Is your classroom bursting at the seams?
As a K-12 teacher, you know that fostering a strong learning environment through quality classroom management is a key factor is setting students up for success. You also know that having a class size of 20, 30, or even 40 students can pose a serious challenge to creating a positive learning experience.
The Ideal Class Size
Several studies have shown that the smaller the class, the better the learning. For example, in 2015, the National Education Association (NEA) determined that an average of 15 students per class is a good number to target.
However, the reality is that class size across the country is increasing at a rapid pace, causing states, as well as the federal government, to respond to the growth in the K-12 student population. For example, in 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law calling for the average class sizes in K-3 to be no higher than 17 students by the 2018-2019 school year. While in theory the mandate above (and others like it) may seem like no-brainers, school districts are struggling with how to achieve the desired goal or lower class sizes when faced with limited budgets.
So, in the meantime…
Structure and Planning are Keys to Success!
What can you do if you find yourself in the category of teachers with a large class size? Successfully managing large groups of students is possible through a structured environment, which you can easily create when you prepare and plan accordingly. Here are a few keys to success for managing large classrooms.
Focus on the individual. Individual attention helps to reinforce learning and helps teachers connect to their students. Large class sizes may seem like a deterrent to getting to know your students, but you can still make an extra effort to give attention to those students that need it the most. Make it a point to provide individual feedback even if it’s written on individual assignments. Plus, you can find creative ways to build relationships with your students. For example, you might want to create weekly short assessments or ask a question of the day in which students are encouraged to give feedback on their progress and special needs. This feedback will help you understand where students are excelling or struggling.
Leverage the power of teamwork. Groups or teams work well in large class settings because they allow students to discuss ideas, brainstorm, solve problems, and help one another. It also allows teachers to transition from one group to the next to facilitate discussion, answer questions, and give feedback.
As a bonus, there are many benefits of teamwork including teaching collaboration, conflict resolution skills, time management skills, and providing students with a sense of ownership. Teamwork is a skill that is required of students when they enter the workforce. By preparing students to work together, you are teaching them a skill they will utilize throughout their lifetime.
Minimize downtime. Downtime in a large classrooms breeds disruption, off-task behaviors, and other issues. So be prepared — down to the minute. Enter each class knowing exactly what you need to accomplish that day and how you plan to do so. Students should be aware of the flow and order of the class — what comes first, second, and last.
Build in active learning. Having a large class size doesn’t mean that you need to default to lecturing to the group. Instead, break your class time down into smaller, manageable segments. Incorporate instructional activities such as problem-solving tasks, role-play, and demonstrations to help engage students and encourage participation. Use technology to your advantage. Online tools and videos encourage engagement, spark discussion, and leverage what students are learning and retaining.
Practice reflective teaching. Take time to think over your teaching practices. Analyze your lessons, class response, and how the practice might be improved or changed for better learning outcomes in the future.
Offer before and after school one-on-one time. Routinely make yourself available once or twice a week to spend time with students who feel they need extra help or support. Make it an open-door policy and encourage students to take advantage of the extra instructional time.