Planning a lesson for a job interview

Written by: Helen Webb | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The lesson is a key part of any teaching job interview and often causes the most stress for applicants. Helen Webb looks at how to plan your job interview lessons

Planning a lesson for a job interview can be challenging. You don’t know the students and you are unlikely to be familiar with the classroom layout, support staff and resources – all this while being observed.

If you are struggling for what to plan for an upcoming job interview, the following is a simple lesson plan idea that can be adapted to suit your own needs.

It is a simple yet effective lesson designed to have minimal reliance on ICT and group work, both of which can be prone to problems, particularly when your nerves are running high! The lesson plan is structured to enable you to showcase your ability to demonstrate key teaching and learning skills.

Gathering information

Ahead of the lesson, don’t forget to request as much information about the class you are teaching as possible. This includes relevant SEND and medical information about the students in your lesson; the teacher’s seating plan and class photos if available, details of what they have already been taught, target grades and grades students are currently working at.

This should not only help you to pitch and plan your lesson appropriately, but will also demonstrate your due diligence as a teacher. It may also be useful to find out what resources are available for you to use in the classroom (will all students arrive with exercise books, pens and calculators for example?).

Challenge

If you have the luxury of choosing your own lesson, select a difficult topic that is either higher tier or one that has scope to be easily elaborated, applied to other contexts, or extended to the next key stage of knowledge if needed.

Starter (AfL)

This activity is vital for you to pitch the lesson appropriately and also for you to establish a baseline for you to demonstrate that students have made some progress during your lesson.

One great way to do this is to ask students to write down everything they already know about the topic. This could be a paragraph, a list of key words or a diagram etc. I find I get better responses from students if they write their answers on mini-whiteboards as their ideas can be easily amended or wiped clean. Many students lack the confidence to write down what they believe to be incorrect or incomplete information, so do make clear what your intention of the activity is and what your expectations of their knowledge is to be.

Alternatively, for shorter lessons, a quick-fire quiz or a few targeted questions can be equally effective to gauge your starting point.

Explanation

Following the starter activity you should have a good idea about the class’s level of understanding of your topic. Your next task is to fill in the gaps in their knowledge and teach them something new. This is your chance to demonstrate secure subject knowledge and your ability to give clear, concise and understandable explanations.

It is advisable to cross-check the level of detail and specific examples with the relevant specification. Cross-check against examiners’ reports and past mark schemes for common misconceptions and tricky areas.

Target your explanations to the highest level in the class – rehearsing your explanations can be really useful to ensure your nerves don’t get the better of you on the day. You may wish to use something creative to aid your explanation if appropriate – an animation, model, diagram, an analogy, etc.

Task

Ask students to write their own explanation of the concept in their books. The open-ended nature of this task will allow you to adjust the scope of the question to suit the timings of your lesson.

Have a few clear titles or carefully chosen questions prepared in advance and select the title most appropriate based on the first part of the lesson. Looking at past papers can give you ideas for different types and levels of questions if needed.

Differentiation

Your most challenging task here will be managing the different abilities in the classroom, so that all students are engaged in the work you set. Provide sentence starters for students who are struggling to get started, or at a much more basic level, cloze passages to complete (with or without jumbled answers to select from). As you circulate you can also prompt and suggest other key terms or ideas to include. Provide extension ideas for students that are working quickly – e.g. can you illustrate your paragraph with a diagram? Can you apply this idea to an alternative situation? Can you give a specific example that demonstrates this idea? What happens if...?

Feedback

While students are completing this task, circulate around the classroom live marking individual student’s work. Live marking in this way will allow you to get a feel of where in general students are going right or wrong and also enable you to do some individual trouble-shooting.

After students have been given the allocated time to complete their own written explanations, select a cross-section of two to three students to read their answers out loud. This not only models answers to the other students but it also gives you the opportunity to provide very specific and individualised verbal feedback to these students. All students can then improve their own work using the feedback that they have heard given to their classmates.

And finally

Timing a lesson precisely is extremely difficult when you don’t know the class. It is always worth having a few “fun” activities up your sleeve just in case you need to fill some time at the end.

Activities like key word bingo, articulate or asking students to write themselves three to five questions (with answers at the bottom of the page) that they can ask themselves or each other at the start of their next lesson with their own teacher are all great. I also like “spot the mistake” – you can provide students with a paragraph that is closely matched to their specification but with a few very subtle mistakes. You can differentiate by either not telling students how many mistakes there are, asking them to correct them if they can, or for weaker students locating which line the mistakes are in with dots.

Reflecting on the lesson

During your interview you may be asked to reflect on the lesson. You may wish to consider how you would teach this lesson differently if you were in a more familiar setting or provide other examples of creative teaching approaches that you like to use in your own classroom.

Consider how you have demonstrated different teaching and learning skills and how you know that the students made progress in this lesson. It is probably also worth reflecting on how you would find out if students had really learnt something new in your lesson by testing them at a later date.

While it is not always necessary to provide a written lesson plan, documentation of the rationale behind what you were aiming to achieve can serve as an aide memoire during the interview stage.

First impressions

Don’t forget to introduce yourself at the start of the lesson, smile and be yourself. Your character and values are just as important, so let these shine through. Good luck!

  • Helen Webb is an experienced science and biology teacher and lead practitioner with a professional interest in developing CPD for teachers. Her CPD packages are available on TES. Helen works at Lutterworth College in Leicestershire. Visit https://helenfwebb.wordpress.com or follow @helenfwebb. To read Helen’s previous articles for SecEd, visit http://bit.ly/2cLa6UZ


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