With another school year just around the corner, many of you may be responsible for teaching a class for the very first time. You may be nervous about the challenges ahead, but by following just a few simple tips, you can make sure your job is as exciting and rewarding as it can be!
This might sound obvious, but that also means it is easy to forget. Do not underestimate the impact of a smile in making a positive first impression on your students. Smile as they enter the door, and warmly introduce yourself to them. Try and learn their names from as early on as possible too! School is a serious business with lots of hard work, but it should also be enjoyable for students (and for you too!). By making your students like you, they’ll also want to impress you more and will work hard for your praise and approval.
2. Be confident
You may be nervous the first few times you step out in front of your class, and this is completely understandable. But there is value in ‘faking it til you make it’. Project a confident persona out into the classroom, and soon this is how your students will see you, and it will make them sit up and listen to what you have to say. Not only will confidence make students respect you more, but you will seem more enthusiastic about what you are teaching, and students will soon copy and mirror this behaviour. If you sound bored when teaching a topic, do not be surprised if you find your students are soon bored too.
3. Set clear rules
It is important to establish rules and boundaries early on into the school year, to ensure consistency and to make it easier for students to learn what kind of behaviour to avoid e.g. put up your hand before speaking, be nice to one another, etc. For a fun exercise, you could divide the class into small groups, and get each one to make a poster stating one of the rules. At the end of the lesson, the groups could then take it in turns to present their poster to class and explain why this rule is important, ensuring students internalise the principles and do not just see your rules as arbitrary. It is also important to have follow through on your rules, and ensure that disobedience has clear consequences (whether you give students a warning, send them out of the classroom for a time out, contact the headteacher or their parents, etc). If you do not set consequences for your rules, which are always carried out, you may quickly find that students stop obeying them.
4. Create detailed lesson plans
As time goes on, you may feel more confident about improvising lessons as they come, but in the beginning it is essential to be prepared. Prepare what you want to teach a few days before the lesson, and go over it several times to ensure you remember. Include the specific material you want students to learn, as well as what resources will be necessary (e.g. short YouTube videos, printouts of information). This will also allow you to see your lessons in the context of the school day/week, and prevent them from becoming too monotonous. You could include a fun active exercise, such as preparing a short presentation in small groups for the rest of the class, to break up long stretches of more traditional, sit-down learning.
5. Check understanding
Take regular breaks in lessons to ensure that students have understood the material. You could divide the lesson into three or four ‘goals’, and ask for a show of hands before ticking each one off. This will make students pay greater attention by stopping the feeling that the lesson is ‘dragging on’, and will give them a sense of accomplishment. If any students do not understand, you could also encourage one that does to explain it to the rest of the class. This will help retention of information as one of the most effective forms of learning is attempting to teach the material to another person. It forces you to organise your thoughts more clearly, and ensures you have properly understood as opposed to just memorised. This is a helpful tip to remember for when exams come round!
6. Talk to other teachers
Do not forget that one of the most fantastic resources for teaching information will be your colleagues. All of them will have had to have faced their first day as a teacher, and many will be eager to help. Go to them with any questions you may have, and ask to look over their teaching materials – even if you do not use these resources directly, they can help give you an idea of what you should be doing.