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Handling Large Classes

Techniques and tips for teaching large classes.

Luis Franco

on 19 June 2013

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Transcript of Handling Large Classes

* Adapted from:
Embracing Diversity: Toolkit for Creating Inclusive, Learning-Friendly Environments
Specialized Booklet 2
Practical Tips for Teaching Large Classes
A Teacher’s Guide
Classes *
What is a "large class"?
A large class has no “exact size.”
Usually it is measured in terms of the number of students per teacher (student-teacher ratio).
In some countries, 25-30 students per one teacher is considered large, while in other countries this is seen to be normal or even quite small.
...the problem is we assume that learning occurs in proportion to class size. The smaller the class, the more students learn.

Students in large classes can learn just
as well as those in small ones.

Evidence shows that students place more emphasis on the quality of teaching than class size. (1)
(1)Large Classes: A Teaching Guide – Large Class Introduction. Center for Teaching
Excellence, University of Maryland, 2005. www.cte.umd.edu/library/large/intro.html
[accessed online on 10/7/2005]
Key aspects to consider
The Classroom Environment
Consider removing unnecessary furniture.

Consider using mats or rugs so than everyone sees each other and feels part of the group.

Use several chalkborads around the room for group planning, discussion of ideas, problem solving, etc. (2)
(2) Booklet 5: Managing Inclusive, Learning-Friendly Classrooms. Embracing Diversity: Toolkit for Creating Inclusive, Learning-Friendly Environments. Bangkok: UNESCO, 2004.
Facilitate movement
Use space outside of the classroom
Involve your students
How, not just what, to teach
(3) Malone, K. and Tranter, P. “Children’s Environmental Learning and the Use, Design and Management of Schoolgrounds,” Children, Youth and Environments, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2003.
Organizing the physical environment
School grounds can be a rich resource for learning, and they can serve as an enjoyable complement to crowded classrooms.

Students can develop social and cognitive skills about cooperation, ownership, belonging, respect, and responsibility.

Look around your school, identify good areas for learning, and
incorporate them into your lesson plans.
Move around a lot.

If possible, come to class early to talk with your students about their interests (recognize students as people with lives outside the class.

Help students connect with others who could help them with their work. (4)
Allow students to express themselves.
Have students work initially in small groups during the first few weeks of school, because this
may make it easier for shy students to later contribute in the large class setting.

Encourage questions and comments.
Questions, however, are a valuable means of getting feedback on what your students are learning,
what they are having difficulty with, and how you can make your teaching more meaningful.
--Use positive discipline techniques.
Catch them being good; praise them when they are not seeking attention and misbehaving.

Ignore the behaviour when possible - possitive attention during pleasant times.

Teach them to ask for attention (for instance, make “notice me, please” cards that they raise
when they have a question).

Give them a stern “eye” (look), but do not speak.

Target-stop-do; that is, target the student by name, identify the behaviour to be stopped, tell the student what he is expected to do at that moment, let him make the decision about what he does next and its consequences.

Do the unexpected, such as turn the lights off, play a musical sound, lower your voice, change your voice, talk to the wall.

Distract the student, such as ask a direct question, ask a favour, ugive choices, and change the activity.

-- Involve your students. They can be very helpful in managing a classroom’s psycho-social
environment. To deal with misbehaviour, students can elect a "classroom disciplinary
committee” to develop a code for classroom behaviour (rules).
Know your students - match names with faces
Interpersonal approach
Planning lessons
Student behavior
Make a seating chart. - Memorize 4-5 names per session.

Take photographs or have students make pictures and write their names next to them.

Use name cards or tags.

Use introductions.

Actively take attendance.

Use "cues" - something that stands out from the rest.
(4) Intentional Learning: A Process for Learning to Learn. American Accounting
Association. http://aaahq.org/AECC/intent/4_4.htm
Encourage participation
BuiLding the psycho-social environment
Develop procedures in advance for how students can best enter and exit the classroom.

Plan on how routine activities will be conducted, such as handing out written assignments and then handing them back to students after grading. Also plan so that your students’ individual needs can be met, such as when they need to sharpen their pencils or to get supplies
Maximize classroom space
It helps them to develop a sense of responsibility. They can hang up student work, create bulletin boards, and put away instructional materials at the end of each lesson.

Students can also be helpful in solving space problems.
ask them to suggest solutions.
Be comfortable with what you are teaching (topic, content).

Be clear about why you are teaching this topic and its learning objectives.

Structure your lesson logically.

Plan your teaching strategy and activities in advance.

Identify resources and materials.

Develop, and follow, a formal lesson plan.
The Plan
The Teaching process
The Method
Get to class early.
This allows you to ease into your teaching, to relax a bit, before getting the attention of all of
your many students. Moreover, if you begin getting to class 10 minutes earlier, you might
discover that many of your students are getting there early as well, which avoids the confusion
and disruption of many students arriving at once.

Get your students’ attention at the beginning of class.
An attention getter does not need to be a flamboyant action. It can be as simple as asking an
interesting question, or making a statement, and then asking students to respond to it.

Use relevant examples.
When teaching, you should do more than repeat the information in a textbook. Instead, your
lessons should illustrate the textbook’s concepts using real-world examples.

Consider different learning styles.
Students learn in different ways because of hereditary factors, experience, environment, or
personality. Over the years, we have learned that 30% of students learn successfully when they
hear something, 33% when they see something, and 37% through movement.

Active learning involves students doing an activity and thinking about what they are doing, rather than passively listening. In active learning, there is less emphasis on transmitting information from the teacher to the student (such as through lecturing) and greater emphasis on developing students’ analytical and critical thinking skills, as well as on exploring attitudes and values held about course material. Through
active learning, both students and teachers participate in the learning process, and they can receive more and faster feedback. (5)
(5) Implementing Active Learning. Houghton Mifflin College Division. Online Teaching Center
In-Class Exercises
Draw and label a map, diagram, or a flow chart.

Make an outline of how they might solve a problem, or what they think is the correct answer, and why.

List how and why a concept is useful in daily life.

Brainstorm why a certain solution might be correct or incorrect depending upon the situation.

Short in-class writing assignments, such as “minute papers” or “minute pictures” .

Asking students about what they understood to start class discussion.

Surveys, questionnaires, formative (ungraded) quizzes to assess understanding.

Reports on how the lecture’s topic can be used in real life.

Solving of a problem by students, followed by evaluating each other’s work.
Group Exercises and Cooperative Learning

To provide energy and interaction, enabling more students to think during class, to participate actively, and to generate more ideas about a text or topic.

To give the teacher an opportunity to interact with more students as he or she moves around the room.

Types of group exercises:

Cognitive development exercises.
Place a group of students in a real or simulated situation and ask them to solve a problem. Alternatively, write a question or statement with mistakes in it on the chalkboard. These mistakes can be structural (such as grammatical errors) or mistakes in interpretation (such as errors in judgement or in the use of facts).

Area exploration exercises.
Assign each group a specific topic to study (research), and give them access to resources from which they can learn important information about it.

Psychomotor exercises.
These exercises focus on developing a particular skill, such as drawing, editing, quick problem solving, etc.
There are several ways to evaluate group exercises so that you know everyone worked on the task and learned from it; for instance: (6)
Require some type of group product for exercises that are amenable to grading.

Remember: Grading 10 papers or projects is much easier than grading 60.

Carefully observe the groups and their members. Grade individual participation as well as the quality of group work.

Occasionally require an individual product based on group work such as a one-minute paper about an issue learned from the exercise, a short quiz, or an oral presentation by randomly selected group members.

Use peer evaluations at the end of an exercise; for instance, give each student in a group a “score card”
and ask him or her to give a grade to each of his or her group members (individually and privately).
(6) Dion, L. “But I Teach a Large Class,” in: A Newsletter of the Center for Teaching
Effectiveness, Spring 1996, University of Delaware.
Getting started
Evaluating Learning and Teaching
Giving assignments
Select assignments that are relevant for your students and your learning objectives.

Design assignments so that you can assess learning, i.e. students’ abilities to explain the process (the “how”) by which they solved the problem, not just give the answer.

Design assignments that reveal whether students can apply what they are learning to everyday situations.

Provide clear directions for all assignments.

Use the "portfolio" method. The portfolio is, thus, a record of each student’s process of learning, that is, what each student has learned and how he or she has learned it. It follows the student’s successes rather than his or her failures.
Once the portfolio is organized, you and your students can evaluate their achievements. At least twice every semester or term, review the whole range of work to identify those students who need more individual attention and in what area(s). (7)
(7)Booklet 5: Managing Inclusive, Learning-Friendly Classrooms. Embracing Diversity: Toolkit for Creating Inclusive, Learning-Friendly Environments. Bangkok: UNESCO, 2004.
Giving exams
Create exams that "look" familiar to your students.

Conduct review sessions.
As exam time gets closer, set aside class time to conduct review sessions either with the entire class
or in groups.

Develop exams that demonstrate learning achievement.
-- Ask students to answer questions using diagrams, flow charts, or pictures.
-- For some multiple-choice questions, ask the student to choose the correct answer and then
provide a one- or two-line explanation of how they got that answer.

Not all exams are perfect.
There may be some items on an exam that are problematic. Consider leaving a space for older
students to comment on certain items. If the comment shows that the student understood the
material, but not the question (which might have been poorly asked), then the student can be given
credit for the item.
Give prompt feedback on assignments.

-- To minimize the amount of assignments to grade is to have students do assignments in groups.

-- For individual assignments, have students bring you their completed assignment when they
finish. You can grade it on the spot and give them instant feedback.
To avoid a line at your desk, ask your students to take numbered pieces of paper when they have
finished their work and to come to your desk when their number is called.

Students can exchange their assignments and they can grade each other’s work. You will need to
monitor their grading.

To combat the burden of grading many exams, involve your students.
Whenever possible, give short exams, not ones that take up the entire class time. Your students can
then help you with the grading process.
To accomplish this, you may want to prepare answer sheets in advance.
Grading assignments and exams
Grading and feedback
Reflection process
Good teachers of large classes talk to their students about teaching.

-- Use "mid-term teaching exam" or anonymous surveys to collect information about your teaching.

-- Ask students to assess individual assignments. This will help you modify the assignment for future
students. (8)
Reflecting on your teaching
(8) Student Ratings of Teacher Effectiveness: Creating an Action Plan. Center for
Support of Teaching and Learning, Syracuse University, New York. http://cstl.syr.
Good teachers of large classes reflect on their teaching. They don't reflect on the problems of having many students in a classroom.

Good teachers think about therir teaching - classroom behavior, plans, activities, background and experiences of their students- and ways to improve it.
Top 20 tips for teaching large classes
1. Plan ahead and prepare thoroughly; problems can be magnified in large classes, but they can also be dealt with effectively.
3. Do everything possible to get to know your students. A positive relationship with your students builds a willingness on their part to actively participate in class.
2. Maximize classroom space by removing unnecessary furniture, and use space outside of the classroom as learning and activity centres. Ask your students for suggestions on arranging the classroom in a comfortable manner.
4. Have your students introduce themselves to everyone in an interactive manner. You introduce yourself, as well.
5. Move around the class when talking – this engages students more actively, and it can reduce the physical and social distance between you and your students.
6. Be natural and personal in class and outside of it – be yourself!
7. Tell your students you will be available before and after class to answer any questions they might have.
8. Keep track of frequently asked questions or common mistakes. Use these to develop lessons and help students avoid making mistakes.
9. Be aware of the class. If you notice or even feel that there is something wrong, ask a student what is going on. Invite small groups of students to visit you to discuss important class issues. When necessary, involve students and use positive discipline to deal with misbehaviour.
10. Give a background questionnaire or a diagnostic test to check the content of your lessons and the knowledge and skills of your students, to identify those students that need special attention, as well as to make connections to students’ life experiences.
11. Determine what information can be delivered through methods like group work, role-playing, student presentations, outside readings, and in-class writing. These can be excellent ways to vary classroom routine and stimulate learning.
12. Develop a formal lesson plan as a way to organize your teaching in a large class setting.
13. Explain to your students exactly how and why you are teaching the class or a specific lesson in the manner that you do. For example, “This is why I give quizzes at the end of class.”
14. Develop a visual display of the outline of the day’s topics and learning objectives (for instance, a list on a chalkboard). This will make following the flow of the class much easier for you and your students.
15. Use “prompts” to develop students’ question and answer skills, and count to 10 after you ask a question to give time for the student(s) to answer.
16. Give assignments that really assess whether or not your students are learning what you are teaching.
Give clear and thorough instructions for all assignments.
18. Develop exams that really tell you if your students have truly learned and can apply what you have taught them, not just what they remember.
17. Develop a portfolio system or other ways to keep track of student performance – both successes and areas needing improvement – and to identify those students who require extra attention.
19. Give prompt feedback on assignments and exams. Involve your students in the grading process to give faster feedback.
20. Reflect on your teaching. Discuss with your colleagues and students how your class can be improved. Visit the classes of colleagues who are also teaching many students, and exchange ideas and materials for teaching large classes. Above all, view the challenge of teaching a large class as an opportunity, not a problem.
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