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 Teaching Small Classes

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Number of posts : 857
Age : 57
Registration date : 2007-12-17

PostSubject: Teaching Small Classes    Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:58 pm

Teaching Small Classes

Most teachers would agree that teaching a small class comes with many
benefits. Teachers can offer one-on-one assistance at times and are
more likely to meet the individual needs of their students. Some
teachers, however, find it quite challenging to keep their students
interested and excited about learning in a small class. Depending on the
location you are teaching in, small classes range from about three to
seven students. In countries where large classes are the norm, classes
of twenty may still be considered small. There are numerous coping
strategies and activities that teachers can use to deal with the
challenges of timing and student engagement.

Advantages of Teaching Small Classes

  • Comfort: Teachers and students often feel more comfortable
    when the class size is smaller. Students generally feel more comfortable
    voicing their questions and opinions.
  • Students' needs met: Teachers can design customized lessons to meet the needs and interests of all of the class members.
  • Student centred: Teaching is student centred and often more
    communicative than is possible in large classes. Students also have more
    opportunity to speak.
  • Space: Students have plenty of space to move around in the
    classroom. Teachers can also arrange excursions (or suggest spontaneous
    ones) outside of the classroom where students can be exposed to real
    world English.
  • Attendance: Class attendance is usually high because students
    know they will be missed if they are absent. They also feel like they
    belong to the group.
  • Tasks Completed: Assignments and homework are more likely to be completed because the teacher is more likely to check.
  • Preparation time: Less preparation time is required for
    photocopying. There are generally enough textbooks to go around so
    photocopying is limited to extra activities.
  • Detailed Feedback: Teachers have time to provide detailed
    feedback when marking assignments and tests, so students get a better
    sense of how they are improving and where they need to work harder.
    Teachers also have more time to answer questions before, during, and
    after class

Challenges of Teaching Small Classes

  • Timing: Activities finish quickly, so teachers may need to prepare more lessons and games.
  • Distractions: Pairs can get distracted easily since they can hear what each other are saying.
  • Attendance: If a few students do miss a class, planned
    lessons can occasionally flop. For example, you may plan a lesson that
    requires pair work, and then find that only three of your six students
    come to class.
  • Fillers: Teachers must always have plenty of fillers on hand for times when lessons or activities get completed quickly.
  • Boredom: Students may become bored working with the same
    pairs or groupings all of the time. There may also be less energy in the
    room in a small class.
  • Anxiety: While you will likely feel more comfortable teaching
    in a small class, shy students who are used to blending into a large
    class may be uncomfortable participating. You will have to take special
    measures to help them gain confidence.
  • Activities not always suitable: Some activities in textbooks,
    such as debates or role-playing, may not be possible if a class is very
    small. You will have to spend some preparation time adapting textbook

Strategies for Coping with Small Classes

  • Fillers: Always have plenty of fillers (such as puzzles and games) ready in case activities finish quickly. Keep a list of [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] on hand to use when energy gets low. Some may need to be adapted slightly if the class is very small.
  • Review often: Take the time to make sure that your students understand the lessons and material.
  • Encourage confidence: Help shy students to feel more
    comfortable by trying not to put them on the spot. Let them get
    comfortable with you and their classmates before you start calling on
    them to speak up more. Remember to praise them often and save criticism
    for private interviews.
  • Change the dynamics: Invite students from other classes in
    once in a while. Prearrange pair group and getting to know you
    activities with other teachers who have small classes. If you have high
    level students pair them with lower level students and give them the
    opportunity to teach.
  • Ask for feedback: Take time to find out whether or not
    students are happy with the class. Ask for suggestions regarding
    activities they want to do or skills they would like to improve. Put a
    question box or envelope out so that students can remain anonymous if
    they want to.

Activities to use in Small Classes

  • Use English newspapers: Ask students to bring in a daily paper. Assign one story to each student to read and present. See the [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] on how to use English Club's [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] in the classroom.
  • Use music in the classroom: Have students listen to English songs. Use cloze exercises and teach vocabulary and idioms.
  • Storytelling: Have students tell stories from their own
    cultures or childhoods. It is fun to take students to a new location to
    do this, such as a park or a coffee shop.
  • Chain writing: Each student writes one sentence on a piece of paper and then passes it on until each story is complete.
  • Role-playing: Give students lots of opportunity to use the language they are learning in mock-style everyday settings.
  • Board games: Small groups are great for playing board games such as [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.].
    Card games are a great way for students to practice asking questions.
    Make sure that they speak in English rather than speaking with gestures
    or in their own native language.
  • Online lessons: Besides our own [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.],
    English Club offers many links to other online sites. Small classes can
    make use of computer labs easily. If your class does not have a
    computer lab, take students to the local library regularly to introduce
    them to the online learning sites.
  • Films: There are numerous lessons online for incorporating
    film into your class lessons. This can be done at all levels with great
    success, especially in a small class. Stop the film often in order to
    check comprehension and keep students focused.
  • Class Excursions: Take advantage of the class size, by
    getting out of the school as often as possible. Exposing your students
    to real English outside of the classroom is one of the most important
    things you can do if they are visiting from foreign countries.
  • Guest speakers: Invite people into your classroom to speak or
    participate in a lesson. This can be other students who have a special
    interest or understanding about a topic you are working with, or other
    people from the community who would be willing to come into your class.
    Your students will appreciate a new face from time to time in a class
    that has limited numbers.

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