Planning for the dreaded interview lesson

This post is part of a trilogy in 4 parts.  Parts 1-3 are published, part 4 is being formulated as you read this:

If you use the information in this post, please make a donation to a charity close to my heart: Farms for City Children (set up by Michael & Clare Morpurgo)

  1. Giz a job
  2. The interview Lesson
  3. Operation Interview
  4. Now the real work begins:

If you are reading this, then well done! Your letter of application worked.  Now you have to hope that you can deliver the goods on the day.   To be honest, hope doesn’t get you a job.  Planning and preparation does.

Now you have to plan a short lesson, you probably haven’t been given a huge amount of constraints…

You may know the subject, the age group and number of children.  You may not know the levels of the children, nor the context of the recent experiences of the children.

You do however know what the Head teacher is looking for:

Some one who is competent with a sparkle you can’t quite define until you see it.

So what does competent look like?  You know that, you have been demonstrating it on your final School Experience placement.

Competent means:

1) You are well prepared

2) You have planned appropriately differentiated activities.

3) You keep to time.

4) You manage the children’s behaviour and the organisation of the classroom.

5) Children with you actually learn something special.

6) You can assess and monitor learning in your class and plan interventions based on your findings.

Let’s unpick that:

1) Be Prepared:

This means that you will have every single resource ready and able to be deployed in 5 mins prep time at the start of your lesson.  You will have run through your lesson several times, word for word, walked through handing out the materials, begged your last placement school to allow you to ‘borrow a class’ to test out your plan.

2) Planned appropriately differentiated activities.

This is hard, but is possible.

  • Use the strategies and attainment targets to help you figure out the average level of the kids in your class, plan for above and below that. 
  • Think of a way to plan a lesson with layers to allow you to cut out or add parts, to switch out simple activities for harder ones.  This means apply the principles of gamification.  This means provide levels working towards a bigger picture      ( consider mashing up a treasure hunting film – such as Indiana Jones and draw children into solving clues to access the treasure)
  • Use physical resources to plan. ( in Literacy do story planning using artefacts discovered from a treasure sack: a ball, a car, a pice of cheese and a lock of hair)
  • Employ paired talk and wipe boards to allow flexibility
  • Avoid death by worksheet.
  • Plan a sheet of maths questions where you disguise groups of hard and easy questions on the same sheet, so that you can change the level for a group if you need to.
  • What magic could you bring to this lesson from a biscuit tin?

3) Keep to time

Easy enough, especially if you plan a flexible lesson that you can add and remove from.  This is where the ramification allows you to take control of the lesson and respond to the children in the lesson.  You have 5 levels of varying difficulty or style planned but expect to use 3.

4) Manage the children’s behaviour.

Most poor behaviour can be planned out of a lesson.  Don’t plans lesson with long periods of independent work. Do not plan to hand out things in the middle of the lesson, avoid movement around the room unless your lesson is longer than 30 mins.

Do not blink.  Challenge any behaviour you would not accept in your normal classroom.  Use the “Would your teacher accept that? Shall we check” approach.  do not worry about stopping the lesson to deal with it.  You will look far worse if you ignore something.

Use mini plenaries every 7-10 mins to reinforce what you are please with, what progress should have been made etc.

5) Make sure the children learn something special.

From your research into what the children have been doing this term (drawn from the strategies or possibly letters to parents on the school website) plan to complement their work.  Plan something unique, that only you can give them.  Don’t recycle an activity you have seen in school before.  It is perfectly possible that they first thing a child say might be “we’ve already done this.”  At which point you will die on your feet.  Share something of your life, a story of significance to you, an idea only you have thought of, resources from your childhood.  Something you saw in the news this week.

Be an Artist not a technician.

6) At the end of your lesson take some time to assess and evaluate.

Who learned what? Make a mental note some children that you didn’t challenge and think about how you might challenge them next time you teach them.  Make a mental note of children who showed signs of a difficulty.

In your interview, they may ask you to evaluate the lesson – DO NOT say “it went well.”  Talk about the progress of the children, talk about the ones you identified and what you are going to with them next.

Finally – SMILE

If you use the information in this post, please make a donation to a charity close to my heart: Farms for City Children (set up by Michael & Clare Morpurgo)

Be proud of who you are.  No one will buy you if you do not believe in yourself. I leave you with some of the Tao of Cool Runnings – this is a film full of wisdom. Pay attention.

8 thoughts on “Planning for the dreaded interview lesson

  1. An extensive list of advice, I particularly like the point about evaluating the lesson against the learning rather than how you think it went.

    To add to section 1:

    During a recent interview, I received some positive feedback for the depth of my preparation as I had put the lesson into context. To elaborate; I was asked to teach a 20 minute maths lesson and, rather than deliver a stand alone, 20 minute teaching episode, I produced a 60 minute lesson plan and identified in a short paragraph where the lesson would be situated with a weekly plan. This demonstrated that, not only could I plan for progression, but I also have high expectations and always think about extending the understanding of my pupils.

    To add to section 4:

    I took 30 seconds at the beginning of the session to introduce myself and share with the pupils my expectations for behaviour and learning. This gave me a foundation to relate back to if I felt a child was misbehaving i.e. “Remember what Mr Jones mentioned at the start of the session about behaviour, I expect you to…….”. In addition, I found that giving the pupils name tags had a positive effect on managing behaviour as I was able to address the pupils personally rather than summon them with a dreaded point and click. This also helped when praising and reinforcing good behaviour i.e. “thank you Jonny for sitting so nicely”. The Headteacher was happy to tell me the names of the pupils when I arrived on the morning of the interview so I was able to write out the name tags before hand – this eliminated timing issues.

    One final point I will make is to not underestimate the value of a teaching assistant within these short sessions. I did not have a TA available for my teaching episode, but even by asking the Headteacher if a TA will be available demonstrates that you think about the value of additional adults. This was advice given to me by a Headteacher during my second placement. She said that more often than not, when she made a teaching assistant available, candidates would ignore their value, leaving the TA sat there, and I quote, “like a gooseberry”.

    Thanks for taking time to write this blog Pete, I have no doubt it will help in the quest for jobs and I wish all my fellow trainees the best of luck!!!


    • excellent advice. I’ve got an interview on Tuesday for an HLTA post where I have been asked to teach a 30 minute lesson and maths isn’t even my forte. Cool Runnings is a great inspiration!

  2. Pingback: How to make a good impression at interview – Grinch Style | The Grinch Manifesto

  3. Pingback: Giz a job! – Writing a personal statement or letter of application | The Grinch Manifesto

  4. This is bloody brilliant! Cool Runnings was a great way to get me fired up haha – thank you!

  5. THANK YOU. I wish I could write a longer response, but I’m actively planning for this interview. I’m terrified, but I know it’s all on me to rock it out. I can do it!

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