Aspects of Class-Size

Synopsis prepared by Lee Risley
(FLTeach: Feb. 1994 - Dec. 1997)
If you have spent much time in front of a classroom having the full responsibility for instruction, you know with no shadow of a doubt that 'class-size makes a difference.'

But what kind of difference? The teacher's leg-, throat- and mind- fatigue really tell us a lot, but they are scarcely quantifiable. But in these times your argument for relief (for you yourself and/or for your students) often has to be based on objective studies; administrators and tax-payers say they need to hear this type rationale before considering change that will cost more.

Appeals to your teacher union representatives sometimes can bring relief, when it can be shown that certain assignments violate the duly approved contract. Other times a little authentication that shows the school system's practices impinge on the guidelines of your regional certification organization can get action.

In this collection, Tim Mason's several musings and investigations  and the contributions of other FLTeachers show roughly how many faces the question of class-size sports. It can really get complicated, but he and several other contributors suggest web sites that may be helpful. Tim's most intriguing point may well be that perhaps small classes do not achieve significantly more than large classes because the typical teacher does not change teaching style appropriately when moving from large to small classes.

Finally, it is no secret to teachers that more kids in the classroom mean more papers to grade. But it is hard for teachers to ignore the fact that here in the late 20th century many principals are affirming strongly that you should not ask a kid to write anything that you, the teacher, do not intend to grade; and precisely in these days, such a high percentage of students do not feel they have an actual assignment unless they have something to write and turn in. The result can be significant paper overload, a strong contributory factor to teacher burn out. It will not be a complete surprise to find Mary Young suggesting that the homework thread that has been continuing off and on for some two years on FLTeach is a place to seek some hints about keeping one's  chin above the level of the paper flood.


95/11 From->    Gary Luke <>

I know that people have already covered this topic, but could someone
help me anyway? Due to overcrowding, the school board wants to put 32 or
33 students into our F.L. classes (now between 25 and 30). Can anyone
cite research that I can present the board to show that this is not good
for learning a foreign language? What is the optimal number? thanks

Gary Luke


96/10 From->    Timothy Mason <>
Subject:        Class-size and success

I do not know of any research into the relationship between class-size
and success in language learning as such. Research has been done on the

relationship between class-size and general attainment. The results are
intriguing and ambiguous, and on the whole, teachers don't like them
very much. I will provide references as soon as I have been able to dig
them up from the heaps of paper that encumber my workroom.

1. Class-size does appear to make a difference in primary schools.
Younger children do better in smaller classes.

2. For secondary schools, Rutter et al (Fifteen Thousand Hours ;
Secondary Schools and their effects on children, Open Books, 1979) write
the following :

... neither average size of school class nor pupil-teacher ratio seems
to be consistently associated with school behaviour or attainment ....
Indeed, what trend exists is for *larger* class-size to be associated
with *better* attainments.

What does seem to happen is that there is a qualitative change once the
group becomes larger than 10-12 pupils. Efficiency then bottoms out at
around 24/5, which is the class-size associated with the worst results,
and *then rises* again, particularly in schools situated in
working-class districts - that is, working class children do better in
larger classes (One hypothesis is that this enables them to escape
negative judgements from the teacher - another is that it imposes
lock-step style teaching, which works better with working class
children. It is middle-class children who shine when taught using
liberal teaching approaches)

Rutter later reported that there did appear to be a positive correlation
between class-size and delinquency - that is, children in larger classes
are more likely to become delinquent. Later work has found some positive
effects with smaller classes, but not a great deal. (P. Mortimore et al.,
1988, School Matters, Somerset, Open Books)

It could be that language teaching is different and that smaller classes
are better in this one case. And it could be that the researchers have
got it all wrong (it has been claimed that the research is flawed - but
you can always find flaws in educational research, if you look). But I
don't think that there is much comfort for the classroom teacher in
their findings.

One thing - as Jencks put it, in 'Inequality', both teachers and pupils
say that they feel happier and more relaxed in smaller classes. That
seems a pretty valid reason for having smaller classes - but let's be
clear what we mean by smaller. I would not, in the light of present
knowledge, want to create classes of 24/5 pupils. 10/12 seems about
right, and might even work out cheaper.

Timothy Mason


96/11 From->    Timothy Mason <>
Subject:        class-size - persuading the administrators?

Working with Administrators to Effect the Reduction of class-size (The
Round Table).  English Journal, v77 n7 p82-83 Nov 1988
I have asked ERIC about evidence as to the effects of class-size on high
school success in general, and on language teaching in particular. The
results suggest - to me at least - that other factors, such as putting a
high value on personal interaction between teachers and students, and
stressing learning rather than teaching (both, of course, more easy to
implement when classes are small). There appears to be very little
research on class-size and language teaching specifically - though you
may be interested to know that average class-size for English courses in
Indonesia is between 40 and 60 pupils.

The following reference may be of help to anyone who wishes to persuade
administrators to reduce class-size -

Available from-> UMI
Language: English
Journal Announcement: CIJAPR89
Target Audience: Teachers; Practitioners Suggests three ways to
encourage administrators to reduce class-size in English classrooms.
Describes an effective presentation to the school board, a public
relations campaign to educate parents and administrators, and a grant
proposal for hiring a writing resource person. (MM)
Descriptors: Activism; Boards of Education; *class-size; Politics of
Education; School Administration; Secondary Education; *Teacher
Administrator Relationship; *Teacher Student Ratio
Identifiers: Educational Issues

ERIC also recommends contacting the ERIC CLearinghouse on Language and

Timothy Mason


96/12 From->    Timothy Mason
Subject:        class-size and outcomes again

I have just stumbled across further research into the relationship
between class-size and success - Times Educational Supplement, 6/12/96.
The research , done by a team from Leicester University, decided to
tackle the question of why smaller classes produced such little
measurable gain by looking at how teachers behaved when given smaller
classes. They concentrated on 'expert' teachers, as indicated by
trainers and headteachers, who taught in the public Primary school
system, with relatively large classes. These teachers they then swapped
with teachers from private schools who had small classes. The lessons
were observed. Researchers also observed the public school teachers when
they had their own classes, but with numbers halved.

They found that time spent on critical control was lower, there was more
feedback and a higher proportion of sustained interactions in the
smaller classes. These are all factors that research leads us to expect
to result in better outcomes. However, the actual change in these
directions was quite small. As the authors of the report state :

'Teachers did not appear to maximise the advantages of the smaller
classes ... These findings do not necessarily lead to the conclusion
that class-size does not matter but rather that teachers must be trained
to operate more effectively in smaller classes by maximising the use of
key interactions.'

They go on to say that studies of class-size effects will continue to
find little difference between large and small classes so long as
teachers are not trained to take advantage of smaller classes.

For my own part, I wonder whether we may not advance the same argument
for larger classes. Outcomes for such classes could improve considerably
if teachers were given proper training, (I definitely feel that this
means mainly on the job training) and if they were allowed to teach in
ways which encouraged use of cognitive skills. This may be a far better
use of resources. As another article in the same issue of the TES points
out, dropping average class-size from 23.3 pupils to 22.3 would cost an
extra £51 .58 per pupil. Dropping to 21.3 would cost £107.96 more per

pupil. Dropping radically to 18.3 would cost £313.69 per pupil. This
money - supposing it to be available - could be spent on cutting teacher
contact time, and on providing in-service training. It could be spent on
learning assistants to provide back-up support, or on clerical
assistants to cut the amount of time teachers spend on administrative

I know that very few of my colleagues share my bizarre liking for large
classes - am I totally out on a limb on that one? - but those who would
advocate cutting class-sizes by a meaningful number do need to make a
very good case, and do need to demonstrate that they will radically
alter their teaching approaches if their desires are acted upon.

Yours statistically
Timothy Mason


96/12 From->    Timothy Mason
Subject:        Further reflections on class-size

The most damning critique of class-size survey results is that they use
either formal exams or standardized tests to measure educational
outcomes. This at least has the advantage of judging the institution in
its own terms, but almost certainly does not address the full range of
behavioural changes that education brings about, whether positive or
negative. Thus, for example , Rutter and his colleagues note that
although class-size does not correlate with standard measures - public
exams - of success, it does correlate with delinquency (although it
needs to be noted that there are problems in the measurement of
delinquent behaviour that we have not the space to go into here). The
overall relationship between schooling and the likelihood of being
labelled delinquent is a strong one, such that the peak age for
delinquency was raised in England through the simple expedient of
raising the school-leaving age.

The argument about class-size, then, can be seen to go to the very root
of thinking about education. If it is merely the business of schools to
enable children to adopt the behaviours which lead to success in
standardized tests , then the number of children in a class is of very
little importance, and administrators are quite right to ignore demands
that these numbers should be cut. If we believe that schools serve other
purposes, and that those purposes are to be fully attained - at least in
part - through reducing class-size, then we need to argue convincingly
against the presently prevailing educational ideology, and we need to
show how those ends will be furthered by smaller classes.

Realistic arguments against large classes are of necessity radical
arguments . And I would suggest that we, as teachers, certainly need to
come to terms with the finding that working-class children do better in
larger classes, for at least one of the implications is that increasing
the amount of attention that the typical teacher devotes to such
children actually lessens their chances of learning. If this is so, then
we certainly need to subject our own practice to intense scrutiny and
radical overhaul.

Yours moralistically,
Timothy Mason


97/01 From->    Linda C Masterson <>
Subject:        class-size limits

I need to give justification to my supervisor for limiting class-size in
Foreign Language classes. We used to have a set limit of 25 per class
but this has risen to 39+... It is virtually impossible in a class this
size to get to everyone for oral practice....which is, of course,
possibly the best argument but I am hoping y'all can provide other
worthy reasons!!!

Thanks in advance


97/01 From->    Erwin Petri  <>
Subject:        Re: class-size limits


I agree that 39+ is much too much for a language class. However, with
proper "potty" training of the class, you could do a lot of paired and
group activities even with large classes to give each kid multiple
opportunities for oral practice. Of course, if the supervisor continues
with his/her large class philosophy , tell him/her that you will be
doing a lot of group work and that he/she should not mind 39+ kids all
speaking the language at the same time. I think that the argument that
you can not get to everyone for oral practice will not hold water since
if the supervisor is sharp, he/she will recommend that a lot of oral
practice can be obtained with the type of activities above.

Erwin Petri


97/02 From->    Timothy Mason <>
Subject:        Depressing stuff about class-sizes

According to a recent edition of the Times Educational Supplement, a
reanalysis of the Tennessee project further restricts the benefits of
small classes. According to Professor Sig Prais of the National
Institute of Economic and Social Research ('class-size and learning",
Oxford Review of Education, Vol 22, Number 4), reducing class-size to 15
has only a negligible effect on most children's rate of progress during
the first three years of school. He says that now research should
concentrate on the benefits of alternative text books, more detailed
teachers' manuals, other forms of class organization and teaching styles
and *more lesson preparation time for teachers* (one of the enormous
advantages of the French secondary system - Moi)

Pupils with SEN do benefit from smaller classes. But while there is
still some evidence to suggest that small classes might be beneficial in

first year of primary school - although even here there are reasons for
skepticism - Prof Prais found that in the second year of elementary
school, children in smaller classes make slightly less progress in maths
than those in smaller classes. *&*&* Two problems in this

Teaching assistants had a negative effect on progress - but that they
may be useful in classes where there is an undue proportion of difficult
pupils. More research needs to be done on the utility of teaching

Timothy Mason


97/02 From->    "Dr. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez" <>
Subject:        Re: Depressing stuff about class-sizes

Timothy Mason wrote:

>>According to a recent edition of the Times Educational Supplement, a
>>re-analysis of the Tennessee project further restricts the benefits of
>>small classes. According to Professor Sig Prais of the National
>>Institute of Economic and Social Research ('class-size and learning",
>>Oxford Review of Education, Vol 22, Number 4), reducing class-size to
>>15 has only a negligible effect on most children's rate of progress during
>>the first three years of school. [...]

Depressing indeed. But perhaps the question that should be asked is not
whether REDUCING class-size has any effect but rather whether class-size
ITSELF has some effect. If you reduce classes from 25 to 15, but the
real critical mass is 10 or less, it's very true that you probably won't
see any effect of reducing class-size. At FSI, we held the line at 6
students per intensive class, and a good many ran with 2.

Cindy H-G


97/02 From->    Timothy Mason <>
Subject:        Re: Depressing stuff about class-sizes

Ania Lian writes :

>I will bet all I have (and do not) that reducing class to one-on-one
>tutoring will have the same result. >The answer then may not lie in the
>teacher alone and his/her "full" access to student's brain...

I'd hold on to your money tight if I were you. Studies do suggest that,
as Cindy said, once you whittle group numbers down to 10 or below,
results improve considerably. This seems to be a fairly common finding
across the board in social psychology - human beings work best in groups
of around 10 people, or a little less. They feel more comfortable that
way, and so perform better.

Of course, this is not automatic ; the behaviour of members of the team
- and in educational situations, obviously the behaviour of the teacher
- is a crucial variable. I've always felt that, if we kept numbers right
down, and trained teachers to take advantage of the situation, we could
probably teach as much in a couple or three years as schools do now in
12. But then, of course, the horrible question would need to be answered
- what are we going to do with all those children for the other 9 or ten

Timothy Mason


97/02 From->    Ania Lian <>
Subject:        Re: Depressing stuff about class-sizes

>>Studies do suggest that, as Cindy said, once you whittle group numbers down to
>>10 or below, results improve considerably. This seems to be a fairly common
>>finding across the board in social psychology - human beings work best in groups of
>>around 10 people, or a little less. They feel more comfortable that way, and so
>>perform better.

The issue of principle to which I referred is not to fall into the trap
that reducing size is it and full stop, a way for giving all an equal
opportunity, and if students fail, it should be then regarded as their
fault, after all the effort administration made in order to reach the
magical 10. Equal does not mean the same. 10 may result in methodology
assuming 10 of the same if no other provisions are made. And again no 10
of us is the same.  a:-)

Ania Lian

97/07 From->    Valerie Mantlo <>
Subject:        heavy teaching load

Gone are the days when I had 12 anxious and willing cherubs in a Spanish
class who really wanted to learn and speak the language. Twenty years
later, I find myself teaching classes whose sizes usually range between
29 and 33.

I have found that working in small groups and using a lot of student
interaction helps in these large classes. In fact, teaching large
classes is not really the problem for me; I find that the group dynamics
are great when there are many students who can repeat and work chorally

My problem is not that I have large classes. It is that in our middle
school in Virginia most all of our teachers (in a 7 period day, non
block) teach 5 classes and the other two slots are their planning period
and a duty of some kind such as lunch duty, bus duty, attendance duty,

Out of nearly 95 teachers, there are only 5 or 6 of us who have more
than the average 5 classes to teach. Because our subjects are
popular--Spanish, French, Independent Living, Technology-- we are told
we must teach 6 classes because the enrollment is so high in our

I must say that when we receive our teaching assignments in the late
spring, we are once again dismayed to find that we have a heavier load
than our peers. We often feel that because the students like our
classes, because we're well-prepared and the students appreciate it, and
because we have a great enthusiasm for teaching, we get punished with
having the most work.

Last year I had lunch duty instead of a 6th class, and it was wonderful
being able to interact with the students in a non-academic setting
during the day and not having to have the extra papers, phone calls,
etc. that would've come with the additional class.

Also, in other middle schools in the same county where I teach, the
teachers of foreign language are not "allowed" to teach more than 5
sections because the principals do not think it is fair to give some
teachers heavier loads than others. This is called a "site decision." My
question is: Does anyone have any ideas about how I can go about
convincing our administration that the inequity of the whole situation
is depressing, that Spanish (though an elective) is every bit as
difficult to teach as 7th grade Earth Science, and that inevitably my
students suffer as my energy wanes?

In addition, when we have asked in the past why some of us teach more
classes than others, we are given this answer by the administration: "We
have been allowed 87.2 teachers for next year, and 12 of them are
special ed. positions; this throws off the ratio some." Also, for the
last two years, as our Spanish enrollment has grown, there have been
more sections than I am able to teach, even with the extra class I am
asked to teach. To teach the "leftover" two or three sections, the
administration has had one of our own science teachers, our Latin
teacher, and for the upcoming year, our French teacher taking over these
sections....not one of the above-mentioned teachers has a certificate to
teach Spanish, and only ONE actually knows the language (the others used
the audio tapes with our textbook program and "winged it").

Can you think of some good arguments for me to protest the way foreign
language classes are handled at our school? I thought I was really good
at being convincing, but from the looks of the situation, I haven't had
any effect at all!

Mil gracias,


97/07 From->    Mark and Monica O'Riley <>
Subject:        Re: heavy teaching load, continued...(a bit long)

Go to your union! Our school used to do this, not anymore!


97/07 From->    "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject:        Re: heavy teaching load, continued...(a bit long)

Valerie -- I, too, teach in Virginia -- and the best argument that I can
think of, at least from an administrative point of view, is that I have
always been told that it's against accreditation standards to teach more
than the 5. For several years I taught all 6 periods (when we were on a
6-period day) as well as being chair. That ended when my administration
was told it put our accreditation in jeopardy. I think the same could be
true of those who are teaching the language who don't know it. Have you
checked with your local professional association about this situation?

Marilyn V.J. Barrueta


97/07 From->    Richard Lee
Subject:        Re: heavy teaching load, how to fix it?

This item seems to me to be something which could be brought to the
attention of the administration at contract negotiations.

On Thu, 10 Jul 1997, Valerie Mantlo wrote:

>>the average 5 classes to teach. Because our subjects are popular--Spanish,
>>French, Independent Living, Technology-- we are told we must teach 6
>>classes because the enrollment is so high in our classes.
>>I must say that when we receive our teaching assignments in the late spring,
>>we are once again dismayed to find that we have a heavier load than our peers.
>>Also, in other middle schools in the same county where I teach, the teachers of
>>foreign language are not "allowed" to teach more than 5 sections because the
>>principals do not think it is fair to give some teachers heavier loads than others.
>>This is called a "site decision." My question is: Does anyone have any ideas
>>about how I can go about convincing our administration that the inequity of the
>>whole situation is depressing,...

The (use of teachers unaccredited in the subject field) would appear to
me to be something that would raise a red flag when the school is
evaluated. I don't know if you are in the North-Central accreditation
area or some other, but I suspect that this would not meet with the
approval of whatever body your school deals with. They get upset about
the number of square feet per student, etc. This would seem to me to be
a very serious matter for them.

Richard Lee

97/08 From->    Tara Stace <>
Subject:        Small class-sizes in FL- I wish

I teach high school Spanish. Actually Spanish I at our new Freshman

Anyway I wish our classes would close (to additional enrollment). Four
of my Spanish I classes are over 30. The other is 29 (big deal). It is
terrible. My department chair finally got the administration to close
our classes which are 32 or higher.

It is so hard and so exhausting. My throat is shot and I have only been
teaching a week. I drink water all day long because my throat is so dry.

Do other people out there have these problems too?

Tara Stace


97/08 From->    Linda Roberts <>
Subject:        Re: Small class-sizes in FL- I wish

Here in the Charlotte, NC area, FL class-size is also a problem -- my
Spanish II classes aren't bad (25 and 26), but my level I classes are
32, 32, and 33.

I have nothing to complain about, though -- many of the level I classes
in all languages are at 35 and 36. But here, it's not just FL classes
that are big -- our area is growing so much that *all* classes
everywhere are huge!

There are some teachers at other schools with student loads of 175 and
190 (the maximum you're supposed to have is 150), and they're teaching
English and social studies. So I complain only within my department and,
since we're all in the same boat (and our department chair teaches 6

classes instead of 5 and she has 4 lesson preps, whereas we each only
have 2 or 3), we just sympathize with each other. There's not much else
that can be done.



97/08 From->    Carolyn Hackney <>
Subject:        Re: Small class-sizes in FL- I wish

In Oklahoma the maximum is 140 students for secondary teachers. If the
teacher has over the maximum, the principal can lose his license. This
works far better than a fine. You had better believe that our principal
will not let this happen! I do wonder what happens on block, however.
(We are not on it, but continue discussing the possibility.) I suppose
this could give you really large classes, no matter what the promises



97/09 From->    Dorothy Raviele <>
Subject:        Re: Small class-sizes in FL- I wish

We just started with block scheduling this year. class-sizes in FL are
generally reasonable, topping out at 30. In my french and italian
classes, they average 14-20, which is ideal. But because our schedule
went from teaching 5 classes to 6 classes, teacher load is way over past
numbers. Most English, Math and History teachers are looking at 150 -
170 students. I count my blessings for being in an elective area!

Dorothy Raviele


97/09 From->    Laura Cork
Subject:        Re: help! -- large class, many levels (sp ii)

What about the use of learning centers in the classroom. The use of
learning centers allows you to facilitate learning, but the students can
work at the pace of learning that comes developmentally. The centers can
be effective when organized properly and with substance (meaning) as the
focus and objective of each center.

For example, one center can be interactions in which students are to
debate the pros and cons of an issue in current news using the target
language. Another center can be a listening/ verbalizing center. Here
students listen and read along with stories of interest using head
phones. Students use the stories as a springboard for making responses
to the story on his/her own audio.

What about another center that promotes writing in which a real life
situation is simulated and students incorporate the language to
communicate with he class and the whole school. For example, during
student council elections have students make up posters and flyers in
the target language (make sure all sides are covered though).

Sponsor a garage sale and have students create signs, advertising, and
price tags in the target language as well as in English. This is just
the beginning. Centers are wonderful because they make teacher
evaluation less formal, but more thorough as to what students are really
learning and internalizing during lecture. Depending on the internal
attitudes of the classroom, have the more advanced students teach the
other students, this will reinforce the language for the advanced
students and give informal encouragement to the beginners/strugglers.
Anyway, enough rambling - Buena suerte!

Laura Cork


97/09 From->    Lewis Johnson <>
Subject:        Re: Help 5 spanish I classes

Two years ago I had 215 students in 6 classes. Last year I had 205
students. This year I have only 190! I've had to develop some strategies
to handle the paper load. Perhaps they've been mentioned on the homework
thread; I haven't been following it closely. But these work for me.

First of all, don't feel bound to teach all the classes the same. Add
different things to the different classes...just as if you were two
different teachers.

Second, if it's your first time in a textbook, relax. It's difficult the
first time in a textbook. Pulling together all the different components
can be very confusing, and not understanding well the purpose and best
way to present an activity is common. It's a lot easier the second year.

As for checking homework...... As soon as the bell rings, I give the
students a short (5 min?) written assignment to do while I take roll and
check assignments. As soon as I take roll, I quickly go to each student
to see if the ENTIRE assignment was completed. This takes me about 5
sec./per student and each student gets a word of praise for the
completed assignment. The glance at the homework can also show me if the
assignment was done correctly. If it wasn't, I can take an addition 5
seconds or so for instruction and/or remediation.

We then read through the assignment together. If it's an open ended
assignment, they work with their partners. Students are instructed to
correct anything they have wrong...that I want only 100% papers. I
collect the papers, have the option of checking them, but usually put
them in the recycle box.

If I'm afraid that students may not catch their own mistakes, I have
them exchange papers. The correcting student CIRCLES anything wrong
(does NOT write the correction). When the paper is returned, the student
makes the corrections on his own paper.

Each student with the assignment completed gets 10 points per day (25%
of total grade/50% of weekly participation grade). The third time a
student does not have assignment COMPLETELY done, I call the student up
to the phone. I dial the number and instruct the student to tell the

parent that he/she has missed 3 assignments in Spanish and that the
teacher is worried about his grade and if they would please make sure he
got the assignment done each day. If you do not have an outside phone
line in your room, you can take the student to the office on your prep
period or invest in a cell phone. I think that the cost of a cell phone
would be well worth it.

I grade ALL quizzes and tests. I also am using Paso A Paso and I'm very
thankful that the quizzes and tests are so much less time intensive for
the teacher. I don't give all the tests and quizzes provided by the
publisher. They give you a lot of extras so you can choose the ones that
best fit your particular student population and your teaching style.

I hope this is some help, and that I haven't said the same things you've
already heard.

Tara Stace wrote:

>I hope that everyone has had a good start to the new school year. I am
>teaching 5 sections of Spanish I this year at our new Freshman Center. I
>can't even begin to tell you how exhausting this is. I am working harder
>than I have ever worked. I am mentally exhausted and drained. That
>really frightens me because it is only mid September, I don't know how
>I am going to survive. I am burning out very fast, and by the way it is
>only my 5th year of teaching. I really like what I do, I mean I love
>teaching, but at the end of the day I just want to put my headdown and
>cry. It is so hard doing this. Before this year I always had both Spanish
>I and II.
>What is my problem exactly you must be wondering? I have so much
>There are so many homework papers and quizzes and tests. I can handle
>grading the quizzes. Someone here suggested no more than 10 words per
>vocab quiz and that is exactly what I have done and it has been great. But
>I am struggling with the homework. I do not have time to grade it all. If I
>collect everything all I will do is get up, teach all day, grade papers, and
>go to bed. I tried checking it in class, but the classes are so big (all over
>30) that half are not listening. The kids who are understand anyway.
>I am using Paso a Paso, which is also a new book, so on top of everything
>else I am creating lots of new things for teaching.
>Does anyone have any suggestions about how to handle the homework situation?
>i have 155 students in 5 level one classes. What do I do? I have been reading
>about the homework thread but it has not been a big help. I guess I am looking
>for suggestions about how to handle assigning homework for all of the classes
>and then what to do when they all do it.
>One other question, for anyone else out there who teaches 5 of the same thing ,
>how do you handle it? I am so bored I could just bang my head into the wall for
>a little excitement by 6th period.


97/09 From->     Claire Wagner <>
Subject:        Re: Help 5 spanish I classes

Sometimes I'll assign several pages and let the students know I will
only personally correct one of them. They don't know which page it will
be until I collect it. I also will collect different pages in different
classes so the word doesn't get out into the building which one is
required. It also saves my sanity when I don't have to correct 100 of
the same page.

Claire Wagner

97/09 From->    Mary E Young <>
Subject:        Re: Help 5 spanish I classes


This parallels another thread on homework. Some of the ideas from that
one apply here.

I have 195 students in 5 sections (3 level 1's, a huge level 2, and a
large 3-4 combo) (why does reading that make me hungry for french
fries?) so I am interested in solutions to the paper load, too. Here's
what I'm doing now. Instead of collecting something every day (this
amounts to 5-10 lines written on a full sheet of paper) I'm having them
keep a running sheet for classwork. They write the date in the left
margin, do the work, and draw a line underneath the day's entry. The
next day they write the date in the margin (below the line) and do the
day's work there... so we could get a week's work on one sheet. I'm
doing the same for homework. Then at the end of the week I'm testing
them on the material we practiced in class/homework (so far, 20-point
quizzes), and they turn in a total of three sheets per person. I go
through and give *credit* for each assignment and only grade the

This requires two things: (1) The homework has to be truly independent
practice (they have to be able to do it on their own) and (2) we have to
be able to check it quickly in class. That means convergent,
single-option answers. I hate those, but OK, we're talking about

practice that is accessible to the weakest of the weak. I'm having to
rethink what I can give as homework to make this workable and useful.

One might object to letting the homework float for 4 days, and that
someone could copy another student's homework and get the same credit...
I have too many students to worry about copying homework (what, that
isn't happening already anyway?). And if a student is that weak, maybe
they are learning something from the copying. I'm more interested in
their having a few moments of French exposure outside of class than in
their getting it done within 24 hours. And it all comes out in the quiz

I am looking for homework ideas that will make it easy for them to get
it right and for us to check in class in under 2 minutes.

I am limiting the open-ended assignments, such as writing paragraphs,
where I want to give feedback, and I am staggering their due dates for
these so I don't get 195 in one day.

French 2 and 3-4 have journals, but I have no intention of reading
everything they write. I'll spot check and respond to the content.

I will admit I was glad there were so many kids out yesterday when I
gave oral paired interviews yesterday. I still had 15 or so kids I
couldn't get to. And of course, the rest of the class was doing written
work from the book to finish off the section while I worked with pairs.

Forget the UFO's, the aliens are really in the form of notebook paper,
and they are taking over. ;-]

Now I'm going back to my stack of papers. Maybe I'll get done by Sunday
11 pm.



97/12 From->    Joe Pennington  <>

>We are working on next year's schedule and need to convince the administration
>to limit the size of the FL classes. Can anyone direct to me some relatively cur
>rent research on class-size and achievement in general and foreign languages in
>Thanks in advance,
>Barrett Brown

Try the Center for Applied Linguistics. They have done un monton of
research and might have something on a page or a link to some ERIC
search. I think they are at ?

Joe Pennington


97/12 From->    Timothy Mason <>

This question about class-size has been raised on the list before.  ERIC
has useful information. Basically, if you want to persuade
administrators to lower class-size, you will need to demonstrate that
you are looking to radically change your pedagogical approach, and use
the opportunities that smaller classes may offer to good effect. Smaller
classes only make a difference to outcomes if they are accompanied by
changes in teaching style. (The last time I looked, very little work had
been done specifically on the effects of small groups on language
learning). Judging by the available evidence, if I were an
administrator, I would demand strong guarantees before accepting the

Timothy Mason

The contributors were:

Barrett Brown Marilyn V.J. Barrueta Laura Cork
Carolyn Hackney Dr. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez Lewis Johnson
Richard Lee Ania Lian Gary Luke
Valerie Mantlo Timothy Mason Linda C Masterson
Mark and Monica O'Riley Joe Pennington Erwin Petri
Dorothy Raviele Linda Roberts Tara Stace
Claire Wagner Mary E Young


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