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Teaching Large ESL Classes: Managing Class Discussions

Sometimes it can be difficult in large ESL classes to get students to speak up and participate in class discussions. So teachers will often have students form smaller groups for speaking activities.

There are occasions, though, when a whole class discussion can really take off if students are enthusiastic about a topic and are eager to participate.

Managing Class Interaction – Teaching Large ESL Classes

A class discussion can be very satisfying for the teacher. It is because he or she can step back and allow the students to direct the conversation. And get plenty of opportunities to develop their speaking and listening skills. Some students, however, may still feel uncomfortable in whole class discussions and will look to the teacher for support.

This is where the teacher sometimes needs to step in to manage the student interaction.  The role is not easy to play. We certainly don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm of the eager students. But at the same time, we don’t want the conversation to be completely dominated by two or three students in the class.

Maximize Student Talk Time – Teaching Large ESL Classes

If students have already learned some language for managing group work such as inviting others to participate (“What do you think, Megan?”) you can remind them of this.

But the quickest and most effective strategy is to recognize the moment when the conversation becomes dominated by only a few students in the class, or when particular students are interrupting less confident students, and step in yourself to help direct the interaction.

Acknowledge the input of the dominant students and try not to interrupt them.  Ask the quieter students if they have anything to contribute.  If some students are still quiet, provide prompts to help them make a contribution.

If this is done carefully and with tact, all students will respect your attempts to involve the whole class and they should also begin to pick up on the language and strategies you use in front of the class to manage group work.

CELTA and Trinity CertTESOL equivalent TEFL certification online. The 250-hour TESOL Diploma offered by OnTESOL is recognized by TESL Canada on completion of a 20-hour Practicum.

Recommended Reading:

Speaking Activities for Large ESL Classes

Large ESL Classes: Tips and Tricks for Teaching Speaking Skill

How to Encourage a Great Discussion in an English Conversation Class

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