Learning is Messy!

Image courtesy of Provinciales Primary School

What’s your vision of the ideal classroom?  Is it a classroom where every learner sits calmly and quietly?  Do students always raise their hands before talking?  Are they always focused on their task?

In my experience, this is what’s passed down to us as the ideal class.  But whose ideal class is it?  The teacher’s of course.  The teacher is the one who wants all the students sitting quietly and listening only to them.  They don’t want the chaos of 20 students all talking at once.  Every student should be focused on their task whether they find it interesting or not.

My classrooms rarely fit this vision because I think learning is loud.  Learning is messy.  I try my best to make learners interested in my lessons.  They don’t sit quietly because they aren’t going to get a sticker, they’ll be put in time out, or I’ll yell at them.  In fact, they generally don’t sit quietly at all. :)

When young learners are engaged in a lesson, they’re excited; they want to shout and move around.  A loud classroom means that they’re really happy and enjoy what we’re doing, which will make them feel positive about English and learning.  What more could I ask for?

It’s also great practice.  Sure, I could have students raise their hand before speaking, but then only one student would speak and they’d only say one sentence.  Letting them all shout out the answers, or shouting to be chosen next, or shouting to say what they want to do next is great.  Sure it’s loud and chaotic, but not only are they getting tons of practice, they’re using English to express themselves.  To say what they want to say and to get their desires and interests across.  They’re speaking in their own voice, and not just when the teacher says it’s ok.

I also love projects and tasks and role-plays where all the learners are trying it together.  Will some get side-tracked?  Of course, they’re only 5 years old.  But what would they be doing otherwise?  If you only have one pair of students at a time do something, then the others will simply be bored in their chairs and not learning anyway.  At least if they all participate, they’ll work with each other.  And the surprising thing is, most of them will do the activity to the best of their ability.  Even better, they’ll start teaching each other.  There’s nothing cuter than seeing a five-year-old teach another five-year-old how to buy fruit in English :)

Yes, my classrooms are loud.  Yes, learners are often moving around and may get off task.  But they’re also learning to express themselves.  They’re learning to take responsibility, share, and help each other too.  Learning may be messy, but there sure is a lot of learning, even if it’s spread all over the classroom floor :)


  • By Tarun Patel, November 4, 2011 @ 9:12 pm


    How are you. I am glad to discover your blog through freeeslmaterials.com.

    I run englishteachingdaily.com, a portal that offers a summary of latest ELT blog posts from the blogosphere, event updates, articles and more.

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    We would like to reprint your articles on my site. We will give appropriate credit to you for your works and link to your profile and the website.

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    Tarun Patel

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  • By Adam, January 11, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

    How are you, Nick? I hope all is well. Looking forward to a new post soon.

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