Our top teaching tips

Our teachers share some of their top teaching tips on lesson planning, marking, classroom observations and exam preparation. Take a look below!

Lesson planning

  1. Behind every great lesson is a strong learning objective. It's important to think about the broader sequence of your lessons and where this fits in
  2. Think backwards…where will your students end up?
  3. Present your lesson plan. Letting your students know what they will be learning and doing in class will help keep them more engaged and on track.
  4. Question control. It's important to try to strike a balance between discussion and meeting your learning objective.
  5. The resource rule – time spent on developing resources should be no more than half the time it will take the students to complete it
  6. Timing and pacing control. It can be useful to break your lesson down even further into 2 or 3 mini-lessons to help focus you and your class.
  7. Be reflective. Jotting down a note or two on the lesson for you to reflect on can be so useful. If it went well, have a think about what worked.
  8. Look at your plans with a critical eye - would someone new be able to follow it?

Tips for marking

  1. Focus on the key points. Grades are a means to the end, not the end goal, it can be useful to have one or two key assessment criteria to look out for.
  2. What is the main reason you're asking students to do this? Choose a couple of key elements to focus on. If it's the first essay of the term, you could look at format, and the introduction to help your class begin to master the structure.
  3. It actually can be useful for you as a teacher to break down what you're looking for from a class into small objectives, so you can see where more work is required.
  4. If you know particular students struggle with certain things, have a quick list of key skills you want to keep an eye on
  5. Keep things simple. Try to avoid complicated weighting or marking schemes
  6. Get them to mark it! By discussing the homework as a class, you will discover gaps in understanding earlier, which is better for your class - and your sanity!
  7. Build it into your lesson. Get the class working on something independently – and then call up pupils one at a time for a couple of minutes. Look over their work, identify one or two things they are doing well, and one or two things they could work on.
  8. Set up a schedule. Try to plan ahead when you have larger projects to mark and set time aside.

Classroom observation

  1. It's easy to see an observation as a threat, but keep in mind that observations have always been focused on seeing how the class are learning, not how you're teaching.
  2. Try to focus more on the feedback than the grade given. Some teachers ask for feedback first, as it is the feedback which will help you improve.
  3. Good quality feedback provides a 'real-time' form of CPD which is not done to you, it is done with you, and by taking time to understand the feedback given, and act on it, you can get some great opportunities to focus your development as a teacher.
  4. Think about what the observer is looking for. It may be that the observer will specifically say what they are looking for, but if not, ask them in advance to find out if there is anything that they are particularly keen to observe.
  5. Think about the lesson as part of a sequence. Observations are often not just about an individual lesson.
  6. Books are important. Pupils' books are often used as a method of assessment, and observers may be keen to look at books to see how you mark and feedback to your pupils.
  7. Remember the Teachers' Standards. Every teacher is a teacher of ALL pupils. It is important that this is demonstrated in the planning and delivery of lessons.
  8. Plan - and have a backup. Have a clear lesson plan and ensure there are copies for the observers and any support staff in the class. Also have a plan for if the pupils finish the work early or if they are struggling with an activity.
  9. Be yourself, be enthusiastic and stick to your usual teaching style.
  10. Be very clear about the lesson objectives. Ensure that you can assess, by the end of the lesson, whether these objectives have been met through defined success criteria
  11. Get in the mindset and try to use an observation as a positive experience.

Exam preparation

  1. Use mock exams sparingly. They are a great tool to assess where your class are, but the exam setting should be a bit out of the ordinary
  2. Consider some peer marking for your mock exams, or asking pupils to retrospectively assess their own work to see how learning is moving along without the pressure (and your time spent marking!).
  3. Get parents involved. Make sure all parents know about these exams, and are aware of anything they can do to support.
  4. Switch your lessons up. Pupils will appreciate the change of pace. Games can be a really effective way of demonstrating knowledge, and keeping things more interactive.
  5. Check your calendar. Make sure you know exactly how many lessons you have until the exam, so you can consider what you need to cover.
  6. Avoid re-reading. Re-reading a text requires very little cognitive work, so it is difficult to remember, it's also often a fairly boring process for the pupil.
  7. Try elaborate interrogation. A great technique that students can do themselves or with other pupils is to ask why an idea or concept is true. This helps pupils move beyond learning that something is true, and moving into why these things are true.

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