Chaos: 37 kids of all different ages and abilities

I am working together with my local authority leader who pays me from her government funding to teach an English class on Saturday mornings to kids in the local community. Basically the class is free for the students who attend. I am doing this for a short period to make more contacts in my area and hopefully start my own classes in the future. Of course anything free attracts a lot of attention and she had to put a limit on the number of students who could take part in the class. The limit was thirty.
So today was the first class and 37 kids of all different ages and abilities turned up as well as around ten parents some of whom also wanted to learn English.
The class is in a large sports hall and there were parents talking in Chinese at the back, as well as little brothers and sisters running around. Some of the kids were not even able to write thier own names and some were clearly of a much higher level .
I have only taught small groups in the past before so I felt a bit overwhelmed. I usually do activities where everyone is involved but is it better to make groups with this large a class? Does anyone have any tips on how I can make the class run more smoothly and engage all the different levels of students?

That sounds heinous. You have my condolences.
I would be a hard ass so the people who are there just for a good time will bow out gracefully. Then I’d focus on narrowing the class down to the level I wanted to teach (ie, if you want to teach high level students, teach at their level- your beginners will drop out, if you want to teach beginners, teach beginning material, the higher levels will drop out) (btw, I’d go for the higher level students :wink: My classes were getting too big and unwieldy, and I imposed a “if you are in my class, you must speak at least once” rule, and boy let me tell you, people who weren’t serious about learning English were OUTTA THERE!!!
Kick the brothers and sisters out- if they’re too young to sit down they’re too young to be in class.

I think you’re fighting a losing war here though- under these conditions, it will be very very difficult to do a good job/keep everybody happy, and your reputation will probably suffer, then it will be hard to get paid classes. Also, people tend not to value things that are free.
Good luck.

Edit: You might divide the levels up ie the first monday of every month is beginner, second is intermediate, third is advanced, fourth is the baby class (for the youngest students). Teaching students of wildly varying levels is extremely hard to do well.

Your situation sounds just like one of my re-occcuring nightmares (except it involves adults, not children) My advice is to limit the class size, or bring in two or more teachers. You can’t do this on your own.

Lots of summer camps deal with this kind of problem. Talk to some friends who have been at those camps and see how their programs dealt with the differing ages and ability levels.

This kind of class is almost impossible to teach as a class - making it all about some activity conducted in English, like a camp activity, might work, but the boss and parents will probably think you are not teaching then. Plus you have parents watching. I would be afraid that the adults are going to think you can’t teach, and so this will not help you get paying students later.