Every teacher knows prepping a lesson plan isn’t easy. It’s even harder when you’re prepping for a lesson in front of a new audience — 30 kids you’ve never met and plenty of teachers and staff. Our recruitment team helped me brainstorm six tips to help you plan and execute a great sample lesson.
Tip 1: Plan Extensively
I could write a whole series of articles on planning well, but if you’re at this stage, you probably know the basics. Here’s the kicker: sample lessons are different than normal lessons. You need to plan each little detail in the lesson and account for potential road blocks. What if students already know what a simile is? What if they don’t know how to multiply fractions, but need it for your lesson? These potential roadblocks could blow up in your face if you don’t plan for them.
Consider working off of a strong, objective-aligned planning template, or make your own. Just remember to think through the main parts of a solid lesson:
- Hook/Anticipatory Set – Get students’ attention. Most teachers start with a quick do now activity, a very quick share of the do now and a quick bit about who they are.
- Direct instruction – We’re not talking about a twenty or thirty minute “chalk and talk” session. We’re talking about an 8-10 minute (or maybe less) quick and dirty of the concept. Tell them the bare essentials of the concept. Then move on. Don’t blabber. Don’t give a bunch of examples.
- Guided Practice – Students practice a concept with close supervision. This could be on an overhead or slide, but should slowly release the responsibility of thinking to kids.
- Independent Practice – Students need time to independently try the concept they just practiced as a whole group.
- Assessment – This is important. Make sure you have some way to measure whether students mastered the objective. Here at TEAM, some of our teachers use an exit slip. You can too by having students complete it and turn it in at the end of class.
Tip 2: Set Student Behavioral Expectations
Typically, kids are pretty well-behaved when they have a guest teacher. They’re excited just to see someone new! That doesn’t mean that they’re not going to try to test you though.
Walking into the classroom with a chart or clear set of expectations is always a good move. It sends a message to kids that you have high expectations for them, even though you’re not their normal teacher.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how we normally do things at TEAM. Laura Mendelsohn, our middle school and non-instructional recruiter adds “We commonly have people say they didn’t know this or that or how we do it at our school. We always tell candidates to treat the classroom as though it is their own. Whatever their usual expectations are is okay with us, even if they aren’t exactly what the kids are used to.”
Whether you bring a chart of expectations or chose to teach your expectations in a different way, don’t skip over verbalizing them to the class at the beginning. Quickly walk kids through your expectations for their behavior. Then, throughout the lesson, don’t forget about your expectations and don’t let things slide. Always go after 100 percent.
Tip 3: Focus on Your Objectives
When you’re excited to teach new kids in a new place and a job is on the line, it is really easy to let nerves get in the way. It’s also easy to let yourself drift off your lesson plan or your objectives. Be careful when you’re teaching and answering questions that you don’t deviate from your objectives for the day. At the end of your lesson, you’re measuring how well students learned those objectives, not whether students looked like they were paying attention the whole time. This is why the exit slip and independent practice are important to the success of your lesson. Stick with the objective you’ve been given.
Tip 4: Know Where You Can Cut and Run
It’s easy to lose track of time in a lesson. When you’re teaching new kids and aren’t sure how quickly they’re going to master a concept or objective, don’t know where you may have to check for understanding and don’t know where you might get stuck, you should definitely know where you can get back on track.
If you planned well and over-planned, here are some places you can cut to make sure you get through your lesson:
- Cut an extra example from direct instruction (they’ll probably be ready for practice anyway)
- Have plenty of guided practice opportunities, but don’t try to use them all.
- Change the expectation for independent practice. Instead of doing all ten practice problems, have them complete five
- Quick checks for understanding
- Your assessment at the end
- Independent practice altogether
Tip 5: Measure and Assess Yourself and Your Kids
OK, so you just planned and delivered a great lesson. Kids were focused and not calling out, and you made it all the way through your plan. Did they master you objective?
After a sample lesson, you’re going to debrief with the school leaders and hiring managers. The first question they’re going to ask is “how do you think your lesson went?” You want to have a good answer to this question. You also want to root it in data. This is where those exit slips come in handy. In between your sample lesson and debrief, flip through exit tickets or the assessment you gave and quickly calculate how many students mastered your objective.
Tip Six: Be Yourself
Like any interview, the biggest advice I can give you is to be yourself. This is doubly important when we’re talking about kids. They know when you’re putting on a front and so will the adults in the back of the room. We (and every other school doing sample lessons) really just want to meet you, not someone else.
Do you have any other tips? Let me know in the comments below!