Top Tips for New Teachers

It’s back to school season and teachers up and down the country are returning to the classroom after the summer break. For some of you this may be the first time you have stepped into the classroom with your own students. All that studying and hard work has finally paid off! These are exciting times! However, for many new teachers, taking charge of a class for the first time can be daunting and a little overwhelming at times. Here I’ve put together my top tips for new teachers to help you along the way in your first year!

tips for new teachers school supplies on table1. Be Consistent

Establish your classroom management system and be consistent when implementing it. Out of all the classroom management tips for new teachers, this is key. Giving students a secure, stable environment where they know where they stand and what to expect will save you and your students a lot of frustration in the long term. Children learn best when they feel safe and secure and having a consistent classroom management system is key.  So establish it, implement it and make sure you follow through with it!

 

2. Just say no

Do not feel guilty about saying no to extra responsibilities. As a new teacher (and an experienced one!) there are so many things to learn in terms of managing your class, planning lesson, assessments, parent communication and so on and  these can often seem daunting  on their own, never mind taking on extra roles. Do not be afraid to say no to running that after school club or organising that science week. If you feel ready to take it on, then go ahead, but do not feel pressurised into going above and beyond. You are a new teacher and learning how to manage your class is your number one responsibility.

 

3. Use your planning time effectively

These key lesson planning tips for new teachers will ensure that you get the most out of your planning time. Try to get as much of your work done in school as you can. Before your planning time starts know what it is that you want to achieve.  This could be getting next week’s planning done, making copies, marking a set of books etc. Try not to get distracted and stay focused on your task. Find a quiet place to work (not always easy in a school, I know!). Try to have all your resources ready, i.e. planning templates, worksheets to print out on a storage device etc. so you are ready to go. This time is yours, so make the most of it!

 

4. Don’t struggle alone

Find a trusted mentor and ask them for advice if you need to. If you are struggling with a particular student or you are looking for ideas about how to teach a particular tricky concept, don’t be afraid to ask for help. While googling is great for this too, it doesn’t beat talking through ideas face to face. A good mentor can provide valuable teaching tips for new teachers as well as support. Find someone you trust and don’t be afraid to ask. In the UK you should have an assigned mentor during your first year and this is what they are for!

 

5. Learn to draw a line under your work

It took me a few years to accept that there will always be something else to do when it comes to teaching, but it’s fine if I don’t manage to do it all! Teaching is a practice where there are many ways of doing things and there is always something else you can do to improve, but the quicker you learn to accept this and be ok with it, the better. Your students would much rather have a refreshed teacher who is well rested than a tired, frazzled teacher who has been up all night planning and replanning a lesson because there was ‘something else that could be done’. Learn to draw cut off points and stick to them.

 

6. Go to staffroom at lunch

You need a break away from the classroom during the school day. Make sure you make time during lunch to spend in the staffroom. Get to know your colleagues and spend time with them. You will feel ready for the afternoon session after a decent lunch break!

 

7. Go with the flow

I used to get frustrated when that lesson I’d carefully planned was interrupted by a surprise visitor or an extra singing practice for the school concert. Learn to accept that this is school and things often don’t run as expected. So don’t worry and just pick up where you left off tomorrow. At least all your prep will be done!

 

8. Make time for yourself

As much as you can, try to leave school work at school – where it belongs! You need to make time for yourself and be able to relax and spend time with your friends and family. This can be harder than it sounds (see point 5), but it is important to step away from work and make time for yourself so you are refreshed when you step back into the classroom. Make sure that you make time for your own hobbies and interests away from school.

 

I hope you found my top tips for new teachers useful! Have a great year!

Classroom Layout

Over the summer I like to reflect on what worked well and what could be improved next year. One thing I have been thinking about a lot lately is my classroom layout. This is such a crucial aspect of the classroom and has such a big impact on the students’ experience and learning in the classroom. I thought I would share some thoughts on planning your classroom and the different set up arrangements and their pros and cons.

classroom layout manipulatives

Firstly, you must also consider what the activities will be that the students will be undertaking. This may be group work, independent work, drama/role play activities. Will you need different areas in your classroom for whole class teaching, guided reading, center work etc? All of these factors must be considered when planning your layout.

The next step is to plan your layout. You must consider a number of factors – will you use desks or tables? How many students will you have? What is the size of your classroom? Next think about how the students will be grouped. Will they be grouped by ability? Think about whether they will have free choice? Will you have different groupings for different lessons and therefore will the size of the groups change throughout the day?
When I began to plan my classroom layout, I cut out small shapes of card to represent the number of desks, chairs and my interactive whiteboard. I have tables in my classroom and 30 students, so I used the card pieces to experiment with different arrangements that would be best suited to the needs of my class. It is much easier to manipulate pieces of card that drag desks around a classroom to design your layout!
Here are some of the different arrangements and their advantage and disadvantages:

Large Groups

These are great to group students by ability. All students of a particular ability sit around one table. it makes distribution of resources and worksheets etc very simple if each table has a different task to complete. Resources such as pencils and rulers can be stored in the center of each table. It is okay for group work, but slightly too large to have all children on one table group working together. It can encourage talking and students can become distracted as they are facing each other. Not all students are facing the board which is not the best for whole class teaching and instruction when you want everyone looking at the front.

Small Groupsclassroom-layout-small-groups

Similar points to the large grouped tables, but these are great for group work and collaborative learning as the students can easily interact with each other as the number of students around each table is much smaller and they are closer to each other. Resources can be stored in the center of each group of tables and it is easier for the students to reach the resources as the tables are smaller than the large grouped tables. It can encourage chatter as students face each other and it is not so good for independent working. This arrangement can also take up a lot of classroom space if your room is on the small side. Some students also have their back to the front of the classroom.

Traditional Rows 

classroom-layout-rows
All students are facing the front which is great for whole class teaching and seeing the board. Students do not face each other so they are less likely to become distracted with chatty behavior. You can easily access each student’s work, which is slightly more difficult in a grouped table set up. This makes it easier for you to provide support if required. Ideal for independent work. It is more difficult to store resources on tables as they are likely to fall off. It is not good for group work as the students do not face each other. Teacher led group activities such as guided reading are difficult to run on in this arrangement as it is difficult to interact with one another along a row.

Horseshoeclassroom-layout-horseshoe 

Like the traditional rows, all students can easily see the board and teacher during whole class instruction. Students are not as close to each other as they would be on grouped tables so unwanted chatter will be discouraged. You can easily access the students’ work and give guidance and advice. All students are facing each other (apart from the small desk in the center) so it is ideal for whole class discussions and debates. The small desk in the center can be used for small group activities such as guided reading. However, as children are further away from each other, this set up is not the best for group work. Resources will also fall of the tables easily.

L- and U- Shaped Arrangements 

classroom-layout-l-shaped
After much experimenting, I settled on this set up this past year. The students face each other so group work can be undertaken easily. However, they are also far enough apart o that unwanted chatter is discouraged. It is easy for you to access all students’ work and give support where needed, by positioning yourself on the other side of the table to the student. Some students have their back to the board and this layout takes up a lot of space, so if your classroom is small it may not be the best set up for you. I also kept walking into the corners of the desks as there were so many sticking out! So take care if you use this set up!
What classroom set up do you use? What are its pros and cons? I’d love to hear about your ideas!