started slowly, but gradually chatters began to appear from out of their respective classroom woodwork and wallflower lurking.

@SueAnnan said “it looks like we are discussing classroom features which make it a good place to work … what makes an effective work space for you?”

@tesolmatthew wanted to hear about the positive and negative aspects of different teaching spaces.  @Kamilaofprague immediately suggested this was “a pretty standard idea but that the topic could be extended by [discussing] what we trade our lessons for: other lessons, goods, services and nothing”

@teacherphili wondered if by ‘classroom’ we meant 4 walls, desks, chairs and so on.  @sueannan thought 4 walls were important to be considered as one. @digteap felt if 4 walls is the defining feature then she had only ever taught in a classroom.

The idea of alternative class spaces, different and alternative payment practices was an idea that cropped up.  @digteap asked “so where have you all taught that’s not a classroom?”  This generated a large response from chatters with contributions, with some sharing photographic evidence, throughout the remainder of the chat and into the slowburn.

@sueannan said she likes spaces which are flexible. She taught in a room in Malta where the table was the size of the room, which was impossible to monitor. @digteap replied that she had experienced that – I guess we have 2 modify the way we teach depending on the environment. Nice to be able to move though.  Sue’s rooms have small tables which fit together and can be separated.  @Glenyshanson replied that is just perfect for her style. Too much furniture or desks that can’t be moved are awful. Students and teachers all need to be able to move.  @digteap stated that she actually quite like those old fashioned chairs that have little tables attached.  But @sueannan said she hates them –  students can’t spread out to work.  They can so easily be rearranged in groups, however, especially modern ones with wheels (see below) offered @digteap:

maria digteap tweet (2)

@Glenyshanson said that she had several portable whiteboards, which were very light and about the same size as my SW charts. Also carried pictures to get teens talking. That’s the benefit of using iPads, added @sueannan. They are brilliant for illustrating things. @MConca16 said she had taught outdoors in a London park on summer camps. @fionaljp stated that her first job was at a summer camp on a Turkish beach teaching children for 6 weeks. She has also taught taught doctors in a Spanish hospital at 8am in the morning.  @teacherphili stated that his first (voluntary) job was teaching under a mango tree in an orphanage, in Tanzania,  with hardly any resources – that was outside! He provided this accompanying image, too:

teacherphili tweet and tesolmatthew reply

@teacherphili: In Tanzania we had no board rubbers so we used our hands & cleaned them on the kids’ hair to get rid of the chalk.  @tesolmatthew wondered if anyone could top that for low-resource environment, before sharing his own photos. He taught in a battered classroom in Sri Lanka – very very low resource. Chalk, one bench, even cattle roaming through because it was in a big open shed. He wrote: “That was my very first classroom. So it was only up from there!” and “ It allowed me to REALLY appreciate the basics of a modern space”. @EdLaur responded by saying ”Wow! I will never complain about not having a IWB again”.  Later, after the tsunami in Sri Lanka, @tesolmatthew did private lessons on board a beached dredger ship – another atypical classroom for sure! – his pics are shared below:


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@sueannan says she has done the odd 1-2-1 class in a hotel space.   She had a recent request to teach from a student who wanted lessons in her own dining room.  She has taught, however, in other people’s kitchens.  Similarly, @teacherphili had recently been doing just that.  Both used iPads as their alternative whiteboard. Additionally, both Sue and Phil were given great coffee by their students during class.  

Tyson Tweet
At first, @seburnt thought a coffee shop was the only non-classroom place he had taught, but then revealed that he did turn his bedroom into a quasi 1-2-1 classroom for a while. A ‘bit inapproprié’ thought @digteap, while @teacherphili replied that he “would draw a big fat line at teaching IN my bedroom. Maybe online FROM my bedroom, at a push.” @seburnt said he didn’t have another appropriate space to do it.

@teacherphili said he was currently teaching at a university where everything – the walls, concrete buildings & even the inside of the lifts are grey, which sounded depressing, according to @Sueannan, adding that she had one room with a purple wall.  @glenyshanson stated that she taught in a French uni with walls dripping with filth. Ss only complained when course went badly.  @Sueannan replied that she finds students often don’t notice. Hers only complain if something goes wrong with the toilets.   Another room had several pillars, added @glenyshanson.  She had to peer round them to see the students.  Mostly it was just ordinary classrooms. Square rooms are better than long, narrow ones for being able to see students and vice versa.  

@teacherphili mentioned that he’d been “teaching in other people’s dining rooms recently.  Kind of a classroom. I bring a portable whiteboard & markers + ipad” and @SueAnnan said “It’s great to put tables away when your class is small. Makes the room feel friendlier”. @glenyshanson said that she “had several portable whiteboards. Very light & about the same size as my SW charts. Also carried pictures to get teens talking”.

As usual, the 60-minute live #ELTchat was followed by 24 hours worth of ‘slowburn’. It wasn’t a particularly busy slowburn. Here are a few highlights:

@compellingtalks asked: “Can we also lobby for more schools to adopt best practices & modern furniture? Card tables & chairs w/wheels make students easier!”

@tesolmatthew shared another picture, writing: Aha! I found my pic of the ULTIMATE out-of-classroom scene. Raymond Murphy grammar study in a waterfall:


Rob Sheppard, who tweets at @robshpprd, said “For years I’ve dreamt of a classroom with yoga balls and modular tables on wheels”. To which @tesolmatthew responded: “Didn’t they do that in the 1970s with Bach on?”

robshpprd tweet and tesolmatthew reply

Soon afterwards, @tesolmatthew remembered another non-classroom teaching experience: “More non-classroom experience: worked mostly in the editing room but occasionally on set of a TV show”. And again he shared a picture:

tesolmatthew tweet
In the slowburn,  @lexicojules posted this:

lexicojules tweet

while @teacherphili added this: 
Teacherphili classroom spaces tweet

..and the conversation continued in response, blending into the ongoing dialogues taking place that week on twitter and elsewhere.  

If you have your own interesting classroom experiences then why not share them in the comments box.

Participants:  @tesolmatthew (moderator); @SueAnnan (moderator); @Kamilaofprague; @getgreatenglish; @Ven_VVE; @GemmaELT; @ITLegge; @ThisIsMattStott; @Fionaljp; @Teacherphili; @digteap; @seburnt; @MConca16; @RogersHistory; @harrisonmike; @GlenysHanson; @compellingtalks; @robshpprd; @FizzicsEd; @ElleninEdmonton; @CorineMerrill32; @LeoWill11; @TeresaBestwick; @lexicojules; @ELTdanbuller, @Marisa_C and myself, @teacherphili.




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