My largest class is 60 plus 4th graders, all of whom I taught when they were 3rd grade. Thankfully their a mixture of some of the best 3rd graders I taught with some of my more silent or, only when over excited, mischievous students. I’m also immensely grateful that this monster class occurs in a 4th grade slot as my coteacher for that grade is very good. While we don’t collaborate outside of the classroom, we very easily got into a rhythm where we bounce lecture and activity responsibilities back and forth in the classroom.
The thing with a large class, and this will be obvious to anyone who has been witness to an excited elementary schooler, is that they are very loud, so yelling or any other attempt at verbal take over is useless. I those situations it’s good to have an already established method of getting your class back under control. Here are a couple that I like to use:
- Flash the lights on and off.
- Clapping rhythm / chant
These need to be your last resort because as more experienced teachers have told me in roundtable discussions I have participated in, once your flipping the light switch you’ve already lost control. The key then is to stop your class before things escalate to this point. I know, way easier said then done in a class of 60 plus non-English speaking fourth graders. My coteacher and I utilize the second option, he has a well established chant that he uses to bring the students back to center. If, for some reason, he has had to step out of class and I need to get the kids back on task I like to take a slightly more passive route by first waiting at the front of the room with my finger over my lips. Often this is enough for English loving students to come back to center and then I can single out my distracted students (usually the same few). In the event of super high energy, I use a clapping rhythm from my own elementary days. A former band kid, I have an obnoxiously loud clap and so even if all students don’t answer with a clap I always get their attention.
Obviously, I’m not perfect or particularly adept at managing all of my classes. No classroom will ever run smoothly or perfectly and both teacher and students will have good or bad days. As I continue to practice as a teacher and study the art, I hope to gain more skills in classroom management. However, I hope to never again have to herd 60 4th graders, as darling as they are, through an English lesson.
Resources for tips on classroom management:
Key to Classroom Management @ ACSD a global community of teachers.
Management Tips for New Teachers @ National Education Association the U.S.’s largest organization dedicated to public education.
Classroom Management @ American Psychological Association a professional organization representing psychology in the U.S.