Tips for New Teachers: Practice!

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TIP # 4: Practice Your Lessons

Before I became a teacher, I worked in other jobs and attended school where I frequently had to give presentations. Before every presentation, I would make sure to practice at least a few times to work out the kinks in the presentation. Practicing was enormously helpful – I was usually terrible the first time around.

Then I became a teacher. For some reason or another, even though I was clearly presenting during some or most parts of a lesson, I never bothered to practice my lessons out loud. I thought that because I spent so much time planning the lesson, I would just be able to deliver it according to how I saw it in my head! Unsurprisingly, this led to some horrible lessons. Not necessarily horribly planned, but horribly executed.

In my third year of being a teacher, I became a huge proponent of practicing my lessons. I would get to school a bit earlier each day and practice before the students arrived. It might sound silly, and some of the other teachers at my school would make fun of me, but it made a huge difference for me and my students. Here are some of the key areas I would suggest practicing:

  • The key points or takeaways from your mini-lesson: I think each lesson has one or two key concepts that you want your students to take away and remember. I would definitely practice saying these things out loud. Make sure you get the wording right and that you have the right level of energy and emotion as you’re saying it. There were so many times before I started doing this that I would stumble across these key points, and the lesson was essentially useless afterwards.
  • Writing on the board: If your lesson involves writing on the whiteboard / chalkboard / Smartboard, it is a great idea to write it out at least once. This way you can make sure the layout makes sense and that you have enough space to write everything you need.
  • Giving directions: Giving the right directions is one of the most challenging parts of delivering a lesson. The directions need to be concrete, specific, and concise. You need to frame them in a positive rather than a negative. If you don’t do it right, your students might get confused and find opportunities to do other things, and potentially derail your lesson. Practicing saying the directions you will need to give during your lesson will help you get this right and have your lesson flow as smoothly as possible!

The last thing I’ll say about practice is that it’s a great opportunity to catch some mistakes you’ve made in your lesson. Maybe you thought it would flow a certain way, but doesn’t make sense when you practice it out loud. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments when you realize this. Then practice again! Good luck!

 

Chen Liu spent four years as a New York City high school science teacher. Chen also trained new teachers for The New Teacher Project.