Tips for Observation Lessons
Many UK teaching job interviews include the candidate (that’s you) conducting a live lesson with a class of students, which is observed by some or all members of the selection panel. This is what is known as an Observation Lesson.
Rather than being nervous about this part of the interview, try to think of it as your chance to impress. After all, rolling up your sleeves and actually teaching children is what you’re here for. It’s also an opportunity for you to assess whether the school is a good fit for you, and your personal teaching philosophy and style. In case the butterflies in stomach are still getting the better of you, here are some tips for how to triumph in an Observation Lesson.
Preparing for the lesson
- Check with the school (or your recruiter) to ensure you know the year level and content you are required to teach, as well as how long you will be expected to teach for. Some schools only observe 20/30 minutes of teaching; some observe a full lesson.
- If you can, find out the seating plan in advance, as well as any student data, so you can use it in planning your lesson.
- Find out if you will be expected to take the register and be sure to build in time for this (or take the register while students are involved in their starter activity).
- Write out a lesson plan and print out copies for the observers to follow along. Make sure you use a lesson plan template (such as one from your teacher training days) and you link the lesson content to the relevant sections of the curriculum.
- Plan ahead for resources and ICT and remember to have a back up plan if your ICT should fail (or just don’t use it for this lesson).
- Keep it simple, don’t try to cram in too much or plan complicated activities.
- Ensure you plan to review/ reactivate prior learning if appropriate, and follow the lesson pattern of ‘hook’ (starter activity) to engage students, main activity that develops through the lesson, and end with a plenary to summarise and reinforce learning,
- Consider using an exit activity which you can use in assessment of learning.
- Are you going to use follow on work or homework? If so, ensure it is well prepared with ability to be differentiated.
- Introduce yourself, write your name and lesson objectives on the board, so that learners understand the context of the lesson, and how it fits into the big picture.
- Don’t forget to take the register! If there are any difficult names, check their pronunciation beforehand.
- What’s your hook? Plan an interesting activity to get the students immediately engaged.
- Remember classroom management starts from when students arrive at the door. How do you greet them? How do you settle them? What is your cue to start?
- If possible, find out the behaviour management policy and code of conduct beforehand.
- Plan for how you will manage:
- Low level behaviour challenges
- Escalating behaviour challenges
- Group work dynamics
- Resource distribution
- Try to involve as many students as possible
- Plan how and when you will check for learner understanding throughout the lesson. Make sure you vary your techniques.
- Keep a close eye on your timings – the observers will want to see you running the lesson on schedule whilst still ensuring students are engaged and progressing with the learning activity.
Be explicit in your differentiation
You need your observers to be able to see your differentiation in action in the classroom. Use a combination of the following:
- Interact with the TA (if you have one). Brief them before the lesson on what you plan to do, listen to their feedback on students, and clearly explain how you would like them to support you in the lesson. Maintain interaction during the lesson.
- Use open and closed questioning to suit different students, and be prepared with extension questions
- Prepare alternative or additional explanations to scaffold learning when required
- Use small group questioning techniques which allow all students to play an active role in answering (and learning)
- Use graphic organisers
What will the observers be looking for?
Typically, the observation and selection team will judge you on the following:
- Subject knowledge
- Classroom management
- Rapport with students
- Innovation and potential
- Student engagement and progress
Remember, smile, be confident, listen to the students and respect their learning environment. This is your time to shine!