Teaching a large class can be challenging. The important thing is to provide a learning environment where each student is engaged in the learning process. One of the most useful strategies for effectively doing this is through cooperative learning using one of my favorite strategies, Kagan Structures. What’s special about Kagan Structures is that they are built around principals that develop individual and group learning at the same. The skills that they help develop include class building, teambuilding, communication skills, thinking skills, information sharing skills, and mastery skills. They are also designed to work with all of the multiple intelligences while improving time management skills and therefore are a really great solution for large classes.
One example of a Kagan Structure is Think–Pair–Share in which students have individual time to think about a question related to the topic of study before pairing up with a partner to share their thoughts and then working with their partner to select one idea to share with the entire class. This structure helps teachers organize group work and improves many different skills at the same time in a very simple and easy way. Working on their own to solve a problem or answer a question helps students develop thinking and mastery skills. Sharing ideas with a partner develops team building and information sharing skills. Deciding what to share with the class and then presenting that develops class-building skills as well. For further information and examples of Kagan Structures please check out this guide.
In addition to Kagan Structures some of the other strategies I use include:
- Creating detailed plans for lessons, group tasks, and tools ahead of time.
- Making guidelines for groups that explain rules, tasks, time limits, and expected outputs.
- Using smile/sad face and agree/disagree cards to make it easy for students to respond.
- Repeating the lesson’s most important points throughout the class in a variety of ways.
- Integrating academic and team-building skills into my assignments.
- Making use of technology but always having a plan B in case there’s no Internet.
- Putting materials online and letting students ask questions after class by email.
Undoubtedly, technology can greatly increase student engagement and participation in a large class. The following tools and techniques are really useful:
Backchannels provide a rich environment for group discussions in real time. A backchannel is a great way to give each student a voice. Tools like TodaysMeet, Twitter streams, Googledocs, and NeatChat are some cool ways to do this.
Social media tools like Pinterest, Youtube, Facebook, Flickr, Voicethreads and Wikis will engage students and groups with different learning styles.
Nour Alkhalidy (@MissNoor28)