7 Strategies to Create an Interactive Classroom

How do you differentiate for your English Language Learners?  Read on to learn 7 Strategies that will encourage even your more reluctant English Language Learners to participate!
Need to find some ways to create a more interactive classroom for your English Language Learners?  Use these 7 easy strategies to help you discover how you can build your students language while promoting a warm, inviting classroom.  (Check out strategy #6, it’s a favorite!) Education matters!
There are many ways to include active interaction within your classrooms.  Not only does this help your ELL students, it provides opportunities for all of your learners to explore oral language.  The Common Core Standards for Speaking and Listening ask for students at multiple grade levels to be able to express their thoughts and ideas.  Students must be able to explain and defend their own learning.  When you provide an opportunity for your students to interact with one another in collaborative settings, everyone wins!

So, what is “Interaction” anyway?

It is simply the opportunity that you give your students to interact in social and academic situations. Learning is more effective when students have an opportunity to discuss ideas and information.  Most people learn best by doing.  Even more learn best when teaching others.  Interaction is essentially “teaching” others your thoughts and ideas about a given topic.  When students defend their thinking, they teach others about their thinking.  Therefore they internalize the concepts at a deeper level.  There are many ways that you can encourage interaction among your students.  When you do, it encourages even your more reluctant English Language Learners to participate and it also creates a positive classroom environment.  Interaction stages include Teacher-Student Interaction, Paired Interaction and Group Interaction.  All three levels of interaction are beneficial and are easy to implement in your classroom. 

Try these 7 Simple Strategies to Create an Interactive and Active Classroom

1. Set up a classroom that is conducive to interaction.  Do you have your classroom set up in cooperative groups?  And when I mean cooperative groups, is it truly cooperative and not simply seats pushed together to form a group?  Cooperative grouping encourages discussion and interaction.  When asking questions and presenting material, give your students the opportunity to “think, pair and share”.

2.  Allow your students to use hand signals to indicate their level of understanding.  Check for understanding by allowing students to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down. This non-verbal way of communication encourages reluctant ELL (or any student) to speak up.  I always told my class to hold their signals close to their hearts.  This was our private way of “talking”.  Another variation is to use red and green cards on the corner of desks.

3.  Move more!  Use hand and body gestures to enhance speech.  Teach your students different hand gestures for certain phrases that are used often in the classroom.  Hand gestures enhance speech by providing a visual connection to the vocabulary or content material.  Use music with hand gestures for even more language support. 

4.  Increase engagement by using a simple “Find Your Match” interactive game.  When reviewing vocabulary, pass out cards using terms, definitions, and pictures and ask students to “find his/her match”.  Strategically pass out the cards by your students’ comfort/ability.  Non-English Speakers can join in this activity easily when you provide them with visual card. 

5. Monitor group work activities by having students share responsibilities on the assignment.  In groups of four, students read an article and answer questions related to that text.  However, they complete the work on each other’s paper.  Starting with their own paper, students answer question number one.  Then they pass their paper to the right, and begin working on the next question on the paper passed to them.  Students pass the papers until all questions are answered and the article is returned to the original owner.  Once completed, give the groups an opportunity to discuss and defend their answers.  This discussion time provides the oral language support that is essential for ELL students.

6. Utilize Reader’s Theater to improve fluency and comprehension.  Group high and low proficiency level students together so that students needing oral fluency modeling have the support they need.  Allow students opportunities to rehearse, read and perform in class. 

7.  When reviewing a topic, use Circle Chat.  Number students off by 2.  The number 1 students form a circle facing out.  The number 2 students encircle this center group facing in.  This way, you have two groups of students in a circle facing each other.  Give the students questions to discuss.  Partners have the opportunity to discuss the answers to the questions.  Then, the outer circle rotates one person to the right and the questions continue.

Classroom Interaction is essential for English Language Learners, but it is also a tool that will benefit the oral language and development of all students.  Can you see yourself implementing any of the strategies?  


  1. I love, love, love this list of activities! I am in complete agreement...these strategies are so beneficial to all learners in our classrooms! I see some new things I need to try with my newcomers (and mainstream students!). Thanks for sharing this, Elizabeth!

  2. Great post. I especially am loven' #4 and 7. Time to intro something new to keep it exciting and challenging. Thank you.