Updated: May 23, 2019
Today, I want to share with you the six things that have saved me from going crazy teaching large classes.
1. CREATE A ROUTINE
Seriously, especially when teaching young students, routine is key. Be careful, though, having a routine, doesn't mean monotony. The routine is the rhythm of your class. No matter what subject you teach, it really helps to have a structure that you keep for all your classes.
In my case, I follow a very simple pattern:
Really, it works!
You can download a lesson plan template I have designed to keep things simple and organized, right here. It's FREE!
2. ESTABLISH CLEAR RULES
You are not running a prison! You don't want soldiers or statues, remember, you are working with human beings! But, let's be honest, you don't want to go to the extreme where your classroom turns into a circus!
On the one hand, having clear rules can avoid many accidents and unnecessary stress. On the other, it's not about the rules, but the positive outcome that brings to respect them.
Another thing, It doesn't matter how far into the course you are, it doesn't hurt to remind students the rules of the game.
Be consistent. If you have said that you won't start class until everyone is quiet, then, do it! Otherwise, they will know that you are not serious and they will start pushing the boundaries.
I don't start my class until everyone is seated and has put everything away (extremely important if you want to avoid further distractions). Once that I have everyone's attention, then, I begin.
If you are teaching an ESL class, try to keep it super simple. Use pictures, videos, songs and games. I know it can be hard when your students don't speak a word of English, but in my experience, dedicating two weeks, even a month to learn classroom vocabulary is completely worth it. From "sit down", "stand up", "line up", "raise your hand", to "open the door", "go to washroom", "open your book". Make sure that your students understand this basic vocabulary, and believe me, the rest of your course will go smoother.
3. KEEP IT DYNAMIC AND SIMPLE
I have heard teachers saying, "Games are a waste of time, my students get too distracted and it's hard to bring them back". Well, it all depends on how you use them!
A game, a song, a craft, when used with a purpose, with an intention, can bring excellent results. Remember, when we learn something, and we use more than one of our five senses, chances are we won't forget!
Also, when you spend too much time in only one activity, students will lose interest and probably will begin to move around and talk to others.
So, I like to include in every lesson at least one activity that involves movement. If you can't do this, then, at the minimum you should have a moment to relax. Mindfulness is an option.
4. DEVELOP AN INCENTIVE SYSTEM
Who doesn't like to get a reward after a hard day of work.
Granting rewards can be tricky. I have seen teachers giving too many stickers, or too much candy.
Particularly, when you are having trouble managing a class, it can be very tempting to keep students happy with sweets. However, doing this, is like building your house on quicksand.
You can create an incentive program that not only helps you keeping the order in your classroom, but also to promote good values, learn new vocabulary or strengthen a skill.
Whatever you decide to use, keep in mind that the reward it is only a tool, it shouldn't be the most important thing in your class.
Reward hard work and good attitude, not beautiful outcome or perfection.
5. KEEP YOUR EMOTIONS IN CHECK
Working with large groups can be extremely draining. I still remember the first time I had to teach an ESL class to more than forty students at once. I must confess, I almost lost it! I wanted to run away to hide in a corner and cry.
One more time, try mindfulness.
I used to be skeptical about it, nevertheless, this year I added some exercises into my classes that not only help me to calm down, but also help my students to stay focused.
Take a moment to see what's happening inside your mind, your heart. If you are feeling sad, stressed or overwhelmed, before continue with your activities, sit down, close your eyes, and concentrate in your breathing. If you can't sit down, it's ok. Just stop for a moment, and take a deep breath.
6. CALLS FOR ATTENTION OR ATTENTION GRABBERS ARE AWESOME!
Even if you are teaching middle school or high school students, having ways of bringing your students' attention back to you, is a powerful tool.