Four elements to create a powerful learning environment

A powerful learning environment is an environment that stimulates as many pupils and students to learn as possible. This means that you take away all the possible barriers to full participation.

Four main principles can guide you to create a powerful environment for NAMs.

Provide context

Providing context means that you teach in a way that the pupil always has multisensorial input (combination of visual, spoken, … support).
Also use the school and the city as one big learning centre: go outside, got to the shop to teach about shops etc.

Language support

Do not lower your expectations during the process. Make sure that you do everything you can to help your pupil to achieve your expectations. And thus: provide language support that makes it possible for your students to fully participate in your lesson.
Some concrete examples for language support are:
· make a glossary of the most common sentences in classroom practice. Visualise them in the classroom, or give the students a booklet with them. These sentences can help them to:
o ask a question
o express their opinion
o ask for explanation
o give feedback to a classmate
o express emotions
o …
· a resource wall with dictionaries, a translation computer…
· speaking and writing can be supported by blanks exercises, whereas the other pupils answer open questions
· in a debate exercise with heterogeneous groups, make sure that students also get the opportunity to take part in the discussion. Give a “speaking card” to every student. Once they put in on the table, they can give their opinion. Once the card is used, it cannot be used again.
· …

Interaction

We learn a language by using it. Every moment that a pupil spends in the classroom is an opportunity to make the pupil talk. Two main resources that can help you as a teacher, are open questions and the use of cooperative learning strategies. These strategies make pupils work together. Language is a necessary medium. You can find some concrete strategies here.

Even if the answer comes slowly or incomplete, stimulate the pupils to talk, to discuss, to learn actively.

See the whole school as a learning environment for the pupil. Don’t limit the concept of learning to the classroom activities. Linguistic learning goals don’t always have to be offered explicitly. This is a list of activities that a school can organize in order to stimulate active citizenship amongst NAMs and stimulate them to talk and interact.
o Are the NAM-students taught separately? Do not organise that in a run-down room that hasn’t been used for years. This vulnerable group deserves a high-quality didactic framework.
o Find ways to connect them with their schoolmates as much as possible. Focus especially on their strengths and interests:
 participation in sports teams at school;
 participation in the school theatre;
 give or take interviews for the school newspaper or the school blog;
 participation in workshops together with other pupils;
o participate in the school theatre;
o broadcast on the school radio;
o …

Psychosocial aspects

Wellbeing is an important condition to facilitate profound learning. NAM students happen to bring more life experience to schools. It is important to provide time and place for these aspects.