Is it really week 5?
Either way, this is a turning point in your development as a trainee. You now know more than you did at the start of September! Loads more. But it just makes you realise how much you still don’t know…
For some of you this is an exciting challenge. For others there is a risk that you will allow the doubts to overtake the experience.
By acknowledging that you are still learning – and that although it may feel like you have been there forever - this is ONLY week 5!
When trainees struggle...
Some years ago I was working with a trainee who was absolutely fantastic. She came across as a natural teacher, and appeared to pick up all the tips and advice she was given quickly.
We were very comfortable giving her grade 1s for most of the standards. She seemed settled in the school, and was asked to support the PE department in some of their fixtures. Of course she said yes – she was honoured they had asked her, and she was pleased because it met the standard for becoming part of the life of the school. She also offered to support the SENCO and worked alongside several students who were struggling in their learning.
Your weekly meetings with your mentor are likely to be the main focus of your in-school training at the moment.
It is a chance to ask questions, find out what you should be doing at this stage, and – for those of you who have started teaching (even just parts of lessons) getting much-needed feedback.
This post looks at two of the aspects of your meetings – feedback on your own teaching, and reflection on your mentor’s or other teachers’ lessons.
Things that may affect your recollection of observations
There is a debate about taking notes during an observation. Some people feel you may miss things if your head is constantly in your note-pad (or I-Pad); some people feel you may miss things if it is not!
Sometimes your mentor meeting is straight after one of these observations – sometimes it may be almost a week before you meet. Much can happen in between these times! So we have to consider the memory effect.
There is also the obvious aspect of the mentor’s presence in a lesson – whether it is your lesson or a colleague’s.
Students are more likely to behave differently when the mentor is in the room. than when they are not.This could be a happy advantage early on in your training, but not so useful if you want advice on behaviour management!
A final thought is that of your emotional response to your lesson. On occasion you will come away feeling disheartened or even concerned about the lesson. In your mind you may even consider that the entire lesson was at fault! This is not usually the case, but our emotional memory can often surpass our logical recall!
I have worked for many years with mentors and trainees on introducing video into their observations. The students do get used to this (I have written a whole paper on this) but even so, their initial reaction can be far out-weighed by the benefits.
Why do we do collaborative learning tasks?
Note the term I have used – not group work, but collaborative learning. There is a difference. In my last blog post I talked about how rapid progress and real learning takes place during learning talk amongst students. We are going to look here at how you can offer opportunities for this to happen in your classroom.
I will refer to learning talk again and again throughout the year as there is a lot to think about with regard to this term (my PhD was built on it!).
A good introduction to group activities in your class if to ask them for the ground rules. They will come up with the following:
Listen to each other
Give everyone a chance to talk
Don’t shout over each other
Make sure everyone joins in
Once you have determined the expectations – put them on the board as they suggest them – you have a written guide to return to if any of them fall short!
Remember – students are used to group work, so when you plan for this, use the strategies the good teachers use and you are already on a firm footing!
What questions you can ask in your reflections
Where in the lesson do they do the group task?
What impact do you think this has?
How much input does the teacher have in the group task?
Where does the learning take place in this task?
Talk to the teacher after the lesson
What do they do to make sure the class does as they are told?
Would they change their strategies with another class / year group?
What three things are you going to take away to put into place when you next plan for collaborative learning activities?
Next blog posts:
Using video to increase the power of your mentor meetings!
What makes you a good teacher? Set out your expectations!
When you are observing effective questioning, there are certain things you should look out for:
Let's look first at why we ask questions?
As a young child we are constantly asking questions - it is how we learn best. This stops as we get older - probably because the people around us get tired of answering!
In the classroom the best way of encouraging learning is asking questions - the ideal is for the students to be asking the questions! Our job ultimately is to plan for this to happen. (I will write more about this later on in your training.)
Good questioning can...
When you are observing, look out for the following:
For your reflections: what is the impact on learning from each of the teacher's decisions in how they ask their questions?
For further information regarding questioning ... read on
Think of your own ability to learn
We also need to understand the context of what we are about to learn.
If we have never seen a bike before, for example, or seen anyone riding one, the starting point of the lesson would need to change.
So new knowledge has to connect with our existing spheres of reference.
How does this affect our lesson planning?
Research shows that there are two main areas where learning takes place
Health warning: It is not possible in a short blog to do justice to either of these. I advise you to read around the subject, discuss it with your mentor, invite me in to deliver a session...!
A very basic summary of learning talk shows that there are two types of talk that you can spot in the classroom (amongst many others).
Presentational talk and Exploratory talk
Presentational talk is easy to spot.
It is seen when the teacher asks a question and a student answers it.
It is seen when a student, or groups of students, prepare and deliver a presentation.
In short, with this type of talk, we imagine that there has to be a right answer. When we put up our hand we want to sound knowledgeable, and to be right – even if we are just asked for an opinion, we don’t want to sound stupid!
The result of this may be that many students just sit quietly and listen to the others. You can sometimes see this in a question and answer session where not all students are involved.
Exploratory talk invariably happens when students are working in pairs or small groups (I advise no more than 4-5 students for optimum group work).
You can hear students trying out ideas amongst each other. There will be hesitations and thinking that appears not to be going anywhere – but this is where the real learning is taking place. They have taken an idea and are literally playing around with it whilst sorting out their own thinking.
Collaborative group activities have to be planned carefully and guidance given to the students to keep them on task – but this is one of the best ways of ensuring most – if not all – students are involved in the learning.
So – in your lessons you should
give opportunities for learning talk to occur
This means planning for questioning and collaborative learning activities.
While you may not be in a position to do this for yourself at this stage, you are in an excellent position to observe it in others!
This is part of a series of posts about behaviour management. The previous two posts – ‘Behaviour Management – some tips to help you’ and ‘There are two ways of looking at Behaviour Management’ gave you some information about ways of dealing with unacceptable behaviour in your classroom. In the Observation posts we looked at what to look for when observing behaviour management in the classroom.
This post examines the idea that if you plan well, the students won’t misbehave in the first place!
These tips will help you to plan for positive behaviour – ‘behaviour for learning’
There are many explanations why students may not behave properly, but one of the main reasons will be that the students are not engaged in the work.
Let’s look at the possible causes and what you can do to avoid them becoming problems!
The problems arise when:
Consider what this means in terms of your planning and your delivery.
most children want to learn and enjoy learning
Want more tips? ...
It’s all firsts – first day, first week … and before you know it, you will have completed your first half term!
Just like a child on her first day back at school after the holidays, I would always prepare carefully to make sure I had everything ready. In those days that meant hanging my uniform up on the back of the door, packing my bag and sharpening all my pencils (this is primary school we are talking about!)
As a teacher I still maintained this preparation - but it would be every Sunday!
The one thing that working in a school gives you is the chance to start over – it’s exciting when each new week begins, but it is also the opportunity, if things haven’t gone as well as you wanted, to begin again.
And this is never truer than going back into a class who you are struggling with. As a teacher though you are also giving permission to the students to start again – to the girl or boy who caused a problem last lesson – that they too can start again.
During this first half term, you will make mistakes – the key to survival is how you get back in the saddle! And remembering that there are plenty of people around to help point you in the right direction.
Reflect, re-plan, re-start!
It’s all firsts for me too.
This is the first time I have offered advice online – up to now it has always been face-to-face! I am hoping you can also give me advice and suggestions to make sure this blog is hitting its mark!
So - please send me comments / like me on Facebook - so I can have the kind of positive impact I am hoping to achieve!
What you can do:
There is nothing to be gained from confrontation. Don’t get cross – you are the adult! Remember this when a 14-year-old boy or girl irritates you!
Quiet, calm responses to their behaviour will work far better than shouting and ‘losing it’!
Firstly – match your response to the type of behaviour you see.
Hence – a classroom where all are expected to behave.
A consistent classroom makes for a consistent school.
To start with, you may just want to sit and watch to see how the lessons progress. However, there is a wealth of information in front of you, that without a clear focus a lot of this may well pass you by.
You need to learn how to ‘unpack’ the lessons. To do this you will need to choose a focus for each of your observations, and prior to the observation, jot down some questions you will want to answer. Some of these you will be able to answer while you are watching, others you may need to discuss with your mentor later, or look for in another observation.
Some things to consider...
The key to success...
What subject to observe: In addition to your subject, you will also be expected to observe some PSHE classes (in whatever format they are delivered in your school – sometimes called PD, or PHSE, or Values or Citizenship….). You may want to wait to observe these lessons at a later date.
Which key stages? Try to look at all key stages in your observations – initially you will want to see those classes you will ultimately have responsibility for so this may start with KS3. At some stage you will need to observe KS5 – although I would wait until later in the course for this. Equally you will have a primary school visit which will be arranged later in the year.
NB - Please check what your provider considers to be KS4 – although some schools start to deliver the KS4 syllabus to year 9, some providers only consider years 10 and 11 to be KS4 when it comes to their observations of your teaching.
Suggested observation topics for the first few weeks:
What kind of things do you see that may be considered as not behaving? Chatting? Being off task? Rudeness?
What does the teacher do in each case to respond to this behaviour?
Some teachers will have set the expectations in place so that there is no obvious behaviour issue – but this is where you will need to look carefully at how they structure the lesson to ensure all are kept on task.
A later post will give you some suggestions as to techniques you can put in place to prevent behaviour problems from occurring.
What does the teacher do to move from one task to another? – what we call transitions in lessons.
How do they manage handing out books, or going through homework or tests?
3.Structure of the lesson
A final topic for your early observations is for you to plot out how the teacher structures each part of the lesson – what they want the students to learn; how they introduce the learning (starter); how they build the learning; how they check that they students have learnt it.
The best way to get the most out of your observations is to:
- Write notes during the observation
- Write up your notes while they are still fresh in your mind, reflecting on what you can use from what you have seen.
EVIDENCE: all this forms evidence for your standards - a good piece of evidence would be...
- Your notes on an observation on eg behaviour management
- A lesson plan using this information
- An observation where your mentor sees how you have put it into practice.
The blog for the trainee teacher. Everything you need to know to become an outstanding teacher and make the most of your teacher training year!
This blog is a step by step survival guide for the trainee teacher giving you regular advice for what you need, when you need it!
It’s September and you are finally embarking on your training year to become a teacher. All through the summer you will probably have searched the internet for information, made sure you could read all you can find on teaching, and generally prepared yourself for this year. Or you will have enjoyed your last holiday as a student, and waited until your placement until you throw yourself into whatever you need to do to pass this year.
Either way, you will find this blog invaluable.
Most of you will have considered the type of teacher you wish to become – you know what makes a good teacher, and what constitutes a good lesson (more of that in a later blog) and you want to work hard to meet those expectations in yourself. You will be hoping that you build good relationships with the students so they also see you as that good teacher. And it all starts now!
If you can visualise yourself as a good or outstanding teacher, you are probably going to want all the information to help you get there in one go! Logically you know this can’t happen and after your first few days you will be so overloaded with information that all you will want to do when you get home is go to sleep for a week! But I also know from experience that any early criticism students give regarding their provider training tends to be that ‘they wish they had learnt about behaviour management at the beginning of the course’, or ‘why didn’t anyone go through the teacher standards with them at the beginning?’ Chances are that the providers do cover it, but as students you aren’t yet as able to make sense of the information at the start as you will be later on!
This blog – which you can return to time and time again – will work alongside you on the weekly aspects you will need to focus on. Designed to complement the training you receive from your provider, and the invaluable support you will get from your mentor, this blog will offer tips and advice at least three times every week. Its aim is to get right to the heart of what you need, when you need it.
In the first half term we will explore:
- How to make the most of observing others – with suggested focuses for each observation you undertake
- How to make the most of working with your mentor
- How you develop from a trainee into a teacher – understanding the stages you will go through will help you to manage any occasions when you feel under pressure, or that you are not doing as well as you had hoped – and believe me, you will experience this as it is part of the normal cycle of development!
- Behaviour management, lesson planning and classroom management tips
- How students learn and how the brain works - very useful to understand when planning your lessons
- You will also receive regular tips on how to evidence the standards
Dr Sharon Williams
Sharon has spent many of her 33 years in secondary education working with trainee teachers.
She has mentored trainees, trained mentors ... and has developed and delivered mentoring and coaching programmes in schools.
Countless trainee teachers have benefited directly from working alongside Sharon, or the mentors she has trained - and all have successfully passed their training year!
How to make the most of observing.
Behaviour management - there are two ways of looking at it...
Behaviour management - some tips to help you.
It's all firsts!
Planning for positive behaviour for learning.
Where the real learning takes place.
How to observe - questioning.
How to observe - collaborative learning.
Using video to increase the power of your mentor meetings.
Assessment - what does it mean to you? What does it mean to your students?
Lesson planning 1: Learning outcomes and success criteria
Lesson planning 2: Starters and plenaries and why they are so important to the learning process
Lesson planning 3: Differentiation - what is it and how do I do it?
Establish routines for you and the students - and have a calm week
Student routines - another step towards becoming a good teacher
What is learning and how can I plan for it?
Collaborative Group Work
Keeping On Top
Starters And Plenaries
Video Observations: An Eye On Learning