Tales from new teachers - Memory mishaps

10th January 2014 at 00:00

The problem

When I started my teaching practice, I came to realise that my memory was not as good as it should have been, especially under pressure. I was planning engaging and varied lessons, but as well as not being able to remember the order of the lesson, I was actually forgetting elements of it. Of course, this was problematic: I often had to stop children during tasks, quickly moving them on to the one I had just remembered. I realised that I could not carry on in this way - it was affecting students' learning.

The options

My personal tutor advised me to practise the lesson before teaching it. She said that going through the lesson in front of a mirror would help to flag up any issues, so I tried that, but it wasn't the same as teaching in front of a class. I felt as if I was not using my precious planning time effectively. My mentor understood my concern and assured me that it was acceptable to refer to my plans in lessons.

However, I didn't want to do that repeatedly in front of the children, nor if I was being observed. So I tried making notes on the lesson plan and highlighting key points or steps. But, while I was teaching, I did not make use of the plans. Next, I tried writing the steps on a Post-it note and sticking it to the whiteboard so that I could glance at it. This worked for a while, but I could not rely on it. Fortunately, I then remembered something I had observed in another school: a "learning menu".

The result

Writing a learning menu - objectives for the lesson - on the whiteboard helps me to remember all the steps and activities in the lesson. It also serves as a useful reminder for the children about the direction of their learning, and gives them a sense of achievement when they see that they have completed all parts of the lesson. It really takes the pressure off me and I am able to concentrate more on the students.

Unsurprisingly, I enjoy the lessons much more, and I hope to make further use of learning menus in the future. The only trouble will be remembering to do so ...

The writer is training to be a teacher in the North West of England

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