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Managing large classes

July 30, 2007

Hello again,
The question of class size is always a big issue for new teachers. Large classes are more common in reality than the small groups trainee teachers encounter for their teaching practice. To be able to...

... adapt to the large class, teachers need to understand how groups function and how to adapt their techniques to the situation.

In the first place, teachers are likely to find that the bigger group poses greater problems of discipline and student engagement. Discipline strategies need to be started immediately. Involve the students in drawing up the behaviour codes and the penalties for breaking the rules. Draw up a class charter and display it on a poster on the wall. Appoint some class monitors to help with aspects such as giving out books and materials, checking that everyone has what they need. Review the charter regularly to see if rules need amending. Display a weekly discipline record showing number of rules broken and get students to set improvement targets.

It may be harder to engage students because the group could have a wide ability range. Use a range of small-group techniques to overcome this. Use mixed ability groups sometimes and appoint a group leader with strengths t help the weaker ones. Use same-ability groups to allow people to work at their own pace, giving more challenging tasks to stronger students and easier ones to the weaker students.

Don’t worry too much about resources. Plan the group work around activities and get students to draw on their own lives. For example, get them to draw up a family tree and present this to their group. You can use the board to set up the preparatory vocabulary and structures. Use role play with cue cards you make yourself. Get students to do picture dictations in their groups. Set up projects. Do multi-level brainstorming with groups agreeing a first tier of ideas and then feeding these into the whole class. Use peer-response as much as possible. Vary the pace and intensity. Have quiet periods when students are working individually and you can circulate to check on each student.

Even though a large class can seem daunting, it will seem normal to the students! And don’t be afraid to ask for help from colleagues.

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  1. Carlyn Nankervis Says:

    These are very good suggestions. The one thing I would add is after you have done all of this divide the class into small learning groups, such as grouping 4 - 6 desks together so that these groups of students work together, help each other, and also wind up monitoring the behavior of each other. Yes, it really works.

  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:

    Thank you for that, Carlyn. I wonder if other people have helpful tips to share.

  1. Matthew Lowish Says:

    Some excellent ideas but I was wondering if anybody has suggestions for Chinese classes of 60+ where the desks are fixed with the students facing the front. As a result there is very little room to manouvre in between as students have to communicate over the gaps. This can often degenerate into a loud chaos. Thanks, angryparrot

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