Teaching a lesson is a key part of most (if not all) teaching job interviews, and with good reason – sitting opposite a panel answering questions is not what you are going to be employed for; it’s your teaching.

Still, the ‘interview lesson’ is as problematic as it is integral to the interview process. Its worth and value is really down to how well the school has planned for the activity and what they expect to gain from it.

Interviewees are very much at the mercy of the school in this regard. Therefore, it’s no surprise that it’s this aspect of an interview which causes the most stress for applicants.

Planning a lesson for an interview is a real challenge. You don’t know the kids, the layout of the classroom, resources, support staff, etcetera.

With so much to contend with and so much at stake, it’s better to keep things simple so that you can showcase your key teaching and learning skills in the best way you can – in what is a pretty false situation. Here’s how to do it.

Gather as much information as possible

The amount of information that a school gives to interview candidates can vary considerably. Some take a very ‘hard-line data protection’ approach and share very little: other share a lot more a lot more willingly.

You should ask for prior performance data, target grades, grades students are currently working at, plus SEN and medical information. A seating plan (if there is one) and class photos are also useful too. Once you have been given information on the topic you are expected to teach, you should ask for details of what the class have already been taught. There is nothing worse than beginning your meticulously planned lesson on a particular poem, only to be met with choruses of, ‘We’ve already done this, Sir!’

With as much of the above information as possible, you should be able to pitch your lesson appropriately.

An effective starter

A starter is accepted as a great way of hooking the interest of learners and engaging students straightaway. In the context of an interview lesson, a starter is also really helpful in enabling you to pitch the lesson well and to establish a baseline. This will mean that you can demonstrate that the students have made progress during the lesson.

Explanation

The starter should give you a good idea about what the class know about a topic. You now need to fill any gaps in their knowledge and take them to the next level by teaching them something new. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your own subject knowledge and show that you can give clear and concise explanations and instructions.

A differentiated task

One of the biggest challenges of any interview lesson is managing the different abilities in the class. Making the main task of a lesson open-ended is worth considering, as is having an extension activity ready should anyone need it. At the other end of the spectrum, consider including steps to help any students that may struggle to get started.

Give feedback

Giving feedback is a vital part of teaching so it is a good idea to demonstrate that you can do this during your lesson. Circulating around the room and marking students’ work helps you gauge how the class is doing and gives you the opportunity to give personalised feedback. If time allows, you can do this in front of the whole class to model an answer.

First impressions and final ideas

Finally, bear in mind the importance of first impressions. The observers (and the observed class) will expect you to be nervous, but they will also expect to see a degree of confidence from you. Above all, don’t forget to smile and try and be yourself.

Last but not least, getting the timing of an interview lesson spot on is very difficult as you don’t know the students. It’s always a good idea to have a couple of extra activities up your sleeve, just in case you need one to fill in some time at the end of the lesson.

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