How To Manage Large Class Sizes

With a class of sixteen to twenty students you can afford to cut corners. You can make big mistakes and not lose control of your classroom. You can have a misguided understanding of classroom management and still have energy left after school to head to the gym.

It isn’t an effective approach, mind you, and you’ll never realize your potential for exceptional teaching. But the end of every day is unlikely to find you hunched over your desk, head in your hands, contemplating a career change.

You see, when class sizes reach upwards of twenty students, stretching to near forty and forty-five in some cases, there is less room for error. Every classroom management deficiency, every weakness, every misstep, and every moment of uncertainty is amplified as the numbers rise.

Sloppy routines can become lengthy, painstaking exercises. One or two less than positive relationships can turn into four or five unhappy and resentful souls determined to ruin your day. And a trickle of inconsistency can grow into a torrent of misbehavior.

Here at Smart Classroom Management our approach is the same regardless of how many students you have in your class. We will never recommend a strategy, no matter its potential, unless it can be effectively and efficiently used with both great and small numbers of students.

The only difference in managing the two is that mistakes are less costly with the latter.

This is why so many teachers struggle as class sizes escalate. Behavior worsens not so much because of the increase in students, but because the teacher doesn’t have the classroom management skills to deal with it. For them, just five more students can ruin their year.

It can make them stressed-out, frustrated, and battle-weary. It can take away their peace and leave them unfulfilled and exhausted at the end of the day. It can feel like they’re spending the better part of every hour putting out fires and struggling to keep students on task.

The bottom line is that the more students you have the more critical it is to be on top of your game.

You have to know what to do in response to every act of misbehavior, every poorly completed routine, and every disruption in learning. You have to know how to handle difficult students in a way that doesn’t take you away from your responsibilities to the rest of your class.

You have to know how to build trust, rapport, and influence despite having very little time to spend with your students individually. You have to be able to create a learning experience your students look forward to and can’t wait to get to every day.

The good news is that it’s achievable and much easier than most teachers realize. Effective classroom management doesn’t have to be the uphill battle many make it out to be. It doesn’t take involved programs, contracts, or incentive systems. It doesn’t entail having to convince or coerce students into behaving.

And it doesn’t take years of experience.

Another of our guiding principles is that we will never recommend a strategy that isn’t immediately applicable and doable for anyone—regardless of where you teach, who is on your roster, or how long you’ve been a teacher.

You can have the well-behaved class you want no matter the size. With the right approach, you can have the same level of fulfillment, the same rewarding relationships, and the same deep satisfaction that drew you to teaching in the first place.

Six students or sixty, it’s there for the taking.

And we’re here to help.

Every step of the way.

If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.

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15 Responses to How To Manage Large Class Sizes

  1. Elmarie de Wet March 6, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    Good day Mr Linsin

    I am working with slightly older students (16 years + ) and I was wondering if you can give me any advice or reading material on how to adapt my classroom management plan accordingly?

    My younger classes (13-15 years old) adapted successfully to my management plan , which I got from reading your archives (THANK YOU SO MUCH). But I feel like I lost my confidence with the bigger ones…they think just because I am young and new, they can do and say whatever they like, regardless off my rules, consequences and boundaries.

    Although most of the learners at my school is identified with ADHD/ADD or learning difficulties, I see no reason to treat them any different. I think it’s a “motivational thing” and I am losing my rapport (if there is any) to their emotional turmoil . My vice principal asked me if I want to move to the younger ones, but I am determined to win this battle and I refuse to give up.

    Please help!

    Regards
    Ms E de Wet
    (Gauteng, South Africa)

    • Michael Linsin March 6, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

      Hi Ms E.,

      This is a tough one because although there are certainly strategies you can use with older students, there is much more information you need than can be covered here in the comments section. In fact, I would need a whole new website. To try and remedy this problem, I’m hoping to write a book for high school teachers in the future. I hope you’ll stay tuned.

      :)Michael

  2. Maggie Hilton May 6, 2014 at 1:53 am #

    Hello,
    I currently teach English classes in China, my class sizes are 60 to 100. I have several classes that are out of control due to a few kids and then group mentality takes over. I try not to yell at them but I have talked to the in a very stern voice, I spent 7 years in the US Army, and I kinda went drill sergeant on them. I kicked a kid out of class today and his Chinese teacher came to get him, she slapped him in the face. This is acceptable between teachers and students here in China. I was horrified and the look on my face said it all. The child burst into tears and stated that he would be good from now on. I have tried your suggestions but the reality is the one child policy has created little monsters, who are used to getting their own way. I am at the end of my rope with this constant behavior disruptions and at my wits end on how to deal with it and get it to stop, Any suggestions you have are welcome. Thank you for your time,
    Sincerely,
    Maggie Hilton
    stressed out English teacher
    Jiamusi China

    • Michael Linsin May 6, 2014 at 6:18 am #

      Hi Maggie,

      I would absolutely start with a classroom management plan. You must first set your boundaries before you can begin to gain control. Please read through the Classroom Management Plan category of the archive for details.

      Michael

  3. Sarah July 26, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    Michael,

    I love and follow your classroom management strategies and I thank you for that. Do you have any suggestions for how to keep track of the students who have already received warnings or time-outs? With a large class, it is hard to remember exactly who has earned what consequence.

    Thank you,

    Sarah

    • Michael Linsin July 27, 2014 at 7:30 am #

      Hi Sarah,

      It depends on you and what you’re comfortable with. It is important, though, that you do document behavior for future reference, whether making simple checks on a roster or keeping a small notebook handy. I hope to write an article on this topic in the future. Stay tuned!

      Michael

  4. seri October 10, 2014 at 2:26 am #

    Hi,miss or sir,can you help me to solve this problem..?

    the solutions that you can give for the teachers who have problem or its hard for them to give individual attention to their students and the students have less opportunity to practise the language for example they are learning english as their second language and hard to provide sufficient feedback on the pupils work

    • Michael Linsin October 10, 2014 at 6:20 am #

      Hi Seri,

      Please read through the Learning & Independence category of the archive, where you should find the answer to your question. If not, email me. I’m happy to help.

      Michael

  5. Claire October 18, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    Hi there,
    I am so happy to have found your site. Your strategies for handling classroom behaviour are simple and manageable. I am wondering how to address the situation of other teachers coming in to my class that teach other subjects and have a different philosophy of classroom management than I do. These teachers are in my classroom while its my prep time. I believe that these teachers should teach the class as they wish but have found that the class gets so out of control with one teacher in particular that I have to leave the room and I’m just astonished at some of their behaviour. Coming back into the class and getting them settled is very difficult after they’ve been allowed to basically do whatever they want. I don’t want to step on toes, do I talk to her about following my classroom management plan? What if she doesn’t follow through? Is it then up to me?

    • Michael Linsin October 18, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

      Hi Claire,

      If you say something to the prep teacher, or step in to address misbehavior, you run the risk of offending your colleagues. A better solution is to increase your influence with your students so they’ll behave out of respect for you, even when outside of your presence. We have many, many articles on how to do this, but I’ll be sure to revisit the topic more specifically in the future.

      Michael

  6. michael December 23, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

    Hi,
    Can you give me some advice about the effective approaches employed by the teachers to get the attention of pupils?

    • Michael Linsin December 24, 2014 at 8:14 am #

      Hi Michael,

      Check out the Attentiveness category of our archive. If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, email me and I’ll add your wish to the list of future topics.

      Michael

  7. Liza November 7, 2016 at 7:42 pm #

    Michael,
    I just read your article about large class sizes, and I have to agree, you have to be more organized and on top of things or chaos quickly takes over. My problem is I’ve had three new students join our class in a matter of weeks. The dynamics have changed so rapidly I feel like I’m starting over one third of the way into the school year. Is that what I should do, start over with teaching expectations, etc. any advice? I already have your book, Dream Class.

    • Michael Linsin November 8, 2016 at 9:11 am #

      Hi Liza,

      I’ll write about this in the future, but the key is to pull those students aside or up to a table during independent reading or work time and teach them how you do things. Add to it the good modeling from the rest of the class and it can and should be a smooth transition. It’s important, though, to do this before the rest of the class is affected.

      Michael

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