Tips for Student Teachers on School Placement

I recently received an email from a student teacher asking for some advice before she embarked on teaching practise. It really got me thinking about my own experience with “school experience” and I thought that a blog post may be helpful to some other student teachers. I was lucky enough to get a 1.1 in my teaching practice and degree so I hope that this helps somebody.

1. Make an effort to get to know the students: It really does sound so simple but it is so important to actually know the students. I know that you probably have a very short length of time to get to know the students, but knowing their names and perhaps some of their interests is so important. As well as showing your supervisor that you have an obvious interest in the students and a good rapport with them, students will likely get on better with a teacher who they know is interested in them! 

2. Be realistic: I was guilty of putting a lot of pressure on myself during school placement. As well as developing lots of overly ambitious schemes of work, I was also fairly unrealistic about my own workload. I would advise against writing overly detailed schemes of work- you will likely have to change them anyway. I got into the habit of simply outlining the topics to be covered and saved greater detail for my lesson plans. This stopped me having to return and change lots of things. As well as this, I would be realistic about the resources used in the classroom. I would always make an effort to include ICT but I certainly wouldn’t go overboard. As well as this, don’t be afraid to use the textbooks in the classroom! Initially I tried to make my own resources for every class, which was a total waste of time as it was already covered very well in the textbook. I remember being shocked when a supervisor of mine told me I was doing too much work- I now know exactly what she meant!

3: Don’t reinvent the wheel: This follows on from my point above. While original and fun worksheets are to be welcomed, remember that there are plenty of resources in textbooks and online that will likely suffice. The TES website has excellent resources, as well as http://www.languagesresources.co.uk/FrenchIndex.html. Share resources with other student teachers as well.

4: Don’t overdo the ICT: I am a huge advocate of ICT in the classroom. However, it is worth remembering that hours can easily be lost perfecting a new Prezi presentation or making a video. This wasted valuable time, on top of all the paperwork that had to be completed for lesson plans. In future I would use fun, interative ICT resources that weren’t overly time consuming to use or make. My supervisors really enjoyed WheelDecide, Online Stopwatch (for timing activities) and Kahoot. As well as this, there are lots of easy ways to make Podcasts online which the students will likely enjoy.

5: Don’t stress about the “active” methods: When I first began my teaching placement the idea of “active methods” terrified me. I saw lots of ideas online but I considered them overcomplicated and time consuming. I was totally unsure about how to balance them out with more “traditional” methods of learning. In my experience, one or two “activities” per class is fine. Keep it simple- use games like Charades for teaching sport or household tasks. You can also do a “flipped classroom”- give students a topic to research and have them present it to the class. I also really enjoyed doing “talk shows”, where students would ask other students questions. Keep it simple! Don’t go over the top- supervisors are realistic and are aware that “boring” tasks such as answering comprehension question are also essential to the acquisition of a language!

6: Be honest: It’s so important to be honest with your supervisor about any problems that you may be facing. Remember that they want to help you! Mention anything that may be causing you concern- even something as simple as time management if you are receiving subbing hours in the school on top of your placement classes. Mention how you are overcoming some issues in the classroom- for example behavioural issues. This is realistic and supervisors will be glad that you are being honest about your experience.

7: Be prepared: I know it sounds ridiculous but a lot of student teachers on my course were penalized for a lack of organisation. Ensure that you plan for everything- especially ICT failure! Get to school early and complete photocopying. Speak the target language as much as possible in the MFL classroom. Write your learning intentions on the class and have a clear goal for the class to achieve in the time given. Remember to do the roll call and follow up on homework. Some supervisors suggested writing down homework at the beginning of the class, which some teachers may find useful. Do a recap of the lesson at the end of the classroom and at the start of the next lesson. Ask students what they learned today. Include all students. “No hands up” is also a good idea to ensure that you’re giving enough time to answer questions. Give corrected homework and tests back in a timely manner. Write down any incidents that occur in the classroom- if you didn’t write it down it didn’t happen! Differentiate. Mini whiteboards are really useful (you can get them in Dealz) for pair work.

8: Enjoy yourself: This may be the last thing on your mind but remember to enjoy yourself in your school. Don’t spend all of your time behind the laptop- get to know the other staff and make an effort to integrate yourself in the school. Volunteer to help out where possible, for example on open night. Be appreciative to the school for taking you on. Give the class teacher a list of the topics that you have covered and test results. Get to know the students and be kind to yourself- it really is a stressful time and you are no doubt trying your best. You can do it- every other teacher in the school has been in your position and survived! 🙂

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