Archive for the ‘Class Size’ Category

What is the Perfect Class Size?

September 21, 2015

I like a class of between 20 to 25. Enough to offer adequate social opportunities but not too many students as to make 1 on 1 teaching a pipe dream.

Click on the link to read Tips for Teaching an Overcrowded Classroom

Click on the link to read The Most Over-Crowded Classroom in the World (Photo)

Click on the link to read Meet the School Consisting of Only 1 Teacher and 1 Student

Click on the link to read Classroom Free Schools

Click on the link to read Teaching 150 Students in the One Classroom!


Tips for Teaching an Overcrowded Classroom

July 30, 2014


Courtsey of Rebecca Alber from the fabulous website

Tip #1: Don’t Give up on Collaborative Grouping

Students need opportunities to check in with each other around their learning, ask questions, guide each other and reflect together. And this is even more crucial with a large class. If a tight classroom space won’t allow for quick triads or quad grouping, use “elbow partners” — two students in close proximity. Do this often. As we know, with large class sizes, quiet students tend to get even less airtime. With less one-on-one time with small groups and individual students, teachers need to keep that large number of kids talking and being listened to!

Tip #2: Accept that Things Take Longer

Know that a learning objective that maybe took 20 minutes with that smaller class in the past, might take twice as long with this larger group. You might also be lamenting over the days when you could whip around the room and spend a few quality moments with each student or group. Or when you could offer immediate and thorough support. Unfortunately, if you did that now with 35 in the room, you’d find yourself out of time before coming close to accomplishing the daily learning objective.

One remedy, especially when it comes to checking for understanding? Strategies like thumbs up/thumbs down, or having students hold 1 to 3 fingers on their chest to let you know how well they understand (3 is, “I’ve got it!) Other quicky formative assessments, such as sentence starters, can help beat that Time Thief in the room. You can also use exit slips to see if they “got it,” asking one strategic question about the day’s learning.

Tip #3: Find New Ways to Know Students

Unfortunately, the larger the class size, the more the relationships with students suffer. Consider creating surveys once or twice a week where students can answer questions on a likert scale and also ask questions of you. Invite students to write you a letter about their learning, their accomplishments, challenges, and interests.

You can also rotate your focus every few days to 5-6 different students. That way, no one will slip through the cracks. Often with large class sizes, the squeaky wheels, so to speak, are the one’s that receive much of the teacher’s time. Make sure you check in regularly with your “proficient” students, and continue to create differentiated assignments for those gifted kids in the room.

Tip #4: Be Okay with Loud and Letting Go

Start saying this mantra immediately, “just because it’s loud doesn’t mean they aren’t learning, just because it’s loud…” Somewhere along road, we began to attribute silence to deep thought and high-level learning. It’s more often just a sign of kids being compliant. So go ahead, take those 37 kids and put them in groups! Give them a challenging task and some supplies. Let it be loud! Roam from group to group and if your door suddenly swings open to visitors from the district… Let them get an eye full of engaged, enthusiastic learners!

As for the letting go, if you are still passing out papers, collecting supplies, stamping homework all on your own — stop. Assign students “jobs” immediately. By giving up these managerial tasks, you will have more time free to check in with a child who has been absent a lot, add a step to an assignment for that advanced student, crack a joke with the quiet, moody teen who avoids others, or pose a strategic inquiry question to the whole class.


Click on the link to read The Most Over-Crowded Classroom in the World (Photo)

Click on the link to read Meet the School Consisting of Only 1 Teacher and 1 Student

Click on the link to read Classroom Free Schools

Click on the link to read Teaching 150 Students in the One Classroom!

Click on the link to read What is the Perfect Class Size?

The Most Over-Crowded Classroom in the World (Photo)

January 28, 2014

crowded classroom

221 students squeezed into 1 standard classroom.

With just 1 teacher preciding.

Which country do you think this classroom is in?

Somewhere in Africa? Nope

Bangladesh? Try again.

Give up?

It’s in London, England:

Given the high temperatures and humidity in the city over the last few weeks, parents with children at Sinempulelelo Primary School are very concerned at the cramped conditions under which their children are expected to learn.

Parents and some of the teachers at the school said there were 221 pupils in the Grade R class.

A mother of two, Nosimamkele Heshu, said her children had yet to start learning because there were too many of them to be taught by the single Grade R teacher.

“There used to be three Grade R classrooms, but this year there is only one classroom allocated to Grade R pupils. We want to know where the other two classes are.

“It is not fair that our children are squashed in there all morning,” she said.

“This is the only primary school in the area, so it is only natural that we send our children here,” she added.

Heshu said their children were expected to start Grade 1 next year but she was worried about their progress.

“Children usually know how to write their names by the time they get to Grade 1. What are the chances of these children knowing how to do that when their learning conditions are not conducive,” she asked.

The Daily Dispatch arrived at the school yesterday unannounced after receiving a tip-off about the conditions.

The weather in East London reached a maximum of 31°C and, on arrival at the school, the team found more than 200 children seated on the floor of the prefabricated structure.

In the sweltering heat, children in full school uniform were squashed against one another and expected to listen to the teacher.

At noon when school ends for Grade R, the sweat-drenched youngsters were allowed to leave, to be met by parents outside the classroom.

A teacher, who identified herself only as Miss Ntsabo, ordered the Daily Dispatch team to leave the school premises because they were not invited by “the head of the institution”.

Click on the link to read Meet the School Consisting of Only 1 Teacher and 1 Student

Click on the link to read Classroom Free Schools

Click on the link to read Teaching 150 Students in the One Classroom!

Click on the link to read What is the Perfect Class Size?

Meet the School Consisting of Only 1 Teacher and 1 Student

July 4, 2013


At least the teacher to student ratio is healthy:

The primary school in the Kallarkudi tribal settlement in Valparai is a one-of-a-kind institution in many ways. It’s probably the only school that employs one teacher and has an attendance of one student.

Though it may sound preposterous, the only teacher, Kalaiselvi, treks through the treacherous jungle, braving everything from elephant attacks to leech bites to reach the school and tutor her class II student.

The tribal settlement is situated 20 km from Valparai town and about 100 km from Coimbatore.

The school’s headmaster, Muruganandam, and teacher Kalaiselvi walk nearly 2.5 km to reach the Kallarkudi Panchayat Primary School and at the end of the day too, they return on foot. They are met by the tribals every day at the bus stand and escorted to the settlement.

“We have to be careful while walking through the forest as the elephant population is high in the area and attacks from the pachyderms are quite common,” P Muruganandam, head master of the school told Express.

And, it’s not enough to keep one’s eyes open for the gigantic creatures, one has to watch out for the tiny bugs on the forest floor as well. “Leeches are common along the trail and if you’re not careful, you could be left with bleeding wounds before you reach your destination,” the headmaster added.

Sources said the strength of students at the school dwindled in the last few years, thanks to the migration of tribals to the plains.

“On the instructions of higher officials, we explained to the local tribal families the various government welfare schemes for students attending the government schools. Many have promised to admit their wards and convince their relatives to admit their children as well,” he said.

“We have to wait till August, when the chance of more students joining the school is high,” said Muruganandam, adding, “two years ago the school had four students.”

The number of school-going children is low in Kallarkudi as several families from the settlement migrated to Tirupur and Coimbatore for employment, said Muruganandam.

Similarly, the student strength is low in six other tribal settlements in and around the Valparai.

The Kavarakkal tribal settlement panchayat primary school also has just one student, the Nedungkundru panchayat primary school has seven pupils, Karumutti tribal school has eight, Vellimudi tribal settlement school has nine, Poontachi tribal settlement school has 5 and the Palakkinar tribal settlement school has 4 students.

However, department officials said there were no plans to close these schools.


Click on the link to read Classroom Free Schools

Click on the link to read Teaching 150 Students in the One Classroom!

Click on the link to read What is the Perfect Class Size?


Classroom Free Schools

June 7, 2011

Why is it that just about every idea for improving teaching and learning borders on the extreme?  The idea of removing classroom walls from the classroom, and having up to 200 students occupy the same learning space is pure madness.  The school will tell you it’s working well and that kids aren’t distracted (would they tell you it was a failed experiment, and that the students have suffered because of it?)  How can a school that can afford proper classrooms think for a second that having a’ battery chicken’ approach to education is ideal?

I must be crazy, because they swear it is working:

THE blackboard has already gone from most NSW classrooms. Now, the head of a big school system is determined that the classroom itself joins it in the scrapbook of history.  ”It’s dead,” said Greg Whitby, the executive director of 78 schools in the Catholic diocese of Parramatta, which 42,000 students attend.  He is not alone.

The Sydney diocese has embarked on the same path for primary schools. Forty of the 112 primary schools already use large-form learning areas instead of classrooms and the diocese is keen to expand their use.  

Mr Whitby hopes to close the last classroom within five years, part of a transition to ”agile learning areas”, open-plan rooms where much larger groups – sometimes even the whole school – learn under one roof.

”Everyone thinks we’ve got a barn with 200 ferals running around and teachers screaming,” Mr Whitby said. But what the Herald saw – and heard – last week at St Monica’s Primary at North Parramatta was a mega classroom in which 197 students worked in different-sized groups at a range of tasks at the same time, seemingly without disturbing each other.

In one moment kindergarten children were learning to read and follow a recipe in the kitchen; a dozen children were working on laptops; 30 were watching video trailers they had produced; others were dressing for a play and many were at round tables on a variety of tasks.

Noisy? Certainly it is noisier than a traditional classroom but the children did not appear to be distracted. Mr Whitby and the teachers say discipline has improved since the school changed shape, assisted by funds from the Building the Education Revolution scheme.

The assistant principal, Mary-Jo Mason, said there were fewer behaviour problems: ”You really don’t have children off task.”

Mr Whitby attended a very different St Monica’s in the 1950s. ”It was in the mechanistic age when it was all about control and order with the assumption that the teacher knew everything,” he said. Teachers not only controlled students, they were also kept in strict control.

”We’ve micro-managed teachers’ work for too long. As soon as you take that control off, the creativity comes and they’re really focused on how they can do the job better,” Mr Whitby said.

Teacher-student ratios are unchanged and Ms Mason said better use could be made of auxiliary staff such as librarians and learning support workers. She believed students received more individual attention.

The transition to increasingly big learning areas covers the system from kindergarten to year 12 and is well advanced, despite resistance from parents, some of whom have voted with their feet.

”Parents have got to get used to the idea, because they all had their own teacher, 30 kids and a blackboard out the front,” said one father, Jason Jones.

Peta Capello attended a parents’ forum which ventilated frustration with the new order. ”In the real world when you go to work, are you in a small, closed room with rows of desks?” she asked. ”It can get noisy and you can have an annoying person near you and you have to learn to deal with it. That’s the real world.”

Classrooms with 25 kids get noisy.  You add another 170 odd students and you’re asking for trouble.  How does this meet the needs of easily distracted, anxious and special needs students?  Is there any teacher out there that would volunteer to teach in this sort of arrangement?  I credit the diocese for trying something new, and I hope it continues to work for them, but I wonder why they needed to reach for such an extreme change.

Balance and common sense is missing from education group think.  When the novelty of this program fades and the 200 kids start acting like … kids, the schools that take this idea up will be left wondering what to do next.

My tip:  Make sure your idea is sensible, well planned, balanced and puts the interests of the students first.

Teaching 150 Students in the One Classroom!

March 11, 2011


Pupils in an overcrowded classroom at Quarry Heights primary school interact with their teacher.


This story may well stop me from complaining ever again about class size.  I have always been of the opinion that the optimal class size is somewhere between 15 and 25.  Anything less than 15 provides the students with a lack of social opportunities, whilst anything more than 25 prevents the teacher from having sufficient 1-on-1 time with struggling and advanced students.

To think that classrooms exist with up to 150 students is just staggering!

One hundred and fifty Grade 1 pupils crammed into one classroom is the reality of Quarry Heights Primary School near Newlands East in Durban.

The 14 staff members battle to teach the pupils, virtually packed on top of each other, some of whom pass out because of heat exhaustion.

The school – which is made up of seven prefabricated buildings – caters for children mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds. It has only two taps for the 564 pupils, with no electricity, books or stationery.

The school’s governing body secretary and spokesman, Thami Nzama, said that the school lacked basic necessities and received little funding as it was a “no-fee school”, meaning that pupils did not pay school fees.

“The school was built for the poorer people of the community. We have a staff of 14. The Grade 2 class has 78 pupils; the Grade 3, 57; Grade 4, 70 pupils, and we have a joint class of grade six and sevens with 140 children.

“The other pupils are in Grade R. We have one building for a security guard who stays on the property and another that we use as a kitchen, but it does not have running water,” Nzama said.

He added that the staff did not have a staff room in which to meet and organise their work .

“Our staff room will be anywhere we find shade during the day, whether it be under a tree or prefab veranda.”

pupils 1

Teachers at Quarry Heights primary school marking exam scripts outside because they don’t have a staff room.


I can’t imagine teaching 150 six-year olds all day in the one classroom without even having a private staff room to retire to at lunch time.  I love teaching very much, but those conditions would push my level of job satisfaction to the limit. The amazing part of this story is that the teachers involved are loving the experience.

Credit goes out to the dedicated teachers who work in such an environment.  You are a credit to your profession, students and community.  May you continue to inspire us fellow teachers, to make every post a winner and overcome all challenges with a quiet resolve and an ever present smile.

What is the Perfect Class Size?

November 15, 2010

A report came out recently by the Grattan Institute which claims that reducing class sizes does not necessarily improve schooling.

The study’s author, Dr Ben Jensen, says that while the drive to reduce class sizes is well intentioned, his research suggests that it has little impact on the quality of education for children. He says that more effective teachers would produce a better result.

But the Teachers Federation disagrees with his report, which is based on research carried out in the US state of Florida.

“Any parent given a choice between a large class or a smaller class will choose the smaller class because they know their child will get more teacher time and support,” federation vice president Joan Lemaire said in a statement.

Just because good teachers are a better indicator of success, doesn’t mean that our classrooms aren’t too crowded.  Whilst I appreciate that there is a big cost in cutting class sizes, you can not tell me for a second that a teacher is just as capable of teaching 27 as she/he is of teaching 17.  A good teacher will flourish in most environments and will rise to most pressures, but imagine how much more influential they would be in a smaller class.

I have 17 in class which would probably be the envy of many teachers.  I feel that 17 is a good number, and I wouldn’t ideally want to teach a class of 25 or more.

How many students do you have in your class and what do you think is the ideal (being realistic of course) amount?

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