Be realistic about your time
It's very easy to be enthusiastic about a project at the beginning, and feel you can devote a lot of time to it. However, if you have too many meetings, some students might begin to feel they cannot attend. On the other hand, if meetings are too far apart, it is difficult to create the comfortable club atmosphere. Decide together on the best possible meeting times for the Learning Circle.
- Find a place to meet
The meeting place needs to be convenient and comfortable for all the members of your Learning Circle. If you have the opportunity to use a room in your school, this is ideal - everyone can share responsibility for making sure that the meeting room is tidy and comfortable.
- Decide how large you want the Learning Circle to be
A Learning Circle which draws together students who don't usually study together can provide a different - and better - environment for participants. Remember, however, that if the group is too large, it becomes more difficult to include everyone in discussions and activities. If the group has more members than your average class, think about creating 2 different groups. Perhaps some of your colleagues would be interested in helping out with this.
- Think about regulations and routines
Like normal classroom lessons, Learning Circles need to have some rules and routines to help them to be successful. However, the most successful clubs are those in which the members feel they have some say in setting these rules and routines. By asking the club members to discuss and decide what they feel the club rules should be, you make sure that everyone has responsibility for ensuring the success of the Learning Circle.
- Provide guidance for decisions
Your students will need guidance on how to choose the best and most interesting types of tasks for the Learning Circle, and on how to approach them. In the initial meetings, it's a good idea to ask the participants to try out some activities to decide which they like and which they don't. If you are setting up larger projects, take time to ensure that the Learning Circle members all recognise and understand the stages which they need to go through to ensure that the project is successful.
- Share responsibilities
The most successful Learning Circles are the ones in which all members feel they are valuable to the group. Sharing responsibilities for the group's activities is a good way of ensuring everyone feels included. Try to make sure that each member of the group has to take some responsibility for one group activity at each meeting.
- Find out about English events in your town
In many towns and cities, there are opportunities to become involved in English-language events such as talks and concerts. Encourage your students to make their Learning Circle a centre for English-language information by identifying as many suitable English-language events as possible in their area. Your role could then be to help your students access these events.
- Stop and think!
How successful is your students' Learning Circle? What do the members enjoy most? What would they like more of? Has their English improved? Try to encourage them to include regular reviews of their Learning Circle activities - perhaps at the end of each month - so that you and they can keep the Learning Circle fresh and the members motivated to learn English.
Karen Adams, Professional Development Manager