TEFL challenges: the giant class size
TEFL teachers face many challenges, least of all the number of students they have to teach. With class sizes rising and the demand for language skills on the up, how should TEFL teachers respond to new challenges in the classroom?
Full to the brim
For many who can’t afford private tuition, the thought of studying alongside fellow students is an appealing alternative. Studying in a group has huge benefits in terms of linguistic interaction, the chance to meet new people and the competitive edge of group learning. However, when classroom sizes get so big that it takes 20 minutes to do a round of individual reading practice, learning starts to suffer and students start to get bored.
The main challenges faced by a TEFL teacher with a large group are:
- Intimacy – remembering 25 students’ names can be difficult!
- Noise – large groups can become rowdy when everyone starts talking.
- Anxiety – both students and teachers can find large groups daunting.
- Monitoring – it is hard to keep students on track when faced with 15 pairs all working at different levels.
- Textbooks and resources – will there be enough to go around?
Deal with it!
With all these challenges it is important to keep up the pace of the lesson and ensure students remain engaged and open to learning. What can be done to make teaching in large groups more effective?
Use a teacher’s notebook
Always have a notebook and pen in your hand so you can take notes while monitoring pairs. Then review common errors for the entire group.
Spread out and relax
Find a space the group can use to prepare projects and spread out into different groups. If the classroom is too small, find a hall or go outside. Taking part in an excursion such as an English summer camp is a great way to give students more space to learn.
Create a fun and competitive atmosphere that drives students to improve and work to the best of their ability. Splitting the group into teams will encourage comradeship and a sense of accomplishment.
Manage the noise
Use a whistle, a hand sign (keep it clean!) or a gesture that means ‘Quiet!’ By setting an extra task for the last one to stop talking, you can encourage competition in this area too.
Forget staying late to answer all those student questions about grammar or the best French language school to attend – just give out your email address instead. By emailing you their queries, students will have to practise their writing skills and may think twice about the importance of their questions. You, on the other hand, can answer them with a nice cup of tea from the comfort of the sofa.