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Teaching Large ESL Classes: Problems and Advantages

Teaching English and other subjects

Teaching large ESL classes is a great unexpected challenge for most new teachers, who feel quite confident about organizing activities for a class of about 15 students, only to find themselves confronted with a class of 30, 40, 50 or even more students.

Key Problems  – Teaching Large ESL Classes

Researchers from the Beijing Normal University in China identified five areas of key concern for teachers working with large ESL classes:

  • Discipline issues (especially with younger students)
  • Meeting individual student needs and interests
  • Efficient organization of activities
  • Providing equal opportunities for students to practice and participate in class
  • Dealing with marking and feedback

Teachers’ concerns fall into three main areas: affective (getting to know students and meet their needs), pedagogical (how to organize effective learning activities), and managerial (how to provide effective evaluation and discipline).

Advantages of Teaching Large ESL Classes

Although it might not seem like it at first, large classes can have some advantages:

  • While it can get noisy, the energy in a large class can be motivating for students, and you will rarely feel that time is moving slowly
  • Large classes offer the opportunity to implement creative, student-centered cooperative project work
  • More students mean more opinions and more opportunities for students to engage with different ideas

The following video offers some advice:

Get Professional TESOL / TEFL Training

Completing an accredited TEFL certification course will help you overcome unexpected challenges such as being confronted with a large class of students who are at different levels, not having access to a textbook that fits every student’s needs, or not speaking the local language. The teacher training courses offered by OnTESOL have helped teachers overcome the challenges of teaching multi-level classes in Hong Kong, find adequate resources for ESL students in the United Arab Emirates, teach immersion programs in Canada, work with a co-teacher in South Korea, and face a large class of rowdy kids in Thailand!

 Related Reading:

Tips for Teaching Large ESL Classes

Teaching Reading Comprehension to Large ESL Classes

Large ESL Classes: Tips and Tricks for Teaching Speaking Skills

Speaking Activities for Large ESL Classes

Take an accredited TESOL course with OnTESOL.


WANG, Qiang, and ZHANG, Ning Beijing. Teaching Large Classes in China – English as a Foreign Language. Beijing Normal University. April 2011

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