Are you teaching a large class?
Here are ten tips to make sure it is a success for both you and your students.
10 Tips for Teaching Large Classes
When you have a large class, there will naturally be more disorder, more energy, more chaos in class. This can be distracting and a source of wasted time in your too few minutes. To combat this, establish routines. Key for keeping your class in order is that students know what to do. The less time you spend on giving directions, the more time your class will have for learning. Get in the habit of starting your large class the same way every day and doing the same types of activities in the same order. Post your schedule if you like. This will ensure your students know what to do and will minimize lost time between activities.
Talk about It
One great advantage of large classes is the potential diversity for small group make-up. You can put your students in discussion groups every day of the week and not have the same group twice. That’s a great advantage, for your students will learn something different from each person they work with in such a group. If you have a class of internationals, talking with people of different native languages will improve your students listening comprehension and teach them to understand different accents. No matter what language they speak, other students might be a great source of grammar skills, vocabulary, or just about any other aspect of language. So take advantage of your large numbers and have lots of discussion time making sure you mix up your groups frequently.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
It’s okay to assign different projects to different groups of students. Generally, having one class means giving all of your students the same requirements and/or assignments. When you have a large class, odds are you have different skill levels within it, even if everyone is intermediate level, for example. It’s okay to give different assignments to different groups of students. And it doesn’t need to affect how you grade unless you want it to. Try giving students the same TYPE of assignment but not the same content. For example, have all of your students do a research report, but have your lower level students use three resources while your higher level students use five. Or have everyone do a class presentation, but require an extra two minutes from your more advanced students. And if you’re worried about harder assignments leading to lower grades, just grade on a curve for the more difficult assignments.
Learn Students Names
This may go without saying, but when you teach a large class it’s important to learn your students’ names. If students choose English names, it might not be that difficult to remember twenty, thirty, or more, but even if they stick with the names they were given at birth you will still need to learn them. Try taking a picture of each student and putting it into your seating chart with their name beneath it. That will not only help you learn their names but will be a great asset to any substitute you might need during the course of your class.
Do a Little Redecorating
Keeping desks and chairs in rows and columns is pretty standard, but in your large class students may feel they are lost in an ocean of classmates. To make your class feel more like a community and to encourage relationships between your students, arrange your student desks into larger tables or groupings. This will give students a smaller group to relate to on a regular basis, and the eye contact they are sure to make will encourage relationships and friendships. Besides, when you put desks together into larger table type arrangements, it will clear up some floor space in your classroom so you can devote it to other uses.
Everybody likes a little competition, don’t they? Take advantage of this in your large class and set up some teams among your students. Divide your class into three or four teams, and award points to each team based on in class activities and outside work. If you play a game, use those teams and award points to winners. If students will perform a skit, use those same teams and award points for successful execution. You can even use your teams for debates, vocabulary challenges, homework motivation… just about anything. After a month or two or however long you choose to keep your teams, tally up the total points and give a prize to the winning team. Then switch things up again and start the competition anew.
Make Team Captains
While you are dividing your class into teams, feel free to give each team a captain. That will give you and your students a point person to go to. When you need to distribute papers, have your captains come up. When groups work together to complete an assignment, your captain can lead the charge. You will find many ways your team captains can help you and their teammates throughout the day. And remember to change captains at least as often as you change your teams.
Getting to Know You
You are the point person in your class. Not only are you up front more than anyone else, your students view you as the source of the knowledge they need. You also, in large part, determine the personality of your class, and you might be the only native English speaker your students get to talk to. They will want to connect with you. It’s important, then, that you make a point of getting to know individual students so each student has a connection to you. Start with learning their names, but go further than that. Your students want to know you. Let them have the chance, and make sure you have one on one contact with each student every week if not every day.
Stick It to Yourself
Keeping track of student performance in class can be tough when all of your desks are full. Here’s a trick to make sure you don’t forget what you observe in class. Use post its to make notes of student participation, areas of struggle, or anything else you think of during class but will probably forget before the end of the day. Keep a pad of sticky notes with you throughout the day. When you notice a student doing something right (or wrong) write their name on the sticky and what you observed. Then deposit the post it on your desk and have the next one handy for your next observation. At the end of the day, you will have a thorough and reliable record of how your students performed throughout the day that you can transfer to your grade book or use to plan tomorrow’s lesson. You will also have an idea of anything your students are struggling with that you will need to review tomorrow.
One of the most important things you can do for your large class is be sure every student gets a chance to participate. Quieter students may find themselves getting lost in the mix of your large class, so whatever you can do to make sure these students participate fully will be key for their success as well as yours. Invite shy students to speak. Make sure you have a friendly and supportive atmosphere in class.
And know that even though your numbers might be large, your students will still be increasing their English skills.