Surviving Term 1 of Teaching
The Do's, the Don'ts, and the Maybe's
The day has come, the day you have been waiting for all through your studies. The day that you teach your own class.
But, have you remembered the most important things? Here are a few tips—to get you through your first term:
1. Get organised.
Know your classroom. Label all the drawers—with images if necessary. Categorise areas so that it makes sense to you and your students. Your objective - to make the students independent learners.
You want pupils to get manipulatives/scaffolding resources anytime in the lesson - to help them achieve their learning objective, without the need for you to intervene.
Review your planning for that term...have you created/purchased resources to enable all students to access the learning objectives. To support the less able and extend the learning of the masters in their subject?
Does your vocabulary wall contain all the words needed for the topic? Can they be taken off the wall to be used in independent writing? Or a sheet available underneath a display?
2. Know your students.
Speak to the previous teacher(s). Identify students that need extra support, those that are exceeding their learning and friendship groups. You want children to learn in your lessons—not chat.
Are there children in your class with additional needs? What resources are needed in the classroom to support them? Have you created a seating plan so that you know where these students are? Do you know where the Looked After Students are sat?
You want your classroom to be well organised. For anyone supporting the lesson with you / or taking the class for you—to also know about these children. Therefore, you should have pinned on a board (not displayed for all to see), a seating plan with pupils identified that may need adult support.
If you have pupils in your class with special needs—other adults need to know what works—and what doesn't! If you have a supply teacher come into the class—you need it to be easy for them.
3. Create a clear routine.
To enable all students to access your teaching—it is a good idea to have a clear routine for your lesson. Break it down and communicate it to your class:
- The Outline of the Lesson
- The Lesson Objective
- The Expectations/Success Criteria for the students
- Main Lesson
- Recap/Mini Plenaries
- Review of how the students met the success criteria
- The student's next steps/targets
This routine will give all students a framework—this reduces any anxiety in their learning.
4. Plan engaging lessons.
You have your resources readily available, the structure of your lessons outlined—now you need engaging content.
The most engaging lessons are those that bring all elements of the curriculum together and have the input of the students. Give your students the question and get them to give you the journey of how to answer it.
If you have the students feeling in control of their learning—they are engaged. Map this journey out with them—display it...reference it when you teach.
Teaching content should be a variety of learning styles. Think—what are the skills needed to achieve the learning objective? Is it to be able to communicate facts? Then can they make something and present it to another class?
5. Dealing with Poor Behaviour
Even the most engaging lessons will have the odd distracted student. So, how do you keep them on task?
In the first term of teaching, you need to set clear expectations. Visible expectations that you can refer to if necessary. But these must be consistent. All adults in your classroom MUST follow them—you have inconsistency, you will have behaviour problems.
Find the students in your classroom that are doing everything you expect and praise them. Discuss to the class what they are doing—how engaged in their learning they are and reward them for it.
If you do get disruption—give a reminder to that student. Their first warning. If they continue—put their initials on the board, so that the class can see you have identified that this student is not meeting your learning expectations and there may be consequences.
Now, this is where the student might begin to push the boundaries—will you go through with the consequence? You need to show them and the class that rules, are rules.
If they continue disrupting the lesson—they have 1 line next to their name, this 1=1 minute from their break time. But, remind them, that every time they are getting it right - you will remove the 1 mark. They can redeem themselves. Praise them for making the right choices.
I would also suggest you have a class reward system—for teamwork, collaboration, supportive peers...whichever objective you feel would benefit the students achieve more from their learning. It can be marbles in a jar, marks on a chart...then at the end of term—let them have the reward.
Now, this is the most important part of teaching...if the students are not learning—you haven't been teaching it right.
Please don't think this means testing!!!!???
This is about asking them questions...the good old Bloom's Taxonomy. Can they tell you 3 facts...for or against a concept...you get the idea.
Consolidation of knowledge through answering questions or presenting information to peers is a great indicator that they are learning.
If you need to change your planning because so many children are not understanding the teaching—do it. You are there to facilitate their learning—to provide them with the skills and knowledge. To get them to question the world around them. We have all had bad lessons—but the best teachers reflect on them and do something about it.
Enjoy your first term—reflect on the best and worst bits.