Usual disclaimer – this list is not designed to be comprehensive. It’s designed to have a few tips and ideas for teachers looking to improve their classroom practice over the course of the last three half terms of the year. I decided to do this particular blog as this is often the time when trainee teachers and NQTs alike are starting to get their final targets for the year. Hopefully this helps.
One – Get in to see other teachers. This is so important I’ll probably do a separate post about it at some point. Get in to see other people teach as often as you can. If your school doesn’t have an open-door policy (I don’t get why any school wouldn’t), then ask people of different subjects and experience levels to see them teach. Write down what you see, ask them how they control a class or question a class and then ask them to show you how. In my NQT year I spent several hours a week in other people’s classrooms either watching or doing marking at the back and I became a Frankenstein of all the teachers I saw.
Two – Build positive classroom relationships with students. I did a separate post on this which can be found here but ultimately this is about praising student’s whenever you can and only every celebrating or critiquing actions and outcomes. Never praise intelligence, praise endeavour. Smile in your classroom and, more often than not, the classroom smiles back.
Three – Avoid funky lesson activities. Your subject is interesting and challenging enough that you don’t need to do bizarre things to keep students engaged regardless of what your PGCE mentor who hasn’t taught for a decade may tell you. Card sorts are more effort for the staff than they are beneficial for students and information carousels are always less helpful than just reading through a well worded and interesting piece of text. Yes, changing it up is important to reinvigorate your class but not using activities that are designed to be more fun than the content. Just make the content better.
Four – Be prepared. A good start means a good lesson. Have the title, date and starting activity up and ready for the students as they enter your room. This gets students working from the second they enter your classroom and gives no time for students to take control of the atmosphere. You’re in charge from the first minute.
Five – Establish routines. Designate a certain student(s) to hand the books out at the start of every lesson and have a space where they can leave them at the end. This may mean that you have to remind the student(s) a few times the first several lessons but after that it is one less thing you have to think about.
Six – Meet them at the door. On the way into the classroom meet the students as they enter, say hello (name) and shake their hands. This will feel unusual at first but it establishes another norm and allows you to speak to every student in the first 30 seconds of the class. Also, this can be good for showing a student you had to tell off the previous lesson, that there is no held grudge here.
Seven – Own the classroom. This is your room and you set the climate. If a class has became a little bit rowdy over time, feel free to have a lesson in which, with the exception of questioning, they work in virtual silence. Any time a student breaks this there is an immediate consequence. Try the name on the board strategy. Initials on board = warning, circle around it = break detention or after school. You make the rules.
Eight – Questioning is key. If there is one part of your pedagogy that can make or break a teacher it is this. It’s also the technique that stands out the most in an interview lesson if you are looking for a job between now and the end of the year. Use it to check knowledge, correct misconceptions and remember the golden rule, right is right. Never accept an answer that is not correct or fall into the trap of saying, “Yes, and…” and establish a culture of no hands up questioning. This means the students are switched on and ready to answer at all times. “I don’t know” should translate to, okay somebody else is going to answer and then I’m coming back to you.
Nine – Energy. The more energy you put into a lesson the more you get out of it. Circulate around the classroom to keep students focused and to check for misconceptions. When you are talking, use lots of arm movements and change the tone of your voice regularly as all good orators too. Student’s can be sat in 6 hours of classes a day, make yours exciting by being exciting yourself.
Ten – Read more. You need to know and love your subject to be a good teacher in my opinion. The more you know, the more little nuggets of information you can add that spice the lesson up using your subject. Also, the more you know, the more you can engage with questions you will be asked or add debates and hypotheses around your lessons. The more you know, the better you become.