Unfortunately, we often deal with many classes that do not conform the pedagogical norm of 20-25 students per classroom. In many parts of the world teachers may have a class size range from 30 students to over 130.
We tend to think small classes are ideal. However, when there are very few students in a class, they quickly get to know one another. Opportunities for personalization become rare as students have fewer new ideas to offer, and the classes themselves can become quite dull.
Depending on the age of our students, but normally we always have students from different backgrounds, that can contribute their experiences to the whole class and make the learning experience more significant and interesting.
“ Cooperation works better than competition in the large class: cross-ability grouping allows the more able learners to improve their language skills by honoring their ability to explain, to state clearly, and to give effective examples, while it provides the less able with considerable support” (Hess, 2001, p.3).
In mixed-ability classes, we can deploy the more able students to play tutoring roles for their less linguistically able students and take some of the load of teachers. This can create a positive, collaborative climate. The biggest challenge in making students “tutors” is that they will feel that they are not learning anything. But with enough support and guidance from the instructor, peer-to-peer tutoring can be very beneficial for all involved.
Even the most experienced teacher can have trouble managing a large class. If we opt for pair or group work, simply getting students in and out of groups can pose a formidable challenge even before any teaching takes place. A chaotic environment can happen when all students talk at the same time, this will generate so much noise. It is often difficult to hear individual students or to make oneself heard.
Hess (2001) suggests that a solution to a chaotic environment is organization.
Good organization, among other things, helps students to know what is expected of them and to get on task quickly and efficiently. Having a special place on the board where homework assignments are always placed or where directions for the first activity of the day are written, and a place where all the scheduled activities for the lesson are listed, help in establishing good control (Hess, 2001, p.4).
3. We are frustrated by the huge amount of written work.
Correcting the grammar errors in students’ written work is, for many teachers, the most time-consuming thing they do. Collaboration is key, getting students to act as peer reviewers of each other’s work can be helpful for the teacher when this is done in the classroom.
Even though some students can learn just as effectively by not participating as they can by participating. Giving them adequate time to prepare what they have to say, possibly by providing them with grammatical cues to improve accuracy, not requiring them to speak up in front of the whole class can actually improve participation rates.
A learning style refers to the learners’ preferred way of learning. It is “an individual’s natural, habitual, and preferred ways of absorbing, processing and retaining new information and skills” (Kinsella, 1995, p. 171). Some individuals are visual learners while other prefer to learn by listening to the target language.
Willing (1987) identified 4 different language learning styles.
Learning Style Definition Type 1: Concrete learners These learners tend to like games, pictures, films, video, using cassettes, talking in pairs, and practicing English outside class. Type 2: Analytical learners These learners like studying grammar, studying English books, reading newspapers, studying alone, finding their own mistakes, and working on problems set by the teacher. Type 3: Communicative learners These students like to learn by watching, listening to native speakers, talking to friends in English, watching television in English using English out of class in shops, learning new words by hearing them, and learning by conversation. Type 4: Authority-oriented learners These learners prefer the teacher to explain everything, like to have their own textbook, to write everything in a notebook, to study grammar, learn by reading, and learn new words by seeing them.
How do you imagine that the four different types of learners might prefer to study grammar?
Concrete learners like to encounter grammar in context. They are likely to respond well to tasks in which a grammar point is supported and explained by some kind of visual. Analytical learners, on the other hand, prefer to identify grammar rules and principles through the inductive study of language. Communicative learners also prefer learning inductively, and encountering grammar in context, where the relationship between form and function is clear. Authority-oriented learners favor a deductive approach in which the teacher provides a rule and then gives them opportunities to apply the rule.
If the majority of your students are authority-oriented, they will probably be more satisfied with the fairly “traditional” exercises and tasks such as cloze, matching, fill-in-the-blank, and multiple choice. Analytical learners will probably be happy if you provide them with self-study resources, time in the self-access center or to practice grammar through internet. Communicative and concrete learners are more likely to prefer learning grammar through games, simulations, role-plays, information gaps, and projects.