Now before I start this blog, let me categorically state that I am not an educational psychologist or specialist. I am simply sharing tips that I picked up from my close to 20 years in the classroom. I didn’t start out knowing how to deal with the issue of class size nor did I have much information about student learning challenges.


But I read, I researched and I learnt from the EXPERIENCE of actually being in a classroom. It’s not that Professional Development Days didn’t help me, but to be honest, there were some consultants and facilitators who were completely out of touch with the reality of teaching and the culture/ climate of a classroom. 


I’ve always loved the following quote that compares the field of medicine, which is frequently regarded as perhaps the noblest and most difficult profession, with the science of teaching. And yes, as Marzano and his colleagues highlight, there is an art and science to teaching.


    After some 30 years of [analyzing teaching], I have concluded that classroom teaching- particularly at the elementary and     secondary levels- is perhaps the most complex, most challenging, most demanding, subtle, nuanced, and frightening activity that    our     species has ever invented. In fact, when I compare the complexity of teaching with that much more highly rewarded    profession, “doing medicine,” I concluded that the only time medicine even approaches the complexity of an average day of     classroom teaching is in an emergency room during a natural disaster. When 30 patients want your attention at the same time, only     then do you approach the complexity of the average classroom on an average day.” 


      - Lee S. Schulman “The Wisdom of Practice”


Yep, read it over a couple of times and give yourself a pat on the back. You’re doing a stellar job! And Schulman is talking about 30 students. I currently have 36 per class, and I know of teachers who are dealing with 40 students per class. How are we doing it? By the grace of God yes, but for me, it also involves two very important D’s. 


Discipline in the classroom. 




Delivery of my content.


Next week, we will focus more on the topic of establishing discipline in the classroom, so I will leave that “D” for later. Although I should state, delivery of content isn’t possible without proper discipline . Hence, Discipline is normally the 1st “D” for me. But ain’t nobody got time to read a lengthy blog on both right now. Also, you’re probably in the process of preparing lessons to deliver ‘content’  now, so the tips on its delivery will be timely.


Delivery of Content:


Like you, I’ve sat through seminars and workshops on how to deliver lessons in an interesting and student-centered manner. The tips sounded wonderful, but did they all work? For me, no. The list here, are ones that did, and I include some that I simply learnt along the way.


  • Chunking of lessons: I used the technique of ‘chunking’ lessons for online classes, but I see the benefits of continuing with it, even upon returning to the physical classroom. Sometimes we’re so fixed on getting a topic done by mid-term/ end of term that we power through terms, definitions, worked examples, model answers- STOP. Slow down, split your topic into mini lessons and scaffold, scaffold, scaffold. Nobody, adult or child, can deal with a huge influx of information at one given time. The brain needs time to process and make connections for deeper learning.* What’s the point of being able to say you taught a topic when the majority of your class doesn’t grasp it? Or, they’ve only committed it to their short term memory? As a teacher, you should be rooting for the hares AND the tortoises.


  • Pairing students: Sometimes students prefer to learn from a peer than the teacher. I'm sure you had the experience of a student asking his/ her friend a question while you're teaching. You encourage him/ her to ask YOU the question, but the habit persists. That's why it's not a bad idea to PAIR students up. We know the think > pair> share method and it really does work. It gives you the freedom to circulate more and pay attention to the conversations that are happening in your class. Your students also get to brainstorm together and practice team thinking. Suggestion though: Go through your class list and pair up students yourself. YOU know what a productive pair group would look like, and which student can benefit from interaction with another. Don't leave it up to them because working with friends isn't always productive (don't we know it!)


  • Differentiation by Content: Content is one of the Five Dimensions of Differentiation as developed by Joseph Renzulli**. When we talk about differentiating by content, we are talking about differentiating WHAT you teach. This is “perhaps the easiest” method to employ, according to Deborah Blaz***. She posits that we need to determine what information ALL students need to know (she calls them ‘the big rocks’), and then, we can differentiate our delivery of this info. For e.g. we can “provide a variety of texts, from simple to advanced.” (pg. 10). She also shares that “another way to differentiate delivery of content is to give students choices in the type of instruction: direct instruction, concrete examples, worksheet practice, graphic organizers, online work or more complex activities.” She does, however, point out that in order to differentiate in this way, you need to pre-test / pre-assess “to identify students who do not need direct instruction.” These students “can go straight to the application portion of the unit”, also called “compacting” (pg. 10).



  • Catering to Student Interests: We're teachers, we live in the real-world aka, the real classroom. Honestly, there are some students who are just more inclined to athletics/ arts etc. rather than academics. Don't overlook that when planning your lessons. Do a survey/ ask them to fill out a getting-to-know- you form (Google forms/ Ms forms for easy collection and data collation!). Find out what their hobbies are and what they enjoy (besides your class). If you find yourself teaching a team of football fanatics, incorporate material/ activities that allow them to 'show off ' their skills. Example: To avoid the academically inclined getting all the praise, split the class into teams, each team consisting of the 'quick graspers' and the 'sporting prodigies'. When a 'quick grasper' answers accurately in the game, let the 'sporting prodigy' shoot a hoop/ score a small goal in the net. Give them a chance to shine too and who knows? Maybe they'll become more willing to try in class. It's a simple truth: If you show interest in them, they'll show an interest in you. For the 'art prodigies', you can play games like Pictionary/ Charades.


  • Timely Referral is all that is required from the teacher: This is particularly for students who may be on the spectrum, have ADD, ADHD etc. Timely referral is key. You observe, take notes and then, refer the case to the Guidance Unit or the Special Ed. experts. Unless you're an educational psychologist/ qualified psychiatrist, you cannot diagnose or treat these students. "Bat in your crease", "Stay in your lane"...basically, don't take it upon yourself to approach parents/ guardians with the line 'I think your child might be autistic/ have ADD'. My experience has taught me that parents can be in denial and it's not your job or place to try and convince them. They can become defensive, and the situation may become volatile/ hostile. Your job is simply to refer the matter and seek advice from the professionals on how to handle/ cater for these students. I am not qualified in this area, so I will only mention a case that happened with a student in my class. I referred the matter to my Guidance Unit, based on observations I'd made. The counselor spoke to parents, collected data from the student's teachers and a Special Ed. tutor was brought in. She spoke to all the student's teachers and suggested how we should engage him. Everything must be done with the parents' approval. DO NOT, and I reiterate, DO NOT jump to your own conclusions, and engage parents on your own. 


I really hope that these tips help, or at the very least, point you in the right direction to do your own research. Of course there are other ways to deliver content effectively to large classes, but I end  this blog as I started it: these are practices/ tips that worked for me, in my tenure as an educator.  


Next week, we look at the Discipline aspect of managing large classes. So stay tuned to 21st Century Educators and be sure to follow us on FaceBook!




* Peter, C. (2023). Oakley, B., Ragowsky, B., & Sejnowski, TJ (2021). Uncommon sense teaching: Practical insights in brain science to help students learn. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, (202), 188-190.


** Renzulli, J. S., & Reis, S. M. (Eds.). (2007). Enriching curriculum for all students. Corwin Press.

*** Blaz, D. (2016). Differentiated instruction: A guide for world language teachers. Routledge