I’ve never really been able to determine my own class size, and I think that’s pretty typical among ESL teachers.
Some classes have been larger, and others smaller, but all of them have been assigned by my supervisors. And if I’m honest, at times, my smaller classes didn’t give me the same sense of accomplishment as my larger classes did. After all, a class of three false beginners is tough to teach. But there are plenty of advantages smaller classes have to offer. If you are teaching or have taught a smaller English as a second language class, are you thinking about these advantages your little class has to offer? Here are nine of them.
9 Best Reasons to Teach a Small Class
Taking It Outside
It’s easy to take field trips. When I taught larger classes, we didn’t do a whole lot out of the classroom. It was difficult to arrange transportation for the sum of my students, and a class of twenty can’t slip into the same corners, unnoticed, that a smaller class can. If you are teaching a small class, take advantage of the ease you have to take field trips. If your school allows it and it’s located in an ideal place, you can simply walk your students into the public and give them lots of memorable language experiences. You won’t be as spectacle, and you can easily make sure you don’t lose any stragglers.
Easy to Help
Student in a small class are more likely to ask questions when they don’t understand. Have you ever been in a large group and felt like you were the only one that didn’t understand something? If you have, you were probably afraid to raise your hand and ask a question. It’s human nature. We don’t want to embarrass ourselves if we can help if. And the bigger the groups of people, the bigger our fear of embarrassment. If you teach a large ESL class, your students might feel this way. They might be afraid to admit when they don’t understand something and ask for help. If you teach a small class, however, your students are more likely to be honest about their confusion. They are more likely to ask a question when they don’t understand, and they will be more comfortable asking for help. If you don’t’ know where your students struggle, it’s hard to help them. Your small class will make it easier for you to help them learn.
Students in small classes form tight bonds, especially if they are international students. If you are teaching English overseas, you might relate to English students’ needs to form strong relationships with the people they see every day. But if you teach English in your home country, you may not have personal experience with how lonely it can be thousands of miles away from friends and family. The students in your class need strong relationships with others who will encourage and support them through their language learning journeys. Most likely, these relationships will come from the other students in their classes – your students. When your class is small, your students will have fewer people they can get to know through classes, but likely the relationships will form and will be strong. That means that all the students in your class, more likely than not, will be strong supporters of each other and will be a great encouragement to each other as they learn.
You can assess each student’s needs and progress more easily. Small classes means fewer students, which means you can devote more of your time to each person in class. When you teach a small class, you will be able to take more time evaluating the language skills of each person, and that means you can tailor your lessons more effectively to meet their specific needs.
You have more class space to move around when you have fewer students. Getting your students’ bodies involved in their language learning is such a beneficial way to teach. If you have fewer students in your class, you have more room to move around and get those bodies moving. Try Total Physical Response as a teaching technique in your roomy class, and see how movement makes a big difference in language learning.
Students have more opportunities to speak up and they are more likely to do so. Since you are a teacher, you are probably comfortable with public speaking. But for most people, speaking in front of a group of people can be terrifying. When you teach a small class, that fear in your students is not as strong. It’s easier for anyone to speak to four other people than twenty. In your small class, you may find that your students speak more and do so with more ease.
There is less work for you when it comes to grading homework. We are all practical people, and we know that teaching takes a lot of work outside class. When you teach a small class, you will have less work grading papers. And when you save time on the paperwork aspect of teaching, you can devote your time to other aspects of teaching that are sure to benefit your students like planning class and making your activities appealing to your students.
You can give more feedback and more detailed feedback to students since there are fewer. Not only will you have less grading to do, you can make your feedback more useful to your small class members. You can give more detail or be more specific with your comments and corrections without spending more time than usual grading, and your students will see the time you took to tell them exactly what they needed to know.
Cater for Their Interests
You can tweak your lessons toward the unique interests of different students. When you teach a class of twenty or more, it’s hard enough just to get to know your students. But when your class is small, of course you will know more about each of your class members. And when you know more about your students, you can make your lessons special by tailoring those lessons to their interests. You can choose content and examples that tie into the things your students like, and they will love that you made the efforts to reach out to them their interests.
If you teach a small ESL class, it may seem at times that you are not making the impact you would like to.
But small classes have a lot to offer, and if you find yourself teaching one, you can be encouraged that though your impact may not be a mile wide, it just might be a mile deep.