Você está na página 1de 8

2005 CATESOL Northern Regional Conference Joseph Lee

Building and Maintaining a Community in the ESL Classroom November 5, 2005

Building and Maintaining a Community

in the ESL Classroom

Joseph J. Lee

2005 CATESOL Northern Regional Conference Joseph Lee
Building and Maintaining a Community in the ESL Classroom November 5, 2005

“Success depends less on materials, techniques and linguistic analyses, and more on what goes on inside and between
the people in the classroom” (Stevick, 1980, p. 4)

A. Introduction:
¾ A community is a “group” of people who interact with each other and have common interests.
¾ The ESL class is a community as it displays all of the characteristic features of a real “group”
(Dörnyei & Murphey, 2003).
1. There is some interaction among group members.
2. Group members perceive themselves as a distinct unit and demonstrate a level of
commitment to it.
3. Group members share some purpose or goal for being together.
4. The group endures for a reasonable period of time (i.e. not only for minutes).
5. The group has developed some sort of a salient ‘internal structure’, which includes:
ƒ the regulation of entry and departure into/from the group;
ƒ rules and standards of behavior for members;
ƒ relatively stable interpersonal relationship patterns and an established status hierarchy;
ƒ some division of group roles.
6. Finally, as a direct consequence of the above points, the group is held accountable for its
members’ actions.
(Erhman & Dörnyei, 1998, p. 72)

B. Research Methodology:
¾ Participants:
ƒ 24 ESL teachers (CaZada College, College of San Mateo, CCSF, SFSU ALI, SFSU)
¾ Instrument:
ƒ Questionnaire: 6 open-ended questions

C. Key Research Question:

¾ What do practicing ESL teachers do to build and maintain group cohesiveness in their

D. Findings:

1. What teachers believe are characteristics of a cohesive learner group:

¾ Students display active and equal participation in lively pair/group work and whole class
¾ Students support and encourage each other, especially shy students or those new to an
interactive classroom.
¾ Students invite each other to speak, are curious to learn about each other’s opinions and
ideas, and respectful of each other.
¾ Students display individual accountability in pair/group work, as well as interdependence.
¾ Students help each other to learn.
¾ Students enjoy working together with various members: multicultural, multilingual, and
¾ Students joke and laugh together, not at each other.
¾ There is an audible “buzz” before, during, and after class.
¾ Pair/group work is started quickly and easily.

2005 CATESOL Northern Regional Conference Joseph Lee
Building and Maintaining a Community in the ESL Classroom November 5, 2005

¾ Students are aware of each other’s presence and absence.

¾ Students are aware of each other’s personalities/strengths/weaknesses and other aspects.
¾ Students sit close to and are in close contact with each other.

2. What teachers do to build a cohesive learner group:

¾ Use ice-breakers at the start of the semester.

¾ Create a class “roster” (Name, email, birthday) and class photo for the students.
¾ Create classroom agreements/contracts/constitution collaboratively.
¾ Explicitly state the rationale for collaboration and cooperation.
ƒ Explicitly state teacher’s and students’ roles
¾ Encourage students to set up “buddy system”.
¾ Engage students in warm-up conversation in pairs leading to whole class conversation.
ƒ What did you do over the weekend?
ƒ What did you do over the break?
ƒ How do you feel when you speak/read/write in English?
¾ Show enthusiasm and provide praise for responses, comments, and ideas.
¾ Teach/practice/use language necessary for working together.
¾ Use a variety of interactive getting-to-know-you games.
¾ Don’t make a big deal about wrong answers.
¾ Use humor.

3. Types of icebreakers teachers use to build a cohesive learner group:

¾ Cocktail party/Mingling/Mixer (See p. 7 for sample)

ƒ Ask about each other’s interests
ƒ Finding names
ƒ Find someone who
¾ Interview and write a biography about a classmate
ƒ Name, hometown, language ability, food likes
ƒ Student-generated questions about classmate and culture
¾ Pair/Group interest comparisons
ƒ Find 3 things in common
ƒ Find commonalities in goals
¾ Group discussions
ƒ Personal topics
ƒ Native countries/cultures
ƒ Things you’re good at and things you want to improve
¾ Name games (See p. 7 for sample)
ƒ State name and one thing you like that starts with the same sound as the first letter of
your name
ƒ What does your name mean?
ƒ Who gave you your name?
ƒ Name bingo – Bingo with names of classmates as answers
ƒ Name quiz
¾ Exchange personal info (name, phone, email, hobbies) with “buddies”
¾ Two truths and a lie

2005 CATESOL Northern Regional Conference Joseph Lee
Building and Maintaining a Community in the ESL Classroom November 5, 2005

4. Types of seating arrangements teachers use to build and maintain a cohesive

learner group:

¾ Whole class:
ƒ Circle
ƒ Semi-circle/U-shape
ƒ * Double U-shape (individual desks; class size: >25)
¾ Small Group Work (3-6 students)
ƒ Triangle
ƒ Square
ƒ Small circle
¾ Pair Work
ƒ Students face each other
¾ To ensure students work with different classmates:
ƒ Assign groups – multilingual, multicultural, multi-proficiency
ƒ Count off (1-4) students

5. Types of activities teachers use to maintain a cohesive learner group:

¾ Pair/group interviews of each other on different topics

¾ Small group work activities/tasks:
ƒ Group discussions of readings
ƒ Graded group projects/presentations
ƒ Out-of-class group interview activities
ƒ Group debates
ƒ Group problem-solving activities
ƒ Group “Jeopardy”
ƒ Groups collect information for research paper collaboratively
ƒ Groups work together at the board (writing & proofreading)
ƒ Groups get only one copy of handout of an activity to share
ƒ Groups choose “significant quotes” for the whole class to discuss
ƒ Group “role cards”
• Role cards with responsibilities and language for group work
ƒ Vary student accountability
• Group spokesperson reports
• Call on individual students in group
• Collect written results of group work
¾ Use students’ lives and experiences as topics
¾ “Prepared participation” – allowing time for students to prepare in pairs/groups before
sharing their answers/comments/ideas to the entire class.
¾ Jigsaw activities/assignments
¾ Cross-cultural awareness activities/lessons in multicultural classrooms.
¾ “Turn (to your partner). Smile (at your partner). Talk (with your partner).”
¾ Share students’ written work to class
¾ Extracurricular activities - Class field trips, class dinner parties
¾ Role play
¾ Walk-around activities

2005 CATESOL Northern Regional Conference Joseph Lee
Building and Maintaining a Community in the ESL Classroom November 5, 2005

E. Why promote group cohesiveness in the ESL classroom?

¾ A cohesive learner group:

ƒ is capable of producing extremely high-quality work (Oyster, 2000).
ƒ makes each other welcome, shows signs of mutual affection and provides active support to
each other (Dörnyei & Murphey, 2003).
ƒ is more willing to contribute to class discussions (Senior, 1998).
ƒ is more positive and prepared to work collaboratively in small groups (Senior, 1998).
ƒ allows for a motivating environment to speak and feel greater support (Kagan, 1995).
ƒ praises and encourages each other (Kagan, 1995) and treats each other respectfully
(Tinzman et al., 1990).
ƒ fosters interdependence and accountability because they are encouraged to use their own
knowledge and share their knowledge (Tinzman et al., 1990).

F. Suggestions for building and maintaining group cohesiveness in your classroom:

1. Use icebreakers and other group building activities from day one.
2. Create a class “roster” with names and email addresses, and a class photo.
3. Lead by example - Model friendly and supportive attitude and behavior.
4. Provide explicit rationale for collaboration and cooperation.
5. Establish class norms by discussing and agreeing on a mutually accepted set of expectations
of the students and teacher.
6. Use group “role cards” to encourage equal participation in small group work. (See p. 8 for
7. Teach and use classroom language for working together in pairs, groups, and whole class.
8. Regularly start off the class with pair work leading to group or whole class discussions.
9. Regularly integrate games/activities/projects which require collaboration and cooperation.
10. Mix up the groups regularly to avoid cliques from developing.
11. Have students sit close and in an arrangement where they can see each other.
12. Show genuine enthusiasm and praise for students’ contributions, and don’t make a big deal
about incorrect responses.

2005 CATESOL Northern Regional Conference Joseph Lee
Building and Maintaining a Community in the ESL Classroom November 5, 2005

Dörnyei, Z., & Murphey, T. (2003). Group dynamics in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Ehrman, M. E., & Dörnyei, Z. (1998). Interpersonal dynamics in second language education: The visible and
invisible classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Kagan, S. (1995). We can talk: Cooperative learning in the elementary ESL classroom. ERIC Digest
Reproduction No. ED 382 035. Retrieved April 1, 2005, from
Oyster, C. K. (2000). Groups: A user’s guide. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.
Senior, R. (1998). How to make your classes more cohesive. In B. Black and N. Stanley (Eds.),
Teaching and learning in changing times. Proceedings of the 7th Annual Teaching Learning Forum,
The University of Western Australia, February 1998. Perth: UWA. Retrieved April 1, 2005,
from http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1998/senior.html.
Stevick, E. (1980). Teaching languages: A way and ways. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
Tinzman, M. B., Jones, B. F., Fennimore, T. F., Bakker, J., Fine, C., & Pierce, J. (1990). What is the
collaborative classroom? Oak Brook: NCREL. Retrieved April 1, 2005, from

Useful Activities:
Coelho, E. (1994). Learning together in the multicultural classroom. Markham, Ontario: Pippin Publishing
Hadfield, J. (1992). Classroom dynamics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Web sites:
¾ Nellie’s Icebreakers for classrooms and group dynamics:
Links to various icebreaker and group energizing activities web sites.

¾ Dave’s ESL Café Idea Cookbook of Icebreakers:

Various icebreaker, warm-up, and fun activities.

¾ Educational Icebreakers: http://adulted.about.com/od/icebreakers

Icebreakers to facilitate introductions and warm-ups which can be modified for language

¾ Icebreakers/Mixers: http://www.bbyo.org/bbg/ideas/mixers.html
A collection of icebreaker and mixer activities.

¾ teAchnology: http://www.teach-nology.com/ideas/ice_breakers
A collection of icebreaker activities offered by teachers across the U.S.

¾ Kim’s Korner for Teacher Talk:

Various icebreaker, energizer, and group building activities.

¾ ESL Teachers Board:

Various group activities for young learners which can be adapted for all contexts.
2005 CATESOL Northern Regional Conference Joseph Lee
Building and Maintaining a Community in the ESL Classroom November 5, 2005

Sample Icebreakers:

1. Name Game

Materials: None

1. Students stand in a circle.

2. Students say their name and something they like doing which starts with the first letter of
their name. For example: “My name is Joe and I like joking.” The next student starts with
“Your name is Joe and you like joking. My name is Shirley and I like singing.”
3. Continue until every student has gone.
4. After everyone has gone, do everybody's name through the chain, chorally.

2. Cocktail Party

Materials: Index cards (or 8 1/2 X 11” paper); Scotch tape; markers (or pen)

1. Each student gets one index card.

2. Students write their names in the center of the card.
3. Students write four hobbies/interests on the card.
* One hobby/interest in each of the corners.
4. Students tape their card to their chest.
5. Students walk around the room and ask classmates questions about the information on
the card.
6. When the teacher calls time, students sit with the last classmate they talk to and
introduce that person to the whole class.

3. Snowball!

Materials: Paper

1. Have the students write down at least 3 (or more) facts about themselves.
2. Instruct the students to crumple up the papers on which they have just written their facts
on each other.
3. Then shock them by telling them that now, they get to have a one minute 'snowball' fight
and let them stand up and throw the crumpled fact papers at each other for a minute
4. At the end of the minute, students grab whichever snowball is closest to them. Reconvene
the class and then you can either:
a) have the students read the facts on the snowball they have and guess which student in
the class the snowball belongs to.
b) Or have the students read aloud the facts on the snowball they have and whoever
wrote those facts has to tell the class it's theirs, rather than having the students guess.
Source: http://www.eslcafe.com/ideas/sefer.cgi?display:1064523042-32209.txt
2005 CATESOL Northern Regional Conference Joseph Lee
Building and Maintaining a Community in the ESL Classroom November 5, 2005

Group “Role Cards”: Group work jobs and language

¾ Adapt and modify these for your particular teaching contexts.
¾ Photocopy, laminate, and cut out cards.

• Can you repeat that?
- Writes down the
• Can you spell that word?
group’s answers to
questions • Can you explain that more clearly?
• I can’t hear you. Can you speak more loudly?

• Can you repeat that?
- Checks the grammar in the
• Can you spell that word?
writer’s notes
• Can you explain that more clearly?
- Checks the grammar of
• I can’t hear you. Can you speak more loudly?
information the writer
writes on the board

- Checks the pronunciation

of what the speaker will say

• OK, we only have a little time left. What am I
- Reports the group’s answers going to say?!
to questions
• What should I say for/about ___________?
Language for reporting:
• Our group decided that _____________.
• In our opinion, ____________________.
• We think ________________________.

• OK. Let’s get started!
- Keeps group members
• OK everybody: Stay focused!
working on the assignment
• What do you think, (classmate’s name)?
- Makes sure all group
• Does everyone agree?
members participate
• The time is almost up!
- Watches the time
• We only have 1 minute left, so let’s _______.

Source: ALI Level 42 Listening & Speaking: Skills for Listening & Speaking Course Book (2005)