Getting it right in your first few lessons

Teaching Tricks
27th September 2016 at 15:05

Subject Genius, Teaching Tricks, Getting it right in your first few lessons

There is so much advice and more blogs than you can read in your summer break on how to get your first lesson(s) off to a good start as an NQT. Most of them focus on the general good advice and approach it from different angles, but saying the same type of things. If you are a science teacher there are a few more things to consider…


Classroom expectations:

General advice:- set out your expectations and classroom rules.

Science specific:- you have the added set of rules “science safety rules” – find these out in advance from your HoD or senior tech, there is nothing worse than having a practical pulled as the students aren’t wearing the correct safety equipment, or not handling equipment correctly.


Classroom lesson routines:

General advice:- decide on your routines classroom entrance/exit and ensure the students know them and follow them.

Science specific:- this links into the safety rules, how will students enter the room? Is it going to be different for theory vs practical lessons? Where are students going to put their belongings during a practical? How are you going to stop the students/get their attention during a practical? All of these need to be worked out by looking at the room, talking to your mentor and techs before the students have created their own routines – you need to manage the routines you want to instil.


Where do I find?:

General advice:- find out how to book various equipment, there maybe room booking forms or similar for ICT rooms – you don’t want to turn up to a room thinking you have booked it and you haven’t!

Science specific:- practical work… What’s in my room? Where is it stored? (This expands if you are teaching in more than one room…) Talk to the other teachers in the department, they have probably taught in most rooms, the techs are also your best friends here… who do you think brings the equipment in!

The other big on for science… Where is the safety equipment kept – do know where the fire extinguisher, fire blanket and emergency stop buttons are – these do need to be second nature as in a real emergency you can tend to panic!

Subject Genius, Teaching Tricks, Getting it right in your first few lessons

School rules:

General advice:- find out how the rules and know how the reward/sanction policy works.

Science specific:- practical work… what are the rules regarding risk assessments, practical experiments and demonstrations? Some schools require you to risk assess every practical and demo, others have a scheme of work with pre-risk assessed practical work and demos in.


How do I get?:

General advice:- photocopying or other resources – find out your copying code, your network log in and how you can get bulk photocopying done.

Science specific:- practical work… how do I book equipment? What equipment can I book? When do my orders/requisitions need to be in? What format do they need to be in? Simple… your techs are THE most important people here – treat them with kindness, be their friend, they will be yours.



General advice:- you will be assigned a NQT mentor or a buddy (if new to the school) they are your first point of call for general advice and to ask how to do certain things.

Science specific:- There are a few more people you need to call upon for help…

  • Head of Department – Safety rules and guidelines for the department
  • Head of Subject (bio, chem, phys) – These guys are the experts at teaching their subject, ask them if you are unsure how to tackle a topic.
  • Technicians – Not sure how to do a practical, these guys will practice it with you, not sure what equipment you have or chemicals – ask the techs!


Scheme of Work

General advice:- get your SoW/lesson rotations as early as possible and stick to them. Seek advice if you think you can’t.

Science specific:- Talk to the Heads of Subject if you are struggling with teaching a concept outside your stronger subject. All science teachers have one subject they prefer and one they are weaker on out of the 3, don’t struggle in silence, acknowledge when you are struggling and ask for advice/support.


Seating plans:

General advice:- arrange your desks the way you want them, arrange students to support the learning in the classroom, you can use data to help you with this, it will also help you learn their names.

Science specific:- Science labs have extra bits and bobs in them… gas taps, sinks, electrical sockets, fume cupboards and fixed benching (not in all labs.) You need to take all of these into consideration when doing your seating plans – do you want the naughty child next to the sink? Do the fume cupboards reduce what can be seen of the board? Fixed benches – these can’t be moved so you have to learn to work with them.

Science teaching has its own set of quirks and additional things to consider. But a well managed science lab can produce some of the most awe inspiring lessons, after all as the quote by Arthur C. Clarke quote says “Magic is just science that we don't understand yet.”



Teaching Tricks is an AST, SLE, ITT professional tutor and on the SLT of a large modern comprehensive school and has been teaching science as a chemistry specalist for the last 22 years.


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