Teaching in large classes is a very common phenomena in many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries and in much sought after schools in Malaysia. Student numbers ranges from 40 plus to 50 plus. TEaching in such environment poses challenges. So how do teachers cope?
Here's an article written by a native speaker who had worked in South American high schools and developed effective strategies of his own.
Do you have a similar situation and what are ways that have worked in your class? I'll be most happy to hear them and to share these strategies with other teachers.
Tags: Advice, Alastair Grant, Classroom activities, Engagement, English Language, Large classes, Teenagers
Let’s see: you have 32 students doing an activity; that means you’ll have about 12 working quietly, 6 working together, 4 talking about their weekend, and 10 calling your name in unison, demanding help. And if you’re lucky, it’ll be in that order.
There are desks in the way, bags all over the place and it can seem impossible to be able to reach your students to help with them while they’re working.
With even the best adolescents and adults, there’s a temptation for them to speak in their native tongue, or just not to work, which is even more common in a larger class, especially as there’s less chance of you spotting it!
Trying out a “find someone who” activity with a class THIS size can turn you into a policeman, because you have to make sure students don’t use the activity as a reason to speak in their language. It’s also hard to make sure everyone can get to speak to each other without creating chaos!
Having 32 writing, reading, listening, speaking, and grammar tests to check for only ONE of your classes, is exhausting for any teacher.
Introduce a “hands-up” system, and explain your methodology to the students, so that they understand and respect this: it’s their learning environment that you want to make as productive for them as possible. After all, there is only one of you!
Right from the start of the class, make sure the students know where you want them to sit, not where they do. Your classroom – your rules. That means, where the desks go, who they face, where they put their bags… and get them to move the furniture!
The “red card” system – the first person to speak in their language (not English!) gets the card and it is passed on. At the end of the class, the last student with the card brings in something nice for the class for the next lesson. Also, give students a grade for their involvement in the classes, so they can see that it has a tangible effect, and that it contributes to their learning.
Ensure that speaking activities are structured, and that the students respect turn-taking, just like they would outside the classroom. Speed debating is a great activity for this: two students come to the front for one minute only, and discuss the topic. The rest of the students have to pay close attention, as you will randomly pick another student to come up once the minute is over.
Although direct tests of speaking and writing are essential, using Multiple Choice and True/False tests for reading, listening, and even grammar, can drastically reduce your workload. Pre-prepared and editable tests are great too. You can be confident that they’ll be the right language level for your class and, because you can edit them, you can quickly adapt them to suit your own students. Perfect for saving you time and effort too.