How To Teach Large Groups: The More The Merrier?

How To Teach Large Groups: The More The Merrier?

Depending on where you teach, you could face classes of 30 or 40 students.

In some countries even larger classes are not uncommon. With only one teacher and maybe one assistant, teaching such a large group of students can be a challenge. Here are some strategies you can use in different stages of the lesson to encourage everyone to participate and make the most out of your time with students.

How to Teach Large Groups

  1. 1

    Always Warm Them Up First

    Plan activities that encourage students to volunteer answers, work together in teams, or in some other way participate in the lesson. The most important thing is to get them thinking and speaking in English. If it is a particularly sluggish class, plan to have students out of their chairs and moving around the classroom (see our article ‘TPR Tricks: 5 Fabulous Ways to Use Total Physical Response in the ESL Classroom’). Fast paced activities will increase student talking time and engage more students in the exercise.

  2. 2

    Introduce While Eliciting

    Your introduction should not be a time for students to passively acknowledge information. This is a time for you to see what they already know related to the topic while giving them the necessary bits of information they will need to complete activities later on in class. Elicit information such as vocabulary from students. You can call on students if you are asking them to recall something you have already covered but should rely on volunteers if you are fishing for something new. Students in classes this size are usually at a couple different levels depending on their interest in English so eliciting material is a great way to see what information students can provide on specific topics.

  3. 3

    First Practice As A Class

    The first practice activity should be done as a class so that students can get an idea of what the target material is and hear you model everything correctly. Further practice can often be done individually, in pairs, or in groups. The main challenge while students are working on something is monitoring them. It is impossible to listen to more than one conversation at a time so walk through the class during the practice time to ensure that students are doing the activity, answer questions, and correct the mistakes you are fortunate enough to catch. After students have completed the activity is when you will have the opportunity to check their understanding of the material. Cover everything in the practice activity as a class and call on students who have not yet spoken. Quieter students may simply be shy but usually, students who do not volunteer do not feel confident about their answers and may need extra help.

  4. 4

    Production Stage: Encourage Pairwork & Groupwork

    Pairs and groups are good for production exercises unless you want students to do a writing activity, in which case you should consider having students work individually. It is important that students work with one another because they can help each other while you are busy assisting different groups whereas individuals have only their knowledge to draw on and thus are less likely to notice their own mistakes. Just like with the practice activities above, be sure to have students present their material from this part of the lesson to the class. This gives you the chance to deliver individualized feedback and allows students to hear some more examples. This is kind of late in the class for students to realize they have been practicing something incorrectly but it is better late than never and you can always encourage students to ask questions about anything they are uncertain about. Students are often hesitant to ask questions but by creating an open, friendly, and constructive learning environment, you will have gone a long way towards setting your students at ease.

  5. 5

    Revision Is Fun

    Review activities are very similar to warm ups. Something fun and fast paced will help you end class on a positive note while reinforcing what you talked about during the lesson. Here you should definitely call on students who have not spoken up during the rest of the lesson to see if they are following along. This is another great time for you to assess how students are doing and think about what you might want to review at the beginning of the next lesson.

While large groups of students can make classroom management and discipline especially challenging, you are also able to do a lot of fun activities with sizable classes that are not appropriate for smaller class sizes. For example, Chinese Whispers is a fun team game that should be done with at least two or three teams with several members each. In a class with about ten to fifteen students, you would have to adapt the game to be a class exercise instead of a team one. With practice, you will be able to manage even extremely large class sizes with ease.

What size classes do you teach?

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