I worked with EPIK in both small and large class environments and I generally enjoyed teaching larger classes more. This article will explain more about class participation, working with the co-teacher, and how to discipline your students in large classes.
Class Participation in Large ESL Classes
Encouraging students to participate can be challenging in large classes. Giving stickers or candy is a good way to get wider participation, especially among younger groups. You can also have a long term reward system for the class as a whole. If the whole class is affected by one student’s bad behavior, they are more likely to govern themselves. They will tell the noisy kid to be quiet, or help the student who has difficulty completing homework to get it done on time. Promising movie or treat days for a month of good behavior is a good way to get this response.
In a large class, it’s not so difficult to get students to respond as a class in repetitive exercises. They may start out weak, but simply having them do it over again until you get wider participation is usually effective. However, you must watch out for kids who are faking it and try to make note of who they are. It’s easy to spot the kids who participate well, but there are always kids who will try to hide in the shadows. These students often have a low level of confidence in their English ability and singling them out in front of the class isn’t going to make it any better. Instead, I find that it helps to approach these students and work with them during reading and writing practice. Getting them to read aloud and answer questions one-on-one will give them more confidence to do it in front of the class. Give them the extra attention they need and you will often find that they step up to the plate more frequently during a question and answer format.
Working with a co-teacher allows you to visit with many of the students who need extra help more quickly so the pace of the class won’t be hindered. Bigger classes tend to work at a slower pace anyway. Simple tasks like having all the students open their books take longer as you wait for that inevitable element of students who weren’t paying attention when you asked, or the ones who are simply feeling defiant.
Discipline in Large ESL Classes – South Korea
In larger classes the defiant element is always something to watch out for. It should be caught early and dealt with. If you have a co teacher, it’s best to have them explain the expectations clearly to students. If you are on your own, make it clear for them to understand punishment, and use it consistently. Standing at the back of the class, going to a corner, or writing lines for bad behavior are clear and easily understood punishments, which are good for removing the defiant element from the class without interfering with everyone else’s learning.
Whatever class size you have, the main thing you should keep in mind is to be flexible. Don’t let your plans get in the way of the student’s learning. If something isn’t working for the group, think fast and try something else.