Some Advice on Large Classes

<b> Forum for discussing activities and games that work well in the classroom </b>

Moderators: Dimitris, maneki neko2, Lorikeet, Enrico Palazzo, superpeach, cecil2, Mr. Kalgukshi2

Posts: 1
Joined: Fri May 25, 2007 1:53 am

Post by bonita_lee » Tue May 29, 2007 6:57 am

I am a university student major in English education in China and am going to be a middle school English teacher next year. Large classes are quite common in China. Thank you for sharing your precious teaching experience. It will be quite usful for me.

Posts: 151
Joined: Fri May 18, 2007 12:38 pm
Location: Los Angeles, California


Post by Eric18 » Sat Sep 29, 2007 7:44 pm

Consider me impressed!

How do you survive the pressure? How do you even learn everybody's name to take attendance?

The closest experience that I can share is when I first joined Los Angeles Unified School District and taught at night in an adult school. This school, located in South Central, attracted over a thousand students a night from Mexico and Central America. Unfortunately, it wasn't the same thousand every night and the campus seemed like an oasis of hope in a desert of despair.

In my first class - High Beginning ESL - there were over 100 students registered, but only seats for 40. Usually around 50 attended - but only 20 or so were always in the class. Most had two jobs. I also had three students with the same first, middle, and last name: Marie Elena Garcia! The attendance sheets, which had to be bubbled in weekly, took more time than one would suspect.

In hindsight, I was a terrible teacher - even if the most popular in my level. My first "trick" was making 60 double-sided handouts of the textbook. Why? Because so few students could afford the book. I also chose the stronger students as "group leaders" to help explain the materials. We usually covered each subject several times - and the entire week could be devoted to a single theme (past tense - shopping).

Finally, I asked a very simple question each night on the attendance sheet. For instance, what's your favorite color? Food? Radio station? TV show? This technique allowed me to take attendance and learn a bit about students - and gave students a chance to learn about each other. They really like it. I've since used that technique for many other classes, including my current university classes.

I found the entire situation extremely depressingly despite the students enthuasism and eagerness to learn despite tremedous odds. Still, I'm no saint and I left after a semester to teach adults in Santa Monica-Malibu School District where we had multiple class sets of books for every student - and class sizes were capped at 30.

I'm amazed at the resoucefulness, resilience, and creativity of so many teachers in handling what seem almost impossible situation. You are much better than I am in persisting under very stressful situations!

Xiujuan Meng
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Nov 09, 2007 6:53 am

games and activities

Post by Xiujuan Meng » Fri Dec 07, 2007 6:44 am

This game is used when I teach the Attributive clause. :D A game: tic-tac-toe. Two teams of players draw the marks X and O in a pattern of nine squares with nine pictures together with some words related to place, time and reason. Choose a number and make sentences introduced by when, where and why according to the rule of the game tic-tac-toe.

Betty Li
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed May 14, 2008 3:21 am

Post by Betty Li » Fri Jun 13, 2008 6:55 am

That's true. Managing a big class over 80 is really a tough thing. I was in such a big class over 70 in my senior high school. and I can see how difficult my headmaster is to control us.

User avatar
Posts: 30
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 10:36 am

Post by EnglishRaven » Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:00 pm

The best activity I've ever used with large classes is "Finding Out" - you can read more about it here:

Best wishes,

~ Jason

Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2009 10:05 am
Location: Australia/China

teaching in China

Post by splotgem » Tue Aug 04, 2009 8:56 am

Wow! So many people have had such 'challenging' experiences in China. I'm currently teaching in Heilongjiang. I'm contracted by a private school where I'm teaching children aged 3 - 12, it is pure bliss! Resources are provided, classes are small - max of 25. It's excellent.
On the flip side the school gets me to do 8 classes at the middle school where I teach on average 65 students per class aged between 13 - 17. After my second week I was worn out from trying to keep the students having fun so at the start of the next lesson I got them to help push all of the desks and chairs to the back of the room. We didn't have a lot of room but they looked so happy to be standing and being able to do something active. Once you build the respect and can create a fun, relaxing learning environment they'll listen - even the students who don't really want to be there or the students who are more worried about their other classes will at least sit back and be quiet - for the most part. Good luck! Fortunately my English department loves their foreign teachers and their 'different' ways of teaching so we'll see what happens next.
If I come up with anything radical that worked well I'll be sure to post it. :)

Posts: 45
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 8:23 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Large Classes

Post by alawton » Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:04 pm


I've never had classes that large, but I I have had 30 or so students in a room that didn't allow for movement. I use a lot of activities too, so I had to change some things up.

Like you mentioned, students wind up with the same partner every time for speaking activities. I would assign them to new seats as they were walking into the class. This way I could split up the more advanced students. With 80 students you need some help! If you can pin point some students who are more advanced and take learning English seriously you could maybe recruit them to help you. Spread these five or so students around the room. Have them answer students questions in their section when you are not available.

I would continue to do partner speaking activities. You could even have them working in groups of fours. For one activity they could be working with the students behind and for the next they can work with the students in front of their row. Write the prompt in large print on the board and model the exercise before everyone starts.

Good luck and I hope this helps a little.

Andrew Lawton

Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2011 8:14 pm
Location: Argentina


Post by anabanana » Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:29 pm

Hi all!
I've never taught large classes...usually I had no more than 25 students, and even that got quite difficult sometimes.
I always tried splitting the class into groups and having group leaders who would be in charge of collecting homework, passing out worksheets etc.

Here is a great blog with tons of ideas for teaching large classes: ... e-classes/

Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Sep 04, 2012 12:13 pm
Location: Japan

Post by beckibenedict » Sat Feb 02, 2013 12:56 pm

I also taught in China, however, my largest class size was 42 students. I found that putting the students into groups made it easier to teach. Within each group, each student was assigned a role, such as facilitator, notetaker, reporter, etc. This made each student accountable for something in the group, which encouraged student autonomy.

For more explanation on group roles. ... &tipNum=13

Posts: 97
Joined: Sun Mar 07, 2004 3:13 am
Location: Tokyo

Post by alexcase » Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:14 am

Some great ideas in this thread, including things I've never thought of. I've written a couple of articles on the topic, including some additional tips: ... l-classes/ ... e-classes/ (subscription needed for this one).

TEFLtastic blog -

Posts: 75
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2014 7:21 am
Location: Taiwan

Post by silencedobetter » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:04 am

Wow! Respect! I feel embarrassed complaining about having 21 students in class in the past.

Post Reply