Making sure that all the students practice all the skills is every teacher’s responsibility. This becomes quite an onerous responsibility when there are many students in the class and class time does not seem to suffice. The speaking activities described below have been tried with large classes and have rendered good results.
For many who teach English abroad, one of the biggest challenges is to teach speaking skills to a large class of 30 or more students. When there are so many students, it is difficult to get them to practice enough in order to continue improving. The other three macro skills – reading, writing and listening – sometimes present difficulties in logistics, organization and mostly marking because of the sheer amount of students’ work; however, when it comes to teaching speaking skills, the number of students makes it more difficult to organize activities and foster participation in the classroom.
Oftentimes, when ESL teachers ask a large group of students to do a reading comprehension exercise there are two common outcomes that are not ideal. On the one hand, students get bored and distracted fairly quickly and don’t do their work. On the other hand, they work quietly – maybe too quietly – and the lack of noise and interaction makes students feel sleepy. These outcomes are far from what we would like to happen in the ESL class and none of them is conducive to the real development of reading skills and the overall language development and improvement of our students.
Making sure that reading comprehension exercises resemble real life situations is one way to ensure that our students get the most from the lesson.
Teaching is sometimes a daunting job, especially when one teacher has to face a class of more than 30 students. Classroom caps or limiting the number of students per class is not always possible in certain schools, cities or countries; thus, many ESL teachers face the added challenge of too many students per class.
Ideally, teaching a second language requires not only an effective teacher, but also a conducive environment and many opportunities for the students to practice what they are learning. Unfortunately, no matter how effective the teacher is, if the other variables in this equation are not present, the students’ success can be affected.
The solution to this only too common dilemma is to become an effective teacher who knows how to handle large classes and can make the most of the environment and provide the students with as many practice opportunities as they can.
Teaching large ESL classes is a great unexpected challenge for most new teachers, who feel quite confident about organizing activities for a class of about 15 students, only to find themselves confronted with a class of 30, 40, 50 or even more students.