How to Teach Classes of more than 30 Students

Over the last few years, class sizes have been steadily increasing, while resources have largely stayed the same.  So how does a teacher equipped to teach 18-22 students do the same for 30 or more children?  Good teaching can still happen even with overwhelming numbers of students. 

Following are ideas and links for good ways to overcome large class sizes:

Direct Instruction: One versus many

With a small class it is easy to walk around the class, addressing each student as you teach a lesson.  With large numbers in your classroom this becomes a bit more difficult.  Aside from the physical space issues that you might face trying to squish extra children in to a space designed for less, keeping every child engaged can become difficult.  This is when you might need to employ teacher gimmicks, please understand this is not a negative thing, you simply need more flash to keep the attentions of a larger group.  Curriculums like Success for All, www.successforall.org, use puppets to assist in phonics lessons.  As cheesy as it might seem, kids love puppets and silly voices, if you buy into it they will love it and you.  If you are lucky enough to have access to technology you can spice up and engage your class with bright and interactive lessons on interactive smart boards too.  There are many premade presentations available for free online, so you can use these great tools without investing too much of your preparation time.  Look at www.prometheanplanet.com for some really excellent resources.

Activity Centers: Divide and Conquer

Having already discussed the challenge of keeping a large group of children engaged in a direct instruction lesson, now we must consider alternative teaching methods.  English, Math and Science are all subjects that readily lend themselves to learning or activity centers.  Setting up centers takes a bit more preparation and training ahead of time but can really work well with many students.  Let’s take Math as an example, if you are working on a unit with money you can set up 5 small group areas with different activities to teach the subject.  Each area would be designed for around 6 students, with the goal that all of the children would complete each area in a given time, usually 3-5 days.  This is a great time to use games, make sure they are ones that have been taught and practiced with the class as a whole first.  Everything from games, workbooks pages, activity mats and small group projects can be used as centers, assuring that the children are exposed to many different learning methods for each subject area being taught this way.  There are ideas and resource for all age groups available at www.teacherpayteachers.com.

Helping Hands

Never underestimate the value of a good volunteer.  With large classes it is especially important to build partnerships across the school community.  If there are too many different reading levels in your class to do small group reading with everyone, you can ask for helpers from higher class levels to help.  Willing parent volunteers are also great for children who need one-on-one help.  

Have parents help with more fun arts and crafts or group projects.  Often one of the first things teachers set aside when classes get big are crafts.  Materials and extra hands to help are in short supply, so if you are luck enough to have a parent volunteer, try to make so cute recycled art project. http://www.kinderart.com/crafts/