Large classesOne of the factors that a teacher can and cannot account for is the size of the class. The number of students per class can be dependent on various reasons: population of surround community, size of the school, number of classes per grade, type of class, mandatory/elective class, etc. Even the term “large class,” depends on each individual’s perspective. A person might consider a class of 15 students large, while another may consider 40 students to be a large class. Despite this varied perception of how large a large class size is, it is an issue that all teachers will have to approach. While teaching large classes can be seen as a difficulty and not conducive to learning, how successfully a large class is taught depends on the teacher’s approach and preparedness.
In teaching english
as a second language, large class sizes can seem rather daunting. Depending on the teacher’s class context (e.g. public school system, foreign language classes, private lessons, etc), teaching a large class can possibly be avoided altogether. More often than not, most ESL teachers will have to face having a large class. Most tools or advice on teaching a large class can be utilized by the ESL teacher as well. This includes the utilization of organization, preparedness, discussions, utilizing pairings/groupings, personalizing the class, and student feedback (The Center for Teaching Excellence 2008). Often the problem most teachers face with large sized classes is how to manage the class. Maintaining some semblance of order and discipline with any class can be difficult, and can be even more difficult when faced with numerous students.
Discipline and establishing class rules are essential to help guide students, regardless of class size. Often times in ESL lessons, though, having a class that is too rigid and disciplined can stifle a student’s ability and creativity in learning and practicing the language. In addition to establishing guidelines for students to follow, the teacher can help create an atmosphere of making a large class feel smaller (The Center for Teaching Excellence 2008). As stated on the University of Maryland
’s Center for Teaching Excellence’s resource library section on large classes, “In any class, but especially in large classes, it is important to establish an atmosphere which conveys the professor’s interest in and accessibility to students and which encourages students to participate”(The Center for Teaching Excellence 2008).
While the above statement is directed more towards teaching in higher learning institutions, the same can be applied for the ESL classroom as well. The teacher can encourage student participation, relate the learning material to the students’ interests, and also build relationships with students. By being accessible to the students for questions or feedback, it can help students feel more invested in and included in the class. Encouraging group or pair work can also help the teacher create an atmosphere of inclusion for many students. In increasing the student’s interaction through pair and group work, it can effectively minimize the anxiety or loneliness for individual students and help provide a sense of support. Pair and group work can also help the teacher with creating smaller sub units of the class that can be easier to handle, instead of one large group of students.
Many will focus solely on the disadvantages of teaching large classes (i.e. intimacy, anxiety, preparation, monitoring students, space, resources, noise level, and student needs); but, there are some advantages in teaching in larger classes (english
Club.com 2011). Some advantages of teaching a larger class can be the high energy, timing (how time progresses during class), participation, and less need for fillers (activities or games to help fill extra time) (english
Club.com 2011). Though, even these stated disadvantages and advantages of teaching larger classes should be taken cautiously. Depending largely on the class environment and the students, these stated disadvantages and advantages can switch or may not be issues at all. Though, ESL teachers do have to deal with engaging the students’ interests and battling communication problems, dealing with a large class can be made more enjoyable. Having a larger class can be helpful at times; it need not be perceived as merely a negative aspect of teaching.
Club.com (2011). "Teaching Large Classes." Teaching Tips. Retrieved February 8, 2011, from http://www.englishclub.com/teaching-tips/teaching-large-classes.htm.
The Center for Teaching Excellence (2008, 2008). "Personalizing the Large Class." Resource Library. Retrieved February 8, 2011, from http://www.cte.umd.edu/library/teachingLargeClass/guide/ch4.html.
The Center for Teaching Excellence (2008, 2008). "Teaching Large Classes." Resource Library. Retrieved February 8, 2011, from http://www.cte.umd.edu/library/teachingLargeClass/index.html.