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Primary Education News
News Trial lesson ideas for primary school job interviews
Primary teacher Sway Grantham shares some tried and tested ideas for interview lessons that will engage students and impress observers
While job hunting, I attended quite a range of interviews; all but one asked me to be observed teaching as well as having the spoken interview. It was a mixed bag, the shortest lasting for just eight minutes (no, I'm not kidding) and the longest being 45 minutes, and all involved showcasing my teaching talents with a group of children I didn't know.
Here are some of the lessons, which have been taught to years 2/3/4/5, in variations that I found worked really well.
If you have not already heard of this book you really should check it out, it's fab. The basic plot outline is that the cows find an old typewriter (you'll probably have to explain what this is) and begin writing messages to the farmer and demanding things. This is a really fun book and with a class you don't know it'll immediately get them giggling. There is also a lot of repetition of "click, clack, moo" so I found it was fun to ask the children to demonstrate their very best "moo."
The text can be used in many ways but I used it to spark a speaking and listening debate. The class was divided into thirds with each third being a different character: duck, farmer and cow. (I differentiated this, if I had forewarning of the groups, by giving the lower attaining children the farmer, easier to relate to, and the higher attaining children the duck as he has ulterior motives.) They had to be that character, think like that character and have done the same things as that character. Children then had to decide on a question to ask each of the other groups, something their character want to know about them, for example. The group that were going to be asked the question were then given a couple of minutes to decide an answer before they are asked to stand and explain themselves.
I used this lesson several times, including for the eight minute lesson as a shared read and all of the different classes got something different out of it. The story is fun and I used scans of the book to be able to share it on a big screen, all of the children were able to join as parts of the story are so repetitive that even those who find reading tricky could join in without extra support.
Throughout this lesson there was a buzz in the room, the children were at the centre of all of the activities, including the reading, so there was no worry of too much teacher talk. Without needing to know the class, and them to know me, they felt secure contributing within their groups, with peers they knew, and only those who were confident needed to actively speak to the whole room.
The lesson could be extended, through continuing the story in different characters or writing complaints letters to the other characters, or simplified to just be an exciting class read.
Smarties maths: counting, analysis and fractions
There are many, many lesson ideas for using Smarties in the classroom for lessons; I found them particularly useful as an engaging tool for a 30 minute lesson.
Each table was given a tube of Smarties and their first job was to count them. Each person counted them separately to check they all had the same number (frequently they didn't). Pause the class here to expect outrage as they find out that there is not the same amount of Smarties in every tube, in fact, we found that the number of Smarties ranged from 29 to 36 in a tube.
Next you can begin an analysis into your Smarties; how many of each colour? Which colours are more popular? Is this the same in every group? Can they begin any other analysis; how about fractions? What fraction of the Smartie tube's content are blue? Using this process you can extend the lesson as long as it needs to be. The children are engaged and genuinely interested as they feel they're being potentially cheated out of Smarties. Of course there is also the bribe at the end that they may get to eat one of them as well.
The important thing to remember with interview lessons is that for both the children, and the observers, you are one in many and the best way to make an impact is to cause a scandal. Finding out that there aren't a fair number of Smarties in a pack will sure do that.
After the initial discovery you can take the lesson as far as you want based on the school's brief and the age of the children. In its simplest form it can be a grouping activity and a comparison of larger/smaller groups but as you move up through the year groups it can be recording the data in tally charts or creating fractions/percentages to describe the differences.
With very little input from you, mostly through questioning, the children should progress through the lesson from not knowing anything about their Smarties, to being able to draw conclusions based on their data. You have therefore shown progress. As for differentiation, using the data handling levels you can pitch the expectations for each groups at different levels.
Bring an object to your lesson
There are, of course, lots of options here. But I went for an object that wasn't that exciting; an odd approach, I know, but I wanted them to be the creative ones.
I decided to take plastic cups. Run of the mill, plain old, plastic cups. The children then, after a small amount of input, had to create an amazing advertisement to make me want to buy their cup more than all the rest.
The idea was not that they decorate their cup and make it more appealing in that sense but that they're able to use language well enough to manipulate me into thinking that I need to have that cup. The children really enjoyed this activity and we had lots of fun with language including puns and gags.
With a lesson like this the school are obviously looking for something different and most people think that the most bizarre will be best.
This lesson pulls on students' existing knowledge of TV adverts, but I always take a short example to show, so that you're all thinking about the same things. This lesson had more teacher input than the others I have suggested but when interspersed with child talk this was not a negative. Again after a short input the children were buzzing in their groups creating their advertisements while I was able to show off my questioning skills.
At the end of the lesson the children were desperate to show their learning with the rest of the class and although we didn't get time to see them all they were clearly proud of what they'd created. In a very short space of time they'd observed, discussed, and then appropriately applied, several aspects of persuasive language and all through the use of a plastic cup.