ESL Learning Group Sizes – How Big is too Big?

Teachers across the country have their own opinions on the appropriate number of students per classroom, no matter the education level. The same can be said for ESL teachers and their students. There is a big difference between a lecture hall setting and a large classroom overflowing with students.

There are benefits to both a big and small class size. When you are teaching in an ESL program, it is more beneficial to have a larger class size. A large group of students can make it easier for others to grasp what is being taught.

With a large group of students you will better be able to pair them off or put them in small groups to complete assignments. If the group is generally a quiet one, you might want to have them get out of their chairs and wander around the room during different activities. Activities that move quickly will generate more talking from the students and help them loosen up with their peers.

However, small class sizes can allow for more one-on-one interaction. It is also easier to notice students who might not be understanding the material as well as the other students. Within a larger setting, students can sometimes get lost in the shuffle and become overwhelmed.

Whatever the class size may be, when given new material the entire class should work on the activity together. Students should be able to hear you model the new material so they know how it should look on paper and sound out loud. Once you provide a good example of the new material to the class as a whole, you can then have the students practice the material individually, in pairs, or in small groups.

Class sizes in ESL programs will vary, but teachers should aim to have a class size that they are comfortable with. For instance, an ESL class with 45 or more students can be very difficult to lead, especially if the teacher does not have an aide or teaching assistant. With a class size between 25 and 35, ESL teachers can easily split the class into smaller groups for the students to practice their material.

One Reply to “ESL Learning Group Sizes – How Big is too Big?”

  1. Here are some ideas I use in my own classroom:Praise-Question-Polish (PQP)-PQP is a fwaoermrk used to assess understanding and evaluate learning. It has three columns for student responses to specific lessons, texts, topics, or focus studies. The praise column is for positive comments, the question column is for recording ideas that are not clear, and the polish column is for suggested changes to improve understanding.Literature Study-Literature discussion groups give students a chance to talk about their perceptions and interpretations of a selected text. After reading the selection and responding in a literature log, they meet to discuss ideas and insights. After discussion, group members decide how far they will read and what they will consider for the next discussion time. Different students serve as discussion leaders.Text Sets- The text sets used in literature study circles are usually multiple copies of the same text to provide a focus for shared meaning. However, text sets may be a collection of different books on a related topic. Using sets of different texts encourages students to compare, contrast, and make connections in a reading discussion group. Related poetry may be included as text sets as well as different versions of particular fairy tales or collections of books by the same author.Say Something-this a reading activity that invites conversation and discussion by partners or small groups of students. Each person receives a text for reading and responding. The participants decide cooperatively how far to read before stopping to talk about the author’s ideas. Someone is designated to speak first, or to say something related to the text. Each person listens and responds with comments, reactions, or questions. They may reread the text to clarify understanding or answer questions.Partner Reading-Partner reading encourages the sharing of ideas. Sometimes partners take turns talking about their perceptions, questions, and insights. Partners of different ages and abilities work well together. The teacher may be a student’s partner to assess individual needs and strengths.Reciprocal Teaching-Reciprocal teaching is an instructional activity that takes place in the form of a dialogue between teachers and students regarding segments of text. The dialogue is structured by the use of four strategies: summarizing, question generating, clarifying and predicting. The teacher and students take turns assuming the role of teacher in leading this dialogue.Additionally, you might find some ideas at this link:

Comments are closed.