Four elements to create a powerful learning environment

A powerful learning environment is an environment that stimulates as many 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 newcomers.

Provide context

Providing context means that you teach in a way that the pupil always has multi-censorial input (combination of visual and/or spoken support).
Also use the school and the city as one big learning center: go outside or got to the shop to teach about shops.

Language support

Do not lower your expectations during the process. Make sure that you do everything you can to help your student 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. Visualize them in the classroom, or give the students a booklet. 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
· a resource wall with dictionaries or a translation computer
· speaking and writing can be supported by fill-in exercises, whereas the other students 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 a student 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 students 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 and to learn actively.

Consider the whole school as a learning environment for the pupil. Do not limit the concept of learning to the classroom activities. Linguistic learning goals do not always have to be offered explicitly. This is a list of activities that a school can organize in order to stimulate active citizenship among newcomers and stimulate them to talk and interact.
o Are the newcomer-students taught separately? Do not organize 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 theater;
 give or take interviews for the school newspaper or the school blog;
 participation in workshops together with other pupils;
o participate in the school theater;
o broadcast on the school radio.

Psycho-social aspects

Well being is important in facilitating profound learning. Newcomer students happen to bring more life experience to schools. It is important to provide time and place for these aspects.