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These numbers vary and depend on the age of the students, but an estimated optimum number would be somewhere between 15 and 25 students. However, having a classroom with 30 students or more is nothing out of the ordinary these days. But how do you handle a class that big? And how do you find time and the right approach to instill knowledge in each and every one of those students? Here are some tips for organizing such classes.
Be fully prepared
When compared with smaller classes, most activities take more time to finish in classes with more students. However, this isn’t something you should rely on, since the worst thing that can happen to you is to go through everything you’ve prepared for a lesson and then have another 10 or 15 minutes you don’t know what to do with. This is especially important in classes of younger learners. If they have nothing to do even for a few minutes, they will immediately get bored, grow restless and create chaos in the classroom, which you’ll have difficulty containing. Also, bear in mind that in such classes, you’ll always have students who will go through all the materials you give them in no time, while others will need a significantly longer period of time to finish their tasks. This is why you should have additional handouts and several more complex exercises for the advanced students. On the other hand, if you have children with learning difficulties, you should have some exercises adjusted to their capabilities and knowledge so that all your students get to learn something in your class.
Get to know all the students
When you have a large group, it’s sometimes difficult to memorize all the names and the faces of the students, let alone their personality traits and level of knowledge. This is something you have to work on, since every person in that class deserves the same amount of attention. Therefore, it might be a good idea to make your own student files. That way, you can have the basic information on each of them to which you can later add notes and observations you make in class, such as what they’re good or bad at, when they are at their best or at their worst, and when you notice something is going on that’s distracting them from paying attention in your class. Also, if you just can’t remember all their names, you can get them personalized name labels. All teachers usually remember the problematic and the exceptional students’ names first, and those who are quiet and shy tend to go unnoticed. It’s your job not to let this happen, so these labels can turn out to be very helpful.
Be creative with group activities
One way to deal with a large number of students is to divide them into groups and come up with a whole range of group activities for them to participate in. When doing this, be nonchalant, as if you’re just randomly picking students for each group, but in reality, a good teacher is always very careful about which students will go in a group together. This means that you revolve the group around the most or the least advanced students and then just add more students until you have about the same number of them in each group. Again, as with anything else, make sure that you come up with activities everybody can take part in, regardless of their academic abilities and level of knowledge. For instance, many students hate dictations, but only if you do them the traditional way. If you turn it into a competition between groups, they’ll probably love it. Print a text on one piece of paper per group and put those pieces of paper up on the wall, each in its own part of the classroom. Then have a member of each group go and read the first part of the text and then recite it to the student the group chooses to write. After that, the next member of the group does the same, then the next, and the winning group is the one who finishes copying the text first without a mistake. Group activities like this one are fun and educational, so use them whenever you can.
Engage the students in the teaching process
This is a smart way of using the size of your class to your and the student’s advantage. In larger groups, you’ll always have those students who will need extra help and attention, which is something that can prove to be a bit problematic. After all, the combination of one teacher and several students who need one-on-one time during every lesson can mean that you don’t have time to work with the rest of the class. So, to kill two birds with one stone, you should get those students who work faster and finish all their assignments first to assist those who need more time and help. Sometimes the students who can’t cope with the curriculum just need somebody to break things down for them or to talk them through some part of an exercise they get stuck on. Another way to get your students to teach is to assign different presentation topics to them. This can be interesting to both the students doing the presentation and to those who get to listen to their peers give a lecture. By allowing students to give teaching a try, you’re encouraging them to be creative, resourceful and more independent while also giving them the opportunity to expand their own knowledge by sharing it with others.
Although they may seem scary at first, large classes can be easy to work with. All you need to do is to adjust your teaching methods and you’ll have a large number of happy and grateful students eager to learn and grow with your guidance.