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Language assistants' answers


Question: Large classes

At the the school where I work, some of the classes I get are fairly large - from 18 to 24 pupils. They're nice pupils and have a lot of potential, but I think it's difficult for conversation work. How can I organise tasks so that I can give each pupil enough attention and keep them occupied? Teachers at my school suggested putting them in groups to prepare work to present, but I can't keep tabs on them and get round everyone that way, it's also very time-consuming. I also know they won't speak English when in groups. Sometimes I give optional questions to pupils who complete tasks first, but there's never enough time to acknowledge the extra work of more able pupils, and I'd prefer not to give too much written work. Can you suggest techniques I can use when working with the class as a whole?

 

     
 

 

Answer:

The teachers are right to suggest that group work is your best bet for maximising your students' chances to speak. Sometimes it can just be a case of getting used to the freedom of working without the constant helping hand of a teacher. Another problem is the disruption and time taken to get them into the pairs or groups. Set up a system of A and B students so only the Bs in one row shift along 2 places to change partners or they all turn round to face a new person behind. Make these transfers quick and as quiet as possible.


Answer:

Group work places demands on you with large groups, as you do need to circulate, be available to help and guide. The demands of being centre stage and doing all the talking yourself can be pretty draining and stressful too! Whichever way you choose the main thing is that a whole class which is fairly large is going to be a physical and mental challenge for any teacher, experienced or not.


Answer:

Try to get the students used to working in pairs and then in small groups with you by doing very short bursts of activity. Gradually build up the time you let them off the leash, so to speak.


Answer:

Pick tasks which transfer easily from working with you as leader to working in pairs / groups A Short questionnaires or tables to complete are good. Run through the questions with the whole class and give some examples of your own.



Answer:

A large class for some can be an average class for others, as large is a very relative term. It didn't help that I had trouble remembering names. I did freak out a bit the first week but just started to build up a sequence of achievable activities by week 4. It is a challenge.


Answer:

Plan your lessons for large classes as a series of activities and not one whole. Plan 3 to 4 shortish activities moving from you to pairs and to small groups rather than doing a big intro from you with a long discussion in groups. Keep bringing the class back into line but then keep sending them back into short bursts of speaking practice away from you. They can easily get out of control and drift into their own language if left for too long.

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