Article, NQTs

Top Ten Tips for Primary NQTs

1. Think about the type of classroom community you want to create.

How will you build relationships with the children in your class from day one? Respect, care, kindness, teamwork – what will you class’s core values be? What do you want the atmosphere in your classroom to feel like? At the end of the year, if the children suggested words to create a word cloud about your class, which words do you hope will stand out? How will others describe your class? Perhaps make a word cloud now to remind you of your aspirations for your class.

2. How will you honour and build individualism in your classroom?

Think about how you will build a community of diversity and celebrate differences. How will you show that you value what each individual child has to offer? What will you celebrate: show & tell, activities and achievements outside school, stories from home…? How will you ensure every child feels valued? How will you make sure you speak to every child individually every day?

3. How will you widen your classroom community to involve families?

Your school will have certain routines and requirements for communicating with parents and carers: parents’ evenings, reports, open days, assemblies… How might you reach beyond these routines to include the wider family in your class team? How will you share successes and deal with issues? Think about how you will present yourself as professional, approachable and caring. Celebrate the diversity of families. Think about how you can welcome parents and carers into your classroom for extra activities and celebrations.

4. What will your curriculum be like?

After relationships, the teaching content makes up the basics of any classroom. What do you have to teach? Can you choose your own topics and interests? Where are there opportunities to follow the children’s interests? Start with the National Curriculum. Make sure you know what is required for your year group – this includes the requirements of any statutory assessments. Then look to your school. Ask for the long-term plan and any medium-term plans that are already in place. Explore the topics, genres, key texts and schemes you will be teaching. Think about how you will put your own touch on the required elements. Once all of this is in place, look for gaps and think about where and how you can teach other topics you are passionate about and include the interests of the children in your class.

5. How will create a community of readers in your classroom?

Read, read, read… it is one of the best things you can do to prepare for teaching. Gather recommendations for the best books for your year group. Don’t just jump on new trends and celebrity authors, think about how you will provide your class with a wide range of books from classics to poetry to non-fiction to contemporary fiction. Strive to expose the children in your class to quality books that make them think.  Think about how you will organise your class library. Will you have a teacher’s “Book of the Week / Month” on display so you can recommend your favourites? Your school will already have some books for the school and class library but you may want to supplement with your own books. Charity shops are fantastic for finding great books (once they’re open again). For now, look out for local giveaways/sales on Facebook pages.

6. How will you take learning beyond the classroom?

When planning a series of lessons, always be thinking about opportunities to make the learning bigger. Make this a priority so it becomes a habit in your planning and enriches the children’s learning. These types of learning experiences build memories and are a lot of fun!

  • Push the tables back to make space for speaking & listening or drama activities.
  • Move the lesson to the school hall for more space – a big role play activity, a courtroom debate or a game linked to the lesson.
  • Take the learning outside onto the playground or school grounds. Use chalk and explore mathematical shapes, create huge timelines in History or spend time observing for Writing ideas, plan a Science investigation or Geography study. There are so many things you can do outside.
  • Look for possible local visits – places you can walk to (including the local library). These kinds of trips are good value for money and help children to learn about and value their local area.
  • Find out which trips and residentials are already a part of the plan for your year group. Look for other possibilities that are good value with regards to learning opportunities and cost.
  • Make links to OAA (outdoor and adventurous activities) whenever possible. One of my most powerful Literacy units included a sailing trip linked to Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo. It built up vocabulary and understanding beyond the children’s own experiences.

7. How will you make links to the Arts?

Visual art, dance, drama and music are incredibly important in children’s development and learning. How will you make sure they are a part of your regular classroom experiences? These should not only have their own place on the timetable but be built into cross-curricular lessons in other subject areas. Start thinking about where you can make links and always keep the Arts in mind when planning units of work.

8. What will your learning environment look like?

You may not be able to get into your school now to see what your classroom looks like. Perhaps someone would be able to send you some photos so you can see the layout and how much display space you will have. Before you start planning, you’ll need to know which displays are required and which ones you can plan for yourself. Think about a reading corner, working walls and displaying children’s work.

9. Think about your approach to statutory assessment.

You may find yourself in a year group with national assessments: Reception, Year 1, Year 2, Year 4, Year 6. Think carefully about how you plan to approach these assessments with the children in your class. It will be up to you to protect them from any pressure or stress. You will need to communicate with parents and manage their expectations.

10. How will you continue to grow as a teacher?

Securing your first teaching position is just the beginning of your learning and professional development. Start to think about areas you need or want to know more about. It might be behaviour management, Grammar subject knowledge, Maths, Reading for Pleasure or any other subject area. Perhaps you would like to lead a subject one day. There is so much on-line CPD available at the moment. Ask for recommendations and don’t be afraid to join in. Watch the many fantastic videos from Literary Festivals around the country. Look for discussion groups and chats on Twitter. Make connections with mentors to help you on your journey.

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