Two words characterise an outstanding lesson: typicality and progress. The judgement will not only be based on the lesson itself but other evidence in your room: the displays, the way the children approach learning and the students’ books. Let’s break this down into simple ingredients that will help you to move to an outstanding lesson.
First: Look at the way your students sit in your classroom. The observer has a maximum twenty minutes to make a judgement. If your children are slouching, staring out the window and looking to what each other are doing, then it is going to inform the decision making of the observer. They are looking to what is typical in your classroom. So, if you are giving it your all but your students are showing signs that they had worked in expecting less commitment from you, then their body language will give them away.
What can you do? Teach your students good learning body language from the start. Sit them up, free up their diaphragm, talk to them about eye contact and how to actively listen – taking notes, writing down questions they need answering. Work on the look of their uniform – only so it gives the impression of a professional working space.
Second: The students’ books are going to be the biggest evidence base for progress and typicality. The observer will look to the book to see how one lesson relates to the next. The marking will need to teach, rather than just acknowledge work. Therefore, there needs to be signs of your interacting on a personalised level with the student. Simple details like using their name in your comment makes a massive difference. When you pull something out to talk about, make it specific. Make sure you pose a question or a problem to be solved that will ask the student to think again and therefore progress even more thanks to your marking.
We may resent the emphasis on the students’ books and find the burden of marking difficult. However, realistically, this is the only place where you can have a personalised conversation about learning in the classroom.
Third: Keep it simple. Avoid over-elaborate lessons that require you to perform, over organise and manage too many resources. The focus is on the students not on your as the teacher. Therefore, an outstanding teacher will only be a subtle presence in the learning. Remember, this is not about you, this is about the learning of the students.
What should you do? You should narrate the learning clearly and tell the story of the reasons behind the activities and how they build to the overall learning in the lesson. Talk to the students but bear in mind that your audience for this narration is the observer. The narration of the what, why and how of the learning as a typical behaviour in the classroom is the facet of a consistently outstanding teacher.