Classroom management is indeed one of the most important premises to teaching. If the teacher is capable of carrying it out successfully, this will yield the best learning outcomes. Classroom management comprises two fundamental aspects.
First, there is lesson planning. This includes the objectives to be achieved in each lesson and the teaching strategy, which is determined by the students’ disposition and their level. At the same time, it is of paramount importance, to ensure the achievement of the learning objectives, to carefully plan a subdivision of the classroom time from its very start to its closure.
Secondly, there is the actual carrying out of the class; which must be tailored according to the type of class we have and based on the students' needs. We begin with student placement according to their level and proceed with a clear strategy of how the class will run from beginning to end. In particular, we pay special attention to the two aspects of supervising the development of each class and to ensure an orderly sequence of activities and the question and answer in class. Finally, we close with clear remarks, proportionate to the duration of the overall class. These should ensure that the key concepts remain with the students.
We generally prefer to use critical strategies that allow students to immerse themselves in each learning activity, allowing them to interact with and participate in the learning process. Such “full immersion strategies” imply minimizing the theoretical aspect of classroom instruction and to focus instead on hands-on learning. Students are constantly active as protagonists in each learning activity. They are the protagonist who conveys the information to their classmates.
One example of how we used these strategies in the past is as follows. In one of our classes, We had a mix of students of various nationalities: French, Canadian, British, Americans and Russians. We required that they use only Arabic for their classroom interactions. We made sure that each small group included students from all nationalities. Initially, this arrangement was hard on the students, particularly because of cultural differences, but they quickly got accustomed to these, thanks to the activities that was planned for them: Russian students interacted and collaborated with the French ones in role-playing and in reading activities.
Another example from our experience. We had, for example, language instruction through cooking lessons: the students prepared an Iftar for the month of Ramadan, using Arabic in the process. We led the students through the streets of the Alexandria, Egypt market, where we collected the ingredients needed for our recipes: fruit, vegetables, etc… We took everything back to the school and there the students recreated the market in the halls and corridors. Some students played the sellers and others the customers, carrying out their conversations using only Arabic. Subsequently, students helped each other in preparing the recipes we had chosen without using a word other than in Arabic.
The ‘fine box’ for students who used foreign words. In the end, American, British and Belgian students were all helping each other setting the table and presenting to their classmates the different plates available, using only Arabic.
This is an example of a collaborative class from beginning to end: from the cooking class to the market experience, where students learned names of fruits, vegetable, and spices, bought and sold using numbers. All these aspects were mixed in one main activity, which we prepared over the course of various days, rehearsing it and fine-tuning it with the students. This required a certain effort, but the results of this class were enormous and proven super effective in acquiring new words and holding a conversation with native speakers with ease.
The first step towards developing an effective teaching strategy is to know the students and to understand their specific needs, which are related to their age and their inclinations towards this or that teaching method or program. When the teacher owns these keys, he will be without a doubt successful in his work. Hence, it is of paramount importance that before building a curriculum, the teacher leads an exploratory session to fully understand the inclinations, needs, wishes and linguistic level of the students. Based on this information, the teacher will be able to determine the learning outcomes and the objectives of the course. A useful resource in this phase is a placement test that will determine the skills to be developed and the needs of each student. Such skills should be carefully coordinated, and not randomly picked, they should be based on insights drawn not only from language pedagogy but also from psychology and sociology.
Secondly, the curriculum should be developed organically: after the teacher has determined the level of the students, he will have to constantly adapt the course materials according to the development of the course, gauging the students’ interests and their skills. The difficulty level of the materials should be suitable for all students in the classroom; materials that are too easy will bore the students, while if they are too challenging the will outright hamper the carrying out of the class. These materials should also be tailored to the capacity of the teachers who will be leading the course. This why we stress the importance of a hands-on curriculum, which employs real-life situations and not a bookish language which is detached from the students' daily speech.
Thirdly, the curriculum should not be too long, so as to not bore the students. Classroom activities should be collaborative and engaging.
Fourthly, the curriculum should be based on a book for the student and a guide for the teacher, that will help him in implementing the program. Such a program should contemplate clear answers to what is being learned and why. What exactly am I offering the students in this course and why am I offering it?
Our academic researcher, Mr. Mortada has studied for 4 years teaching methodologies and pedagogy at the Faculty of Education at the University of Al-Minya. He has attended numerous workshops and seminars which focused on issues such as curriculum preparation, programs for the elementary and high school levels in Egypt. He has also organized a conference on this subject entitled “Perspectives on teaching Arabic heritage students in Turkey: challenges and solutions”. The conference was held in Istanbul in October 2017. For it, He has obtained a formal acknowledgment from the World Union of Arabic and Islamic Schools, which attests to my efforts in organizing this conference.
Arabic learning must contemplate four main skills: reading, writing, oral expression, and understanding. There is furthermore another important skill that we recently added to these four, and that is thinking in Arabic. A student who learns writing will necessarily develop his reading and vice versa. On the other hand, there is no benefit for a student is learning only how to read and write, while being incapable of speaking correctly and expressing himself. Students would be able to interact with the language they are learning, and that means that they are able to understand it and think in Arabic . Every skill is necessarily related to the other four, and developing one will necessarily benefit the others. The ultimate objective of our teaching method is therefore that students acquire the necessary skills to express themselves, orally and in writing, and that they become able to understand the language and to think in Arabic.
Preparing the class is among the most important aspects that will ensure successful teaching. Class preparation must be commensurate to the language level of the students. The kind of classroom activities the teacher carries out is not fixed in stone: it is determined by the level of the students.
Their level will also determine the kind of teaching method to be adopted in the classroom. Let us say, for example, that we have some beginner students according to the ACTFL criteria. This kind of students studied Arabic for 40 to 90 hours approximately. They understand simple expressions and short compound sentences. They can interact with others only in a limited fashion and on basic topics.
Our job as teachers begins with drawing a plan and deciding our steps from the moment we enter the class.
We rely on video materials that will help introduce my students to the topics treated in each class, through programs such as PowerPoint. we, for instance, send these materials to the students before class, via email. This way, the student will have a chance to become acquainted with class materials at home at his convenience and to come better prepared to class. This strategy will also enable teacher and students to make the most effective use of time in the classroom and students will be free to practice with classroom materials such as grammar and texts at their own pace.
The class begins with the greetings and with a clear opening that addresses the class contents, such as a small story or the explanation of a concept, then we should proceed with recalling the materials covered in the previous class and tying them with what will be covered in class on that day. This portion of the class should not exceed 5 minutes.
There follows the presentation of the lesson and the topic of the class, which should not exceed 10 minutes.
The following step is hands-on practice through classroom activities related to the topic at hand. At the beginner level, we like to focus on role-play activities such as the students playing grocers, or sellers or buyers. we ask them to describe some of their products, according to what the students have learned in previous classes. Students then exchange roles and practice in different situations and contexts. This part should last about 15 minutes.
Finally, there is the question and answer portion, and the closing of the class which should last about 5 minutes.
As for reading in class, we usually like to begin with the more proficient students and move on to the less proficient. For beginners students, we usually break the text in small parts and read them aloud having the students repeating after us, before embarking on reading on their own. We also make consistent use of the blackboard at this beginner level, mixing an element of entertainment and fun with education. We have for example used the “puppet theatre” as a way to entertain students while being exposed to continuous use of Arabic (at least 15 minutes).
There should be ample time left for the question and answer in order to ensure that all students have grasped the lesson and that we are teaching according to the appropriate level (10 minutes).