The English Corner is a project I have been working on at SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School, a secondary school in Hong Kong. Every school day, students can drop in at lunch or after school to play games, watch movies or simply chat with friends. They can also borrow movies, music CDs, books, manga, magazines and computer games.
Version 1: 2006-2018
I set up the first English Corner, or ‘EngCon’ as it is called by students, in September 2006. This is what it looked like then.
The English Corner was run by a team of approximately 60 students from Forms One to Five (grades 7 to 11). One other English teacher and a teaching assistant assisted with supervising the student team.
The English Corner was very successful in helping create an English-rich environment at the school. At it’s peak:
- It was visited more than 10,000 times per year;
- Students borrowed more than 8,000 items per year;
- In a 2007 survey, 40% of students reported visiting at least once every two weeks. Another 40% reported visiting less frequently;
- In a 2008 survey, the English Corner was voted by students as the most popular spot on campus;
- In a 2009 survey, the majority of Form 1 students indicated they they visited the English Corner at least once a week.
There are several reasons why it was successful:
Location: It is in a good location. Large numbers of students pass by on a regular basis and can see what is going on inside.
Attractive and relaxing atmosphere: I created it as a place where students would want to come in. A lot of attention was paid to interior design to create an attractive, playful and comfortable environment. In addition, I tried to find out what kinds of books, magazines and movies and board games local teenagers would be interested in. An important principle is that students are not required to visit; they are expected to come in only if they want to. I hoped this approach would increase students’ intrinsic motivation to learn English.
Communicative approach to language learning: There is no pressure on students to make a deliberate effort to learn (e.g., by doing grammar exercises like they would in a self-access centre). The students simply gain practice communicating in English. For example, they may play a language related game like scrabble and work on their vocabulary skills or they may simply play a strategy game like Blokus while chatting with their friends in English. In the English Corner, students also express their feelings in several notebooks and sketchbooks. You can see some of their comments and sketches online at the blog ‘No one is beside me‘ (nobm.wordpress.com).
Lending Service: Something that attracted a lot of students was our lending service for books, manga, movie VCDs, music CDs, magazines, etc). The idea was that that students would come to borrow these things, take a look around, see some fun things to do and then hang around for a while.
Multi-cultural resources: The materials (e.g., films, music, books) and decorations (e..g, posters) represent a multi-cultural world. The English Corner had Japanese music CDs, a small collection of French music, foreign language movies from around the world, English translations of Japanese manga and books as well as English language books by Hong Kong writers. This policy was intended to help students develop a greater curiosity in other cultures and to present English as a world language—a language that belongs to diverse cultures.
Links to other school activities: The exchange students we have had during the past four years have been student helpers or managers. More students have the opportunity to meet them.
Also, students can get a coupon to put into their English Portfolio, though this coupon is NOT required.
In general, the English Corner was able to provide students opportunities to speak English in social situations and gives them access to a wide range or resources. As most of the school’s students live in Kwai Chung and nearby neighborhoods, they may otherwise lack these opportunities. Here are two videos showing students enjoying the English Corner.
After several years, the English Corner suffered from three problems.
- Attendance dropped. Eventually our lending service became less attractive. The problem was that most students were accessing things like movies, music, magazine articles and manga online. Thus, attendance dropped drastically as students stopped coming to borrow items. We used to lend out several thousand items per year and that figure eventually dropped to a few hundred.
- With the decline in the lending service, the student executives did not really need any student helpers, so the executives tended to forget to schedule helpers duties.
- A second problem was that the room (and the carpet and the furniture) was suffering from a lot of wear and tear.
Consequently, I decided to revamp the English Corner.
Renovations and Decoration
In 2018, I gave the English Corner a makeover. I started with this:
And with the help of the school administration, teachers and other school staff, students, parents and even alumni, I ended up with this:
For a detailed description of the renovation process, you can refer to this article: Renovating and decorating a school English Corner.
The New English Corner
In November 2018, I opened the new version of the English Corner.
The new additions are:
- A widescreen TV
- A Nintendo Switch
- A Kindle borrowing service (coming in 2021)
- A much wider selection of games (we now have over seventy games; you can see the full list here: English Corner Games)
- A snack service that is held once a week (students are given a ‘loyalty card’ and are given a chop if they participate in specified activities—e.g., watch a TV program, play a strategy game, play a language game. If students get four chops in a row, they can get a free drink and snacks)
Also, we scaled back the size of the student team. These days, the English Corner team had ten to fifteen students.
Of course, shortly after the opening of the new English Corner, Hong Kong experienced a period of social unrest followed by a series of COVID-19 suspensions, so we are still waiting to get back on track.
Photo Galleries & Links
Visit our photo galleries for more images:
- English Corner 2007-2018 (Flickr or Google Photos)
- English Corner Open Day 2015: Day 1 (Flickr or Google Photos)
- English Corner Open Day 2015: Day 2 (Flickr or Google Photos)
- Renovating and Decorating the English Corner (Flickr or Google Photos)
- New English Corner (Flickr or Google Photos)
For more information, you can visit these links
- Renovating and Decorating a School English Corner
- English Corner Page (includes lists of resources)
- nobm (pages from the sketchbooks and diaries in the English Corner
~ by longzijun
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2 thoughts on “Running a School English Corner”
Thanks for your idea.
I have a plan to make an English corner in my school.
I will follow your ways and let you know how will it work in my school.
Well, our way is running into trouble as I relied a lot on attractive items to borrow–music CDs, movie DVDs and English language manga. Now students are downloading these (um…illegally), so borrowing figures and attendance figures are a fraction of what they used to be. I need to rethink things for next year.