Published 3rd April 2018

There are many different teaching scenarios you could face as an EFL teacher and teaching a large class is a common albeit unwanted one.

What is considered a large class?

As can be expected, large is a relative term and can mean very different things to teachers in different places. In a UK language school, for example, where classes rarely exceed 12, a class of 24 students could be considered large, while in a primary school in Kenya 24 students would be a dream and a large class would be a class of 50 students.

What problems does a large class have?

There are many different problems teachers of large classes may have:

  • Communication.  Having more than a handful of students makes it difficult to ensure that all your students are able to hear you and you them. Naturally we end up teaching the students in the front row of the class because they are the ones closest to us so communication is easiest with them.
  • Classroom management. Even something as simple as handing out worksheets can take time and organisation. When it comes to planning activities, a lot of thought has to go into how exactly the activity can work best. Physical space can also be an issue, as can discipline.
  • Assessment. Can you imagine the time it must take to mark 50+ tests?

How to maximise learning in large classes

Though there may be a number of problems associated with large classes, they are a reality and so we need to come up with appropriate and effective solutions in order to maximise learning and teaching effectiveness:

  • Be realistic. Don’t try activities that work better with smaller classes, rather find activities which are suited for large classes. Remember that everything will take a lot longer in large classes so plan your lessons accordingly.
  • Be student-centred. Plan your lessons so your students take charge of the lesson as often as possible. They can be involved in handing out worksheets, maintaining control and relaying information. This can take some extra thought and planning but it will be worth it.
  • Change your teaching style. Though teaching lecture-style may seem most suitable for these situations, change it up so you are not always standing at the front of the class. Lecturing has the danger of being unexciting and unstimulating. This is when groupwork becomes useful.
  • Use groups. Teaching a large class is best done by breaking it into smaller groups. Use pairwork and groupwork as much as possible. This will make monitoring much easier for you.
  • Change the seating. Don’t let your students sit in the same seats the whole term. Mix them up every once in a while so that they can talk to and work with other students.

Just as there are a range of difficult situations you may find yourself in teaching English as a Foreign Language, so there are a range of solutions.