Your Guide to Overcoming Large Class Sizes

By Amelia Leigner

As a teacher, I have quickly become aware that different class sizes present different advantages and limitations. Volunteering with Stepping Stones was the first time I experienced teaching in a classroom containing as many as 60 students and not much free space. Managing a classroom this large requires vastly different techniques than working with only 15-20 kids at a time. Here are some helpful tips for those that may feel a bit overwhelmed:

Utilize the classroom monitor
Many of the local Chinese teachers have already chosen a “classroom monitor” who will write the names of naughty students on the board. This student commands a great deal of respect. Be sure to find out who that student is, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when the class is being naughty. In my class, the monitor was a petite young girl barely as tall as my waist. But when she stood up and yelled, the entire room would go completely silent.

Be patient 
Working with large class sizes can definitely test your patience. An activity that may take only 15 minutes in a small classroom will probably take twice as long with a class of 50-60 kids. Once you recognize that activities may take longer than expected, you can begin to plan accordingly. This might mean restructuring the game or changing the rules to fit the classroom setting. Be prepared for this in your lesson planning! If needed, you and your co-teacher can spilt the class in half and play the same game simultaneously in smaller groups.

Establish rules and stick by them
During your first class, present a list of five or six rules that you will enforce every class period. I always include “no eating or drinking in class,” “sit nicely,” and “speak English.” Have the local Chinese teacher or, if you have one, your Chinese teaching assistant translate these to make sure the students understand. Remind students of these rules every class and don’t be afraid to call out the students that don’t follow them. This will help provide some much needed order and consistency in your classroom.

Plan your lessons beforehand
The last thing you want is to be standing in front of a full classroom with no idea of what to do next. Even if you have a very busy week, take just a few minutes to look at the class book and jot down some ideas for your lesson prior to class. Always have a few easy games and activities up your sleeve that you can incorporate into any lesson. Take a look at my “5 Steps for Structuring Your Lesson Plan” post for further guidance.

Embrace the challenge!
Large class sizes give you the opportunity to improve you organizational and managerial skills. Hone in on your creativity to organize your classroom into a comfortable learning environment and manage the many students within it. Improve your interpersonal skills through finding different ways to get to know each student. They will certainly enjoy getting to know you too!

Remember, you get back what you put into an experience! There is no “best way” to teach large classes, or magic fix that works every time. Develop an approach that works best for you based on your own unique teaching style and the characteristics of your students. These tips should give you some guidance and direction in your quest to master the classroom!