Tips for Teaching Large Groups, Part 2

Orchestra director Lindsay Ladman deals with large group classes of 30-40 elementary students twice a week. Large class sizes can present many challenges for teaching beginners. See Part 1. Here are more teaching tips:

  • Take advantage of differing levels—allow advanced students to demonstrate or help you lead the class.
  • Bring in a local private teacher or specialist. Split the class (by ability if you’d like). The students will love the smaller class size for more one-on-one attention, and to learn at their own pace and level. Or, just have this person help you in the large class setting—an extra set of hands is always helpful!
  • For playing tests, test by stand for efficiency and time. Go right down the row. While they’re not testing, have them complete a worksheet that is related to the concept being tested. This will keep the students engaged and on task when not testing, allow you to complete playing tests, AND gives them more practice on the concept in a written format as well!
  • Know your students individually. Since larger classes do move slower, tell advanced students that they can move at their own pace at home—look ahead in the book, learn some new songs, challenge yourself! Offer extra sheet music to them. This will increase retention, and decrease boredom and dropout. Suggest private lessons.
  • Multi-task when possible. (See many of the items above for examples!)
  • Finally, don’t get discouraged. As long as you taught even just one thing to the class that day, you’ve succeeded! With classes this large, you have to accept the fact that things will move considerably slower than a smaller class at the same level.

MENC member Lindsay Ladman is the orchestra director at Lakewood Middle School and Heusner and Sunset Elementary Schools in the USD305 School District in Salina, Kansas. Ladman is also the Tri-M advisor at Lakewood Middle School, winner of the 2010 Chapter of the Year in the junior division.

— Nicole Springer. June 16, 2010. © National Association for Music Education.