Teaching and Learning English in a Large Classroom
There is no agreed definition of a large class in the dictionary, nor should there be. One person’s large class is what some others consider as ‘regular’, ‘small’ or ‘normal’. Some simply define "large" as "too many students to learn names by the end of the term or semester." Whether something feels like a large class is partly a matter of the resources put into teaching it and of the skill employed by the. A large class is one that feels large. A sign that a class is ‘large’ can be: the resources can no longer cope with the number of students if you desire individual attention for the students. Here are some tips to help with teaching large classes.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Michael E. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Large classes require more preparation and structure than small classes. Lapses in the flow of the class, while collecting thoughts or locating instructional materials, can result in loss of student attention. Before the class begins, prepare or identify a variety of instructional aids, demonstrations, and activities to support each meeting of the class. Provide structure to the content, and use the structure to organize each lesson. Inform the students of that structure.
Connect with your students:
It is important to appear approachable in large classes. Build rapport with your students, and recognize the individuality of each student. Move among them when talking. Increase student access to you by getting to class early to listen to their questions, comments, or complaints. Begin by inviting students to call out something they know or recall about a topic. Display the responses as an introduction to the day's activities. Address some of the anonymity students feel in large classes. Try to learn some names, and call on those you know by name. Learn something about as many students as possible. Ask for a few volunteers each day to help with demonstrations and activities and throughout this process learn some student names.
Provide a variety of experiences:
It is appropriate to vary the type of instruction in large classes to encourage discussion, interaction, and involvement. Do not attempt to lecture the entire period, it is said that "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". Actively involve students during at least a small part of every class meeting. Form groups of three or four to discuss a problem or work on a task for a few minutes. Have a question and answer period at the beginning or end of each class.
Be aware that students are often reluctant to ask or respond to questions in large classes, and it is often very difficult to hear their comments in large lecture halls. Try to be accepting of all questions and responses from students, and paraphrase or repeat every question or response. Provide hand-held microphones if the acoustics are poor. Invite students to write questions or comments on index cards and give them to you at the end of class. Increase the wait time after you ask a question. Encourage students to indicate in some way when the pace of the class is too fast or too slow.
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Obtain and use feedback:
Students in large classes are often reluctant to communicate difficulties they are having with a course or the teaching strategies. Employ informal assessment techniques frequently to obtain student perceptions and suggestions. Use this information as a basis for making small changes in your teaching behavior before the course is completed. Inform your students if you make a change as a result of their suggestions.
Create a Small-Class Atmosphere in a Large-Class Setting:
One of the challenges of large classes is overcoming the anonymity and distance that can exist between teachers and students. If students are to be actively involved in and feel personal accountability for the learning process, they must be more than anonymous spectators and passive recipients of the information.
Learn the student's name:
You may not be able to learn all the names, but even learning some will help.Use a microphone: Not being able to hear clearly will exclude students from the lecture.Move around the classroom or lecture hall: Standing behind a podium emphasizes the distance between you and the class. On the other hand, moving into the aisles and around the room makes the class seem smaller and encourages student involvement.
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