You've probably asked yourself this one simple question before: how do you teach a large ESL class and give each of your students the attention they deserve?
The answer is not as simple. Obviously, the larger the class, the more difficult it is. Of course, a large group of preschoolers requires a specific set of teaching strategies and is not the same as a large group of Business English learners. But no matter how old they are or which level they're in, you need to make sure each and every one of your ESL students, at the very least, feels they are getting as much attention as they can get within a large group. It's not about spending large amounts of time with each. It's the little things that add up. And here are the top ten tips to achieve this:
How to Give Individual Attention to Students in a Large ESL Class: Top 10 Tips
Arrive early and chat
The five or ten minutes before class are ideal for pleasant, relaxed chat with students. Those who arrive early will get the chance to speak to you without having to compete with the rest, and you have the opportunity to get to know them better.
Look them in the eye and smile
If you bestow a smile upon a student after they've raised their hand or after you see them come into the classroom, you're acknowledging them in a specific way. This is more than just a body that has entered your class and occupies a space in it, and a smile goes a long way to show them just that.
Call them by their first names
Try to remember their names early on and always address your students by their first names. Instead of asking a question to the whole class in general, call on a particular student to answer it.
Give them your full, undivided attention
Pair or teamwork aside, some students may get to speak directly to you for a few minutes each class. So when they do, give them your full, undivided attention. Don't write on the board or look for flashcards as you listen. Look as if you're hanging on their every word. If possible approach their desk and stand near them.
Start class with short dialogues, warmers or ice-breakers
Apart from the informal chat you may engage in before class begins, try to start each class with a short ice-breaker or warmer that relates to them on a personal level. On Mondays, you can start by asking them about their weekend. On any given day, ask if they saw a major sports event or awards ceremony.
Remember bits and pieces of their personal life
In a large class, you won't have the chance to know (and remember!) everything there is to know about every student, but try to remember a few facts that stand out about each one, i.e. if they have brothers or sisters, if they play musical instruments, participate in sports, etc…If there is a student in particular you know nothing about - find out something!
Highlight individual strengths
Help students become aware of what they are contributing to the class and what their particular strengths are. After a written assignment, mention those you especially liked and read them out loud to the class. Do the same after a crafts assignment, a test, or any other activity. Try to rotate among students and mention something each has done particularly well.
Use their particular tastes and likes
Young learners like certain types of TV shows, and teens like others. Adult learners may enjoy other things besides TV. Use their likes and preferences: introduce pop culture references in a class with teens or what's new in the world of business in a class with adults.
Stay on top of who's absent
Whenever a student is absent, tell them what they missed and the homework they should do to catch up. If they missed something that is hard for them to understand, offer additional resources, or if possible, offer to explain a few minutes before or after class.
Use their special knowledge to your advantage
Sometimes we're lucky enough to have a computer expert, a marketing specialist or financial analyst in class. Or a student from the country you're reading about. When you have to teach something a particular student may be an expert at, use their knowledge and ask them to explain the topic or give the class additional information.
It's not hard to make students feel they're getting individual attention in a large class.
When you put the right strategies and techniques in place, they may even feel they're the only student there! Let them take turns in the spotlight, and they will never feel they're just another name in the class list.
Do you use any other strategies to make students feel they're getting individual attention? Sound off below!