Teaching Tip: How to create a Comfort Zone

Lynn King

  1. Take in-school field trips to learn about the variety of classes offered, the locations of the library, cafeteria, gymnasium, music and art departments, counselors’ offices, clinic, main administrative offices, laboratory and science rooms, bathrooms, and any other important places in the school.
  2. Post photos of principal, assistant principals, counselors, nurse, librarian, etc. on the bulletin board. Make sure students can pronounce their names and know where and when to find them.
  3. Explain cafeteria procedures, prices, and names of food.
  4. Go over the school calendar and note holidays, no-school days, school visit days for parents, parent-teacher conference days, etc.
  5. Explain rules for absences and tardies.
  6. Help students with locker combinations and procedures.
  7. Review vocabulary for classroom objects and procedures for asking questions and getting clarification.
  8. Have students collaborate to make an essential list of classroom rules and then post this list in a prominent place..
  9. Discuss the parts of a book and how to use a textbook.
  10. Show students how to organize a 3-ring binder for other classes.
  11. Explain your grading system as well as what to expect in other classes.
  12. Explain procedures for emergency drills. (Example: Make sure they understand the phrase “when the alarm goes off” means “when the alarm sounds”.)
  13. Keep a copy of your students’ schedules in case you need to speak to their other teachers.
  14. Invite guest speakers such as administrators, counselors, content area teachers,  and student leaders to talk about a particular subject. Raising awareness of ESL students and their needs makes them less invisible and more easily integrated into American schools.
Many suggestions in this list may lend themselves to brainstorming and writing activities, videos, and speeches. The important thing to remember is that by making students more comfortable and informed about their surroundings, they will be more prepared to learn. 
Lynn King, retired ESL Secondary and Adult Ed. Teacher, Springfield, Illinois
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