From somewhere on the web!
How to prepare for an NQT observation? Simple really ….. once you’ve been through quite a few I suppose …… especially if you’ve also been observed by Ofsted, Local Education Authority etc etc etc. I won’t go on anymore, let’s get down to the useful tips.
Fist of all, have you read your student profile data sheet? ……. No? Well, speak to your Head of Maths, speak to your school data manager, find the information yourself from the school IT system. Get it as soon as you can. You really should not be going into the classroom without looking at your students’ prior attainment, current level and end of year targets. You need to know the level of EAL requirements and composition of SEN students, not to mention any G&Ts that might be sitting there quietly staring out of the window waiting for a real challenge……. If you dare.
Is there a seating plan that you can hand to your observer? …… Yes! But, have you annotated EAL, SEN and G&T students on the seating plan? It’s a very good idea to annotate this information on the seating plan. Firstly it shows that you have read your student data profiles and further more, you are aware of the distribution of the different students around the classroom. Oh! Also try to annotate the current level and end of year target for each student. If you do this on a computer, then it should be easy to shrink the information to fit in nicely with your plan view of the classroom and your scale drawing of each table with perfect details of the window and door position.
Here is a new idea I picked up from my boss, I really like it. A class context sheet. What’s that? It is a piece of paper consisting of a table showing prior attainment in the class sectioned into levels and sub-levels. Any tests you may have done and how the results have progressed. End of year targets on another row. This is very complicated to explain, I will post up an example soon. Also, the sheet of paper can have details of any differentiated tasks for each group of students in the class.
Now, we come to the lesson plan. A clear objective, not too long and not too simple. ‘Learning to find the median of a set of data and calculating the range’. Clear and straight to the point. You may now describe how many students you expect to achieve the aim of the lesson and how many will achieve to certain extents. By the way, you are an NQT now, so stop using the university-style lesson plans, and get up to speed with school templates. Ofsted like to see consistency, your in-school observer likes to see something they are familiar with.
Differentiated activities are essential, in all lessons, especially in an observation lesson. Why not make a matching card exercise with differing levels. Remember, it is possible to differentiate even within a set class of same level students. All students working at a level 5 may not necessarily have the same SEN and EAL requirements. Why not laminate some buzz words for the day and have them sitting on the wall ready to point to. If you are going to use differentiated activities, try to use different colours as this will make it blatantly obvious where the differentiation is happening. I am not saying observers are stupid, but it’s like going through a driving test, using the push and pull manoeuvre to its extreme just to pass your test.
By the way, if this is the first time you are trying activities in your class just to impress the observer, don’t bother. You should have accustomed the students with activities like this already: trying something for the first time might go wrong and blow up in your face. I don’t want to scare you off trying new things, but STOP and think. Is the observation a good time to try this great new idea you had overnight?
Are your books marked? Check up on your school marking policy, every two weeks in most cases. Observers like to walk around and take a look at the books, look at comment marking, and check whether you are a tick and flick kind of guy or gal. Do you have comments that engage the students in dialogue and help move them on in their learning? “Well done on finding 10%, now can you find 5% and then work out 15%”. Try not to give too many level descriptors while marking: study has shown that students tend to ignore the comment and only look at the level, completely missing the point of marking a student’s book.
Although we don’t like to talk about levels when marking, as maths teachers we should be big on students’ knowing what level they are currently on and what is their end of year target. Ofsted will go around ask students about this information, your school-based observer may ask this of your students. Quick and easy solution: stick a piece of paper on the front of the book showing the student the current level and end of year target. And don’t forget to tell the students to read it every now and then.
ICT, if you have it, use it. Please don’t use the interactive board as a high-tech extension to the OHP. Showing a Powerpoint presentation may be a key part of your lesson but to make a whole lesson into a lecture is just plain and simply a crime. The interactive board can hide things, it can have animation, it can play videos, it can click and drag items, it can reflect things, it can draw lines, it can recall past pages, it can reveal the answer, it can play music, it can show time, it can count down, it can have hundreds of colours, it can use geometric software, it can go onto the internet, it can pull up pictures of your dog using a calculator, even prove that your granny can do algebra….. in a photo of course. Please add your own ideas to this list.
Back on track, if you are being observed in the morning or after any break period, why not spend some time and hand out books already on the table so as to have a prompt start. It’s not cheating to have equipment out and ready. Remember, observation does not end as soon as you have done the plenary: you must maintain your good lesson even until the last student is just leaving the class.
Feedback, try to get feedback immediately. From experience, an observer will say that the lesson was very good and that they really enjoyed it and they saw excellent examples of good practice. Then, they leave you with a satisfactory rating. Do not accept that. If they said all that good stuff then that should be reflected in your written feedback. Ask for reasons why it is only satisfactory. Some observers will not give you excellent just because…… well, I don’t know why actually. If you don’t ask then you won’t find out what needs improvement.
Finally, your NQT observation is not like a normal observation. The NQT coordinator will be conducting these observations almost as if you are still at university doing your PGCE or GTP. You will have to meet certain standards. Try to find out from your observer which aspect of the standards document you are being observed on for that lesson. Before I sign off, make sure you have 10% reduced timetable, it’s your right, not a privilege.