Handling A Large Class
Plan, Plan, Plan
To keep a large class engaged, you need to keep things moving and have a lot of energy. That means you need to know exactly what you and the students are doing next. Dead time while you are shuffling through textbooks or notes trying to find the right page or choose an activity is the perfect time for students to get distracted and start misbehaving.
Routines are one of the most important things to have in terms of maintaining order in the classroom. When students know exactly what is expected of them, what books they need to have ready, and how to do certain activities, the class flows by easily and efficiently.
Be Strict About Discipline and Rules
This doesn’t mean you have to be a mean teacher. It does mean that you can’t let students get away with little things like talking to their neighbor or starting fights. At all. Make it clear from the first day of class what you won’t tolerate, and enforce it consistently. If you have to stop class to manage a conflict between two students, don’t expect the rest of the students to sit there twiddling their thumbs silently.
Have Fall-Back Activities
In the event that you do have to deal with one or two students’ behavior or leave the classroom for some reason, have something prepared for the students to work on independently. Keep a stash of worksheets, or have some reading activities that they can do. Be sure to offer rewards to the students or team who finishes first or most accurately.
Manage Your Time Carefully
With so many students, it’s easy to let a game or activity take up a lot of time. Have a clock visible and keep a close eye on it, or bring a timer to keep a strict limit on activities. Always have extra activities planned and ready to go in case you have extra time.
Seating Have a seating plan ready
If you know the students, think about which students are most likely to start chatting or fighting during class. Also think about which students are struggling, and try to seat them next to students who have a strong grasp of the material. Make some notes during the first week of classes about what problems have come up, and don’t hesitate to rearrange the seats to nip any problems in the bud.
Divide the Class into Teams
Having a fun, competitive environment can help motivate students. By rewarding points for the quietest team, best behavior, or fastest to finish their work, you can keep their behavior in check, too.
Give Every Student a Chance to Participate
In a large classroom, it’s easy for quieter students to fade into the background while the more outgoing ones answer the questions and participate. Whether you are keeping track of who you call on, playing games where everyone has to participate, or doing partner work, make sure that every student is involved.
Reinforce and Review
Before starting any independent work, practice lessons, patterns, or new vocabulary thoroughly.
You don’t have much time or resources to give individual attention to a lot of students, so make sure that the whole class really understands everything and can do the work pretty independently.
Learn everyone’s name and get to know them.
When you’ve got a high-energy, fast-paced activity going on, the last thing you want to be saying is “You…no, you, in the red shirt, um…Tim? Tommy?” Know everyone’s name within the first couple of days of class. Plan name-based, “get-to-know-you” activities to help establish rapport.
Don’t Give Up on Collaborative Grouping
Students need opportunities to check in with each other around their learning, ask questions, guide each other and reflect together. And this is even more crucial with a large class. If a tight classroom space won’t allow for quick triads or quad grouping, use “elbow partners” — two students in close proximity. Do this often. As we know, with large class sizes, quiet students tend to get even less airtime. With less one-on-one time with small groups and individual students, teachers need to keep that large number of kids talking and being listened to. You can do a “turn and talk” even for just 27 seconds. Much can be discovered, wondered about, and solidified in that half a minute.
Accept That Things Take Longer
Accept that presenting and discussing a unit’s learning objectives may have taken 20 minutes with that smaller class in the past, and probably takes twice as long with this larger group. Also, you might be lamenting over the days when you could whip around the room and spend a few quality moments with each student or group, or when you could offer immediate and thorough support. Unfortunately, if you did that now with 35 or more in the room, you’d find yourself out of time before coming close to accomplishing the daily learning objective.
One remedy, especially when it comes to checking for understanding? Strategies like thumbs up/thumbs down, or having students hold 1 to 3 fingers on their chest to let you know how well they understand (3 means “I’ve got it!) Other quick formative assessments, such as sentence starters, can help beat that Time Thief in the room. You can also use exit slips to see if they “got it,” asking one strategic question about the day’s learning.
Find New Ways to Know Students
Unfortunately, the larger the class size, the more the relationships with students suffer. Consider creating surveys once or twice a week where students can answer questions on a likert scale and also ask questions of you. Invite students to write a letter to you about their learning, their accomplishments, challenges, and interests.
You can also rotate your focus every few days to 5 or 6 different students. That way, no one will slip through the cracks. Often with large class sizes, the squeaky wheels, so to speak, are the one’s that receive much of the teacher’s time. Make sure you check in regularly with your “proficient” students, and continue to create differentiated assignments for those gifted kids in the room.
Be Okay With Loud and Letting Go
Start repeating this mantra immediately, “Just because it’s loud doesn’t mean they aren’t learning, just because it’s loud . . .” Somewhere along road, we began to attribute silence to deep thought and high-level learning. It’s more often just a sign of kids being compliant. So go ahead, take those 37 kids and put them in groups! Give them a challenging task and some supplies. Let it be loud! Roam from group to group and if your door suddenly swings open to visitors from the district, let them get an eye full of engaged, enthusiastic learners!
As for the letting go, if you are still passing out papers, collecting supplies, stamping homework all on your own, stop. Assign students “jobs” immediately. By giving up these managerial tasks, you will have more time free to check in with a child who has been absent a lot, add a step to an assignment for that advanced student, crack a joke with the quiet one who avoids others, or pose a strategic inquiry question to the whole class.
Work on the relationship between teacher and students
show them you are human: feel at home yourself and your students will feel at home.
Set a task and wander around the class
show that you are approachable.
Help students feel ‘at home’
appreciate that large classes can be lonely/alien places for students.
Agree the ground rules
Establish that attending the class is not just listening passively, but also involves answering questions, discussing examples and working through exercises (be kind, don’t put them off).
Try to understand how your students think
tap into their prior experiences. think of something they can refer to, that is relevant and engaging. explain the ideas/concepts/theories through personal examples and then show professional/work applications. leverage off students’ own experiences.
Ensure students appreciate that self-reflective thinking and interaction in the class develops critical thinking.
Have a change of activities/pace
Different blocks of activities, offering different modes/opportunities to reengage students. one is the vark technique (visual, aural, read/write and kinaesthetic). bring along objects to engage the vs and ks – crashing toy cars to demonstrate the law of personal injury for example, or mix it up with visuals…
Raise reflective questions
Do this at the end of class and come back to them at the next lecture.
Encourage communication between the students
social networking: allow time for fellow students to talk, as a good business practice
Make it a requirement to know the names of those sitting next to you
Encourage students to talk to someone else in the class. this can be part of course requirement, e.g. interviewing another student
Gets students working in pairs. 1-2 minute discussion with another student on a particular focussed question. stress it is good to sit with somebody, as learning is enhanced by the other person’s experience
Let them think about it themselves and then with another person. students can make friends and then come together as a group, which makes it a group exercise. apply theories/models with your neighbour and share the different applications
Prepare about 5 questions covered in the lesson – take 1minute for each question (true or false); mark each other’s answers/person next to you
For students who get all the answers right. making the quiz competitive, increases the stakes and encourages interaction
Multiple choice questions
Give them coloured cards they have to hold up or use clickers. this gets students to participate in active learning and gives instant feedback
Dividing the class in half
Half the class discuss and give personal examples and the other half professional examples; always two sides – give 2-3 min. Organise a debate by splitting the class in two. Students can choose which side to argue for and move to that side of the class
Work on overcoming the impersonal environment of big classrooms
Get to know the students by name
Say their names in the class. the minute you know their names they cease to be anonymous and want to perform