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Approach to Teaching Large Classes:
Know yourself

How is teaching in an auditorium different than a regular classroom?

When you teach in front of a classroom of students all eyes are on you.  When you teach in a class of 100 or more students not only are all eyes on you but you also may feel like a spotlight is on you.  No longer can you hide behind the podium or desk because as class sizes have increased there have also been changes in room design. 

If you are teaching a large class your room will likely have a stage or platform, lots of lighting, a microphone, a movie sized screen, and stadium seating.  You may not feel like you are in a classroom but you are. 

Whether you have taught for a number of years or you are new, teaching in this type of environment can be intimidating.  ALWAYS go to see your new classroom before the first day.  Get a feel for the space; check out the new equipment and how things work because it will help you feel more calm and relaxed on the first day. 

Commanding Attention

Why is my speaking voice important?

When teaching a large class everything is magnified.  If students are talking during class then there will be 3 times as many talking in a large class.  Things like this make it all the more important that you can command attention in the room.  It becomes very important you know yourself.  Are you a soft-spoken person?  Are you short?  What are your best assets when teaching?

Should I use a microphone in class?

When speaking to a large class you will probably have a microphone available.  Although the use of a microphone can be helpful it can also inhibit you.  Unless your university has wireless microphones you won’t be able to move around the room.  Standing in one place while teaching is not advisable in any situation but it is especially detrimental in a large class because of the number of students you need to engage.  Using the microphone can also be a crutch for you.  If the microphone isn’t working or is missing (as these things happen on every campus) you might find that you are ill prepared to project your voice. 

How can I practice my speaking voice?

You should practice your speaking voice in the room when you go for your visit before classes begin.  Taking a friend with you can be helpful since they can let you know if you are speaking loud enough to hear.  You should also find a tone that is natural for you so that you don’t appear to be screaming or straining your voice.  As the semester goes on you will find that you become aware of your speaking voice and you will be able to adjust it for any situation.

What does body size have to do with it?

Body size has little to do with it.  Although there have been reports that tall people earn more money and are more confident, it is all about how you carry yourself.  Commanding attention in a room has little to do with height, stature, race or gender.  Although, if you are a 6’3” male body builder, you might cause students to stand up and take notice but this won’t keep their attention.  No matter what your physical attributes, stand straight and tall, relax and project your voice. 

How do I use my best assets?

We all know someone who is funny, who can tell a great story or make you feel comfortable.  These are all assets in the classroom.  The key is to find out what your assets are.  Make a list or ask your friends, colleagues and former students what they like about you.  Once you find your niche then use it to your advantage.  If you are funny, then use humor while you teach.  But be sure that whatever your special talent is you incorporate it into your teaching so that it has a purpose.  So if you are funny, don’t do a 15-minute monologue but use your humor while explaining concepts and providing examples.  If you relax and have fun with it your true assets will surface without any hesitation.

Virginia Commonwealth University  |  Center for Teaching Excellence
Last updated: 06/20/2013
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