Over the next few posts I’m going to offer some (hopefully) helpful advice on teaching. I know some of you may not have taught a lesson yet and this can seem huge, but good planning will mostly lead to good delivery.
Lesson plans: You’re about to write hundreds of the damn things and you’re going to stress hugely about whether or not they’re “right”. Hopefully you’ve read my ITT: My Top 10 (ish) tips for an amazing year and know that I’m quite chilled about lesson plans – but I wasn’t always. Here are my big 3 areas to consider and some little tips at the end.
1. START AT THE END
When you first open your lesson plan template from your provider, this might seem illogical but it’s truly the thing that streamlined my ability to write them. Think about the end of your lesson: What 1 thing must your class be able to do, tell you or show you? Keep it at 1. Write a 1 sentence summary of it (I.E. Explain society at the time of ‘Macbeth’). Boom. There’s your learning objective (If, like my ITT provider, you need to do differentiated LOs then boom. There’s your ‘all’ LO).
I also like to apply this to my weekly/mid term/long term planning. Whilst you don’t need to worry about that right now, you will soon and it’s good to think outside of the immediate 60 minute lesson. Try to find out what the half termly assessment is – how will your lessons build towards that? Trust me and work backwards.
Firstly, be aware that time in lessons can be spent on lots of ‘bits’ and I’ve observed lessons where literally 20 minutes have been spent on handing out sheets/gluing sheets/handing out pens for the sheets etc. Secondly, your timing at first will be off until you know your classes – you’ll talk for too long and you won’t give them enough time to write. That’s totally fine and it will change but give yourself some help. If you can nail things like this, you won’t panic when you have to adjust the lesson timing for an activity and you’ll feel more in control.
So, resources: I’m talking books, pens, worksheets, glue etc. Think about how you will distribute them. Put them in books/on tables before the lesson? Hand them out at the door? Get students to do it? (not my fave, they love a chat). If and when you feel confident enough, and have them under the thumb enough behaviour wise, I’d recommend the walk around. Don’t give instructions THEN walk around handing things out (mega time waster) but talk and walk. Give out the pens and sheets as you explain what you want them to do. Have it on the board/on a slide too. This is also such a great behaviour management hack because you can see everything/correct minor misdemeanours as you go around. Think also about how to get them back in. Boxes at the front before standing silently behind desks is my favourite.
On screen timers: Wonderful, flexible and a good prompt for your daydreamers. Find one. Use it.
Have something up your sleeve for if your classes finish early: a little challenge question, a topic related word search etc. I rely on my sentence building lollipop sticks and my large scrabble set for this purpose. Find something that’s good for practising literacy/numeracy, that’ll work with any class, needs no printing and causes no panic.
Let me be clear: Differentiation IS NOT making 17 different worksheets for an 8 minute activity. Now it can be… but you can’t do that 20 lessons a week until retirement because you’ll drop dead of printer-induced anger.
Differentiation does include questioning. When you first start teaching you’re so pleased that someone, anyone, is answering your question that you go for the first hand up. The problem here is that it’s always the same hands. Do hands-down questioning (with your register until you know them) and this gives you live chances to practise your questioning, altering it until you get the right and developed responses you were looking for. Remember to give thinking time and bounce the question around to get different ideas going. TIP: ask their name AT THE END of the question. Otherwise the other 29 stop listening.
Task Options: I live and die by these. If it’s not a book marking week, why am I making every single child write me a PEE paragraph on Prospero? Give 3 options of how to approach a task that all convey the same information. This is great for lower-ability students that struggle with a whole hour of writing and a fab way to build in stretch and challenge. Students will be more engaged/in control of what they produce and this gives you a chance to go around the class seeing what they picked, why, and what kinds of information they’re picking out to use in their task.You can also clear misconceptions without the rage-inducing red pen marking later that night (‘No I don’t think Prospero was from Manchester…’).
If you do decide to do this, you must have success criteria (I.E. It must be 100 words/have 7 events on a timeline/have annotated graph points/have 2 similes and a semi colon etc). Children are not mind readers. Be explicit and make it clear what they need to do to complete the task. I also like to avoid the Red > Yellow > Green colour coding as the association can be negative…. unless you’re doing a Nando’s challenge, in which case apparently NO ONE wants to be lemon and herb.
Start your lesson on the dot, even if your observer is late. Have your starter on the board or if you’re a classroom nomad, give them something to do at the door.
Think about how they will come in and go out (get this ordered and your observer will be impressed). A lot of lesson plan templates have a space for behaviour strategies and this is a good one to put in there.
Think about the order of the activities – are you talking for 25 minutes at the start? Can your class focus for that long or are they fidgety and need little bits to do constantly?
Don’t panic if you have to stop an activity or change the lesson. Remember how I said a lesson plan isn’t a religious text? I am 100% right on that one. Your observer won’t (or shouldn’t) write: ‘GRADE: REQUIRES IMPROVEMENT: At 10:23 Lauran said the class will be doing a worksheet, however they are still discussing the role of Ariel’. Do what’s best for the ones in front of you, not the person at the back.
Remember that progress cannot always be seen in 1 lesson. Praise the little things but remember your lesson is 1 of the hundreds it takes for a student to complete GCSEs. Think about your 1 sentence summary and focus on that.
If you’re teaching a 5 lesson day, put all of your PPTs on one big one. No opening and closing/board faffing, just on to the next one.
Behaviour: please do not spend 15 minutes of a lesson balling out 1 student, not even if you’re really, really mad because they’re ruining 5 hours worth of planning in front of your mentor. Follow the policy and discuss their behaviour later. Remember that 15 minutes is taking away from your other 29 students, too.