Published 15th March 2019
The English as a Foreign Language classroom is a very special space. It is often the only place our English language learners will be exposed to the language.
Sure we can encourage them to watch movies and read books (or even do homework!) at home, but there is no guarantee that they are taking our advice and putting in the effort.
Unless you are teaching English in an English-speaking city, there is a very real possibility that your students only engage with English for the 45 minutes or so that they are in your classroom.
This is why it’s so important for your classroom to be a language-rich environment.
Ways to create a language-rich environment in your EFL classroom
Use word walls
When you are dealing with new vocabulary, write the words on pieces of paper and stick them up on the wall. You can do this yourself or you can spend time during class and let your students make the word posters. It is also useful to group the words by topic and illustrate them with small pictures or symbols.
Having words up on the wall makes them visible to your students which makes it more likely that they will use them. Even if they don’t use them, it will keep them on their minds and increase their passive vocabulary.
Have a classroom library
Your school might have a library and the town you’re in probably has a library, but that doesn’t mean your students utilise those facilities. Having a library in the classroom means that it is very easy for your students to find a book they might find interesting.
Make a collection of English novels that are suitable for your learners. If you teach different ages or levels, separate your books into appropriate collections so that your students will know where to look. You don’t need to spend money on books. Bring in your own books or ask other teachers to donate theirs.
Put language in unexpected places
The language you expose your students to doesn’t have to be related to what you do in the classroom. Print out quotes or sayings and stick them up in random places around the classroom – by the door as they leave, for example.
If you regularly change what you have around your classroom your students will notice and pay attention to the language.
Turning your EFL classroom into a language-rich environment is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Your students should come into the classroom and be surrounded by language at all times. This will bring the language to their attention even when they are not focussing on it. In this way you are automatically increasing your learner’s exposure to language.