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Each type of class has its own rewards and challenges, whether you are teaching individuals, small classes, large groups of 20 or more or auditorium style. Although I wouldn’t recommend the last of these for ESL!

This week, I’m delighted to be able to feature a report about teaching larger class sizes, by the Head of our Italian Department: Claudia Barbieri di Maggio.

Claudia gives us some excellent tips on how to handle larger groups successfully:
My name is Claudia and I am an Italian teacher. Although I have been teaching my native tongue for many years, I am always excited and full of expectations every time I begin a new class. Every group is a different world, with different students that have different needs; that’s why in my opinion every lesson must be optimized and tailor made for every group of students.

With this in mind I would like to tell you of my recent experience with a class of 23 students. Every teacher knows the problems of a big class: the huge amount of energy that has to be spent during the lesson, the diminishing lack of interest when grammar is on the agenda, the chatting and laughing of some bored students, the reiteration of the same questions, the big open eyes of students who don’t understand… Well I had to face all (and more) of these problems in my last class. So the question is: what is the most important aspect to consider when teaching such a big class? In my opinion the answer is to maintain the attention and the interest of the students at a high level. Easy? Absolutely not!

I begin each lesson by telling the students what we’ll do and our goals for today: in this way I share the responsibility with them and they are (or should be) more aware of the learning process.

Then I propose to revise the previous lesson through a game. For example, I divide them into couples, give each couple a piece of paper with an answer on it and they have to write on another sheet of paper the proper question. Afterward I stick either a question or an answer on the back of each student. At this point they have to go around the class and read the paper on the back of the classmates: if they read a question they have to answer, if they read an answer then they have to ask the proper question (kinesthetic channel).

After 20 minutes we sit down again and review it together, summarizing all the questions and answers.

The result? The students are now awake, no longer bored, they have learned without being aware of it and their interest is at a high level. Now they are ready to open their books.