Your classroom is so crowded with students that the walls seem to be bending. Of course, everyone knows that large class sizes make teaching much harder, but teachers are often stuck with way too many students. So how can you make the best of the situation?
It's a challenge, but it is possible to make it work. By carefully planning your instruction to account for your large class, you can minimize these challenges and teach effectively to a big group. Here are three tips on how to manage an overcrowded classroom.
1. Keep Everyone Busy
The more students you have in your classroom, the easier it is for a few distracted kids to derail your lesson. Because of this, it's absolutely essential that you keep the whole class busy as much as possible.
Get the kids working right away at the start of each period. I typically have two different assignments for students to complete: one that they complete when they walk in the room, as well as a mini lesson with associated independent work that I assign in small, ability-level-based groups.
When students enter the classroom, I have an agenda for the class period written somewhere very visible, which includes an assignment the class should begin immediately. That first assignment is usually a task that can be completed at their mixed-ability-level table groups. After everyone is working, I work with one small group of students at a time.
Further reading: The 3 Biggest Classroom Time Management Killers
It's important to differentiate your instruction as much as possible, especially in an overcrowded classroom. This short bit of time you get with each small group of students is your moment to teach a mini lesson, assess their work, or get them going on their next task that you have designed for their ability level.
2. Use Flexible Grouping
All classes have students at different ability levels who learn at different paces. This becomes even more pronounced when there are more students in the class. Because a large class size requires greater student independence, put a lot of thought into how you want to group students for particular lessons. Don't be afraid to move kids from group to group depending upon their ability for a specific assignment. If students are not engaged—if the work is either too challenging or boring—then classroom management will become an issue. Flexible grouping keeps students working on tasks that are just right for them, and it keeps you in touch with their individual needs.
3. Keep Lessons Short
It can often be harder to keep a larger group engaged in an extended lesson. Because of this, it's important to be strategic about how you structure whole-class instruction. You'll often find that you can streamline your lessons and keep your students' attention more effectively. Of course, small-group lessons will also need to be short in a large classroom so you can fit in time to work with as many groups as possible. Don't be afraid to practice your lessons and time yourself. You'd be surprised at how trimming down your instruction can make all the difference.
Further reading: Classroom Management Mistakes Teachers Make at the Beginning of the Year
Overcrowded classrooms can be stressful, exhausting, and intimidating. But with some organization, you can make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. Some of my best years of teaching were in packed classrooms because I was challenged to figure out how to manage an overcrowded classroom, which made my teaching better organized. It's not always easy, but it's a challenge you can overcome!