Hello everyone! I currently am a preservice teacher and have been observing in a freshman biology classroom. Next semester I will take over the classroom and begin full-time student teaching. All of the classes I will be teaching are extremely small, ranging from 6 students to 14 students. While I am aware that this is extremely rare, and is something many teachers wish they had, I have also found that it makes some things challenging. It is hard to do full class activities or have large discussions with such a small class. If anyone has any suggestions on how to adapt lessons to a small class and get everyone talking, I would love to hear them!

Maci Budzik
Maci Budzik
125 Activity Points

Hello Maci,

I know this is a little late - but if you happen to be in a small class again, here are some of my thoughts and experiences:

I have had a few small classes in my career and I found them to be great opportunities to delve deeply into topics, conduct some very interesting projects and really become a cohesive group. I also discovered that I could monitor and coach students much better.  The small class size helped me be more of a mentor than a teacher.

On a practical level, you can perform labs and experiments that require elaborate or expensive supplies that would be impractical and almost impossible with a full class. Larger projects are easier to manage and student presentations took up much less time. Coordinating field trips was not cumbersome and I could take smaller classes to places that weren't set up to handle larger numbers.  Because of the smaller scale, I know that I was able to try some really innovative and new things with much less headaches.  Report writing and marking is considerably less onerous and you really did get to know weaknesses and strengths of your students. 

Somewhat counter-intuitively I found that we could have better conversations and discussions.  It feels like I had good discussions in a bigger class but as I reflect on it I believe that there were just more extroverted students who would always participate and many students were happy to sit and listen.  In the smaller classes it was easier to coax quieter students to participate and 'lazier' students couldn't hide.  

The upshot - revel and enjoy having smaller classes and try the advantage to do some cool things.

Hope this helps!

Gabe Kraljevic
Gabe Kraljevic
2408 Activity Points

I think that it is very important to get to know the students and ask them questions while they work. Since it is not a large class maybe invest a little more time into listening and observing the students. Hearing a student discuss with their partner, even if its a short conversation you can go off what they said and ask probing questions about their comments. This way perhaps they feel more comfortable speaking up in the class since they know that you may scaffold their thoughts. I know with my kindergarten class with discussions, if I don't know exactly how far I should go into topic, I start with a thought and as students comment I go from there. I can assess and see if we need to back track or if we can move even further into the lesson.

Griselda Cazares
Griselda Cazares
570 Activity Points

Hi Maci. Your post really grabbed my attention. From the perspective of the student that has been in a small class before, I can say it was amazing and I loved it! We had rich and meaningful conversations in class. We worked in extremely small groups and created great friendships. Even though it was a rigorous class there was not a lot of pressure. The classroom felt like more of a community. My advice is have students contribute to the lessons and materials they want to learn. Have them involved in making rubrics and activities or labs they would like to explore. The more you get your students involved in the learning process the better the expectations and outcomes will be.

Anna Snowden
Anna Snowden
310 Activity Points

Hi Maci, The first thing I would do is get to know my students. Getting to know your students will allow you to personalize lessons and tailor it to your students. I think the with a smaller class you can come up with more individualized lessons. You can involve them in the teaching process as well as evaluation by gaining their input in rubrics, checklists, lessons, and activities.

Hina Anwar
Hina Anwar
345 Activity Points

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