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June 14, 2016 Planning a Demo Lesson: 17 Quick Tips By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    You’re applying for a teaching job at a new school. You’ve met the principal, made it through the first round of interviews, and now you’re invited to teach a demonstration lesson, the education equivalent of an audition. Don’t panic! I’ve compiled tips from some very experienced teacher friends. Together we’ve taught more than a dozen demo lessons and received many job offers afterwards. Here are our collective thoughts on how to tackle the demo lesson challenge without losing your mind.

    (A big thanks to Abby, Aly, Lauren, and Susan for brainstorming these tips with me!)

     

    Demo Lesson Tips: Planning

    When invited to teach a demo lesson, you’ll probably be told the grade level of the class and the subject area they want to see you teach. And that’s probably it. You won’t know about the students’ prior knowledge, what they’re currently working on, or how they learn best.

    Don’t worry; you don’t need to hunt down the class’s current teacher to grill her on what lessons she’s planning for the week. It’s okay if your lesson is a bit out of left field. Here are some basic guidelines for what a demo lesson should be:

    Age Appropriate: Don’t feel as if you need to teach a lesson that matches the unit currently being taught in the class you’re visiting. But definitely look at the standards for that grade level and pick a clear objective that aligns with the standards for the grade.  

    Generic and Stand-Alone: Since you won’t know if the students have background knowledge or prerequisite skills to support your lesson, try to choose a topic that stands alone as much as possible. We’ve found that writing craft, figurative language, and strategy-based math games are all good options.

    Simple: We feel that it’s better to plan a lesson that might be a bit easy for the students than something that will be far too challenging. It isn’t about what you teach during your demo lesson, it’s about how you teach the lesson. So don’t stress about the content or whether the kids will already know it.

    For example, Abby taught a demo lesson that would normally use reading passages. But since she didn’t know the reading levels of the students in the class, she modified the lesson to use artwork instead.

    Short: Administrators sometimes make their decision after the first five or ten minutes of a demo lesson. We’ve even had principals leave after watching for less than ten minutes (which is incredibly nerve-racking, even though it ended up working out in both cases). So really consider pacing and keep your teaching point focused and snappy. Cap direct instruction at ten minutes tops.

     

    Demo Lesson Tips: Preparing

    For teachers, preparation is key to having a smooth, successful day. But never is preparation more important than for demo lessons. This is the time to be over, over-prepared!

    Supplies: Don’t count on having any materials available in the classroom. Yes, they will most likely have tape and markers. But things will be smoother if you bring every single material you might need for your lesson. Chart paper, dry erase markers, every material that the students will need beyond a pencil — pack it into a reusable shopping tote bag and bring it all.

    There are a few exceptions. If you need students to use a common math manipulative for your lesson, for example, you might ask ahead of time if they have this available for your lesson.

    Charts: Make sure to have all of your charts ready to go ahead of time. Even if it’s a blank chart that you plan to fill in with student participation, have a title or heading pre-written to get you started. Also bring a chart with the objective/teaching point for the lesson written out, even if that isn’t a regular part of your teaching practice. It allows anybody who walks into the room mid-lesson to quickly get a handle on what your lesson is about.

    Similarly, pre-write any directions for a student activity on chart paper so they can refer to it rather than asking you for clarification. If nothing else, it shows that you’ve considered different types of learners. (For younger kids, include picture icons as much as possible to support the text on your charts.)

    Written Lesson Plan: Bring extra copies of your carefully written and scripted lesson plan. Even though you probably aren’t going to be assessing the students at the end of the lesson or giving homework, preparing for next steps, or even differentiating, make sure to include all of these things on your lesson plan as if you were really teaching this class full-time. It gives administrators a look at how you plan and how you think about things like differentiation for varied learners. Have extra copies on hand for other adults who may drop in to watch you.

    Student Handouts: Once again, bring a lot of extras. If at all possible, try to only use handouts that you created, not materials copied from a workbook or printed from online. Even if this means you just tweak a previously printed worksheet to make it your own.

    Back-Up for Technology: My colleagues and I are evenly split about whether to use technology for a demo lesson. Some of us have used interactive whiteboards, document cameras, and projectors to include digital elements into the demo lesson. Some of us steer clear, even if tech features prominently in our lessons normally.

    It’s a bit risky; we’ve seen teachers have problems with Internet connectivity, with device compatibility, and software glitches that put serious kinks in their plans. So, if you do plan on incorporating technology, have an alternative so you can teach your lesson just as effectively as the “old school” way. Yes, administrators will understand and be patient with minor tech snafus, but it’s so easy to lose your young audience or get flustered while trying to get a laptop connected to a new projector.

     

    Demo Lesson Tips: Managing

    Set Expectations: From the first moment of your lesson, establish behavioral expectations in a clear, firm, yet positive way. Wait for silence before talking, and use compliments to name your expectations. “Thank you for getting quiet so quickly! I see this class really knows how to listen respectfully.”

    Attention Signal: Let students know how you will call their attention and model your attention signal once for the class. For more about attention signals including a video of many attention signals in action, see my blog post “Listen Up, Students! Attention Signals That Work.”

    Name Tags: Depending on the age of the students, some of us like to give out name tags at the beginning of the lesson if the students are old enough to quickly write their name and put on their tag independently. Calling on students by name beats saying “you, over there in the green shirt.”

    Explicit Directions: Be as clear and direct with directions as you would be during the first week of school with a class. Ask student volunteers to repeat directions in their own words or to demonstrate what they will do. If necessary, pause independent or group work to clarify directions or expectations.

    Group Work: Have a plan for dividing students into groups (they will obviously be fairly random, unless you go with their pre-existing table groups.) Giving each child a colored card or sticker is an easy way to make quick groups. Briefly remind students of group work norms. You might ask, “Who can remind us of something important to keep in mind to work successfully in a group. Let’s get three ideas …”

    “I’m Done” Plan: In our regular classrooms, we have routines for what students should do when they finish an assignment early that don’t involve directions from us teachers. But for a stand-alone demo lesson, it’s a good idea to have a plan for what an early finisher can do while waiting.

     

    Demo Lesson Tips: Lights, Camera, Action … Smile!

    Act Confident: Teaching a demo lesson can be pretty terrifying! But as much as possible, try to take a deep breath and stay calm. I watched one colleague teach a wonderful demo lesson in my classroom and the only tip-off that she was nervous was that she was flushed a bright beet-red the entire time. Her demeanor and interactions with the kids were totally natural and poised.

    Act Enthusiastic: Let your passion for teaching, your love of children, and your excitement for learning shine through. Not only will the students respond in kind if you demonstrate enthusiasm, one principal I spoke with said that she’s always looking for some of the “magical Disney princess/prince twinkle-in-the-eye” from teachers. 

    Don't be afraid to smile during a demo lesson. It really helps if you can connect with the students you're teaching, even just a bit. 

    Do you have any suggestions for teaching a demo lesson? Do you have a tried and true lesson you've used? I'd love to hear your questions, comments, and suggestions in the comments section below or reach out on Facebook or TwitterAnd for expert tips on resumes and interviews, check out Meghan Everette's blog post "Get Hired: Resumes and Interviews in Education."

    You’re applying for a teaching job at a new school. You’ve met the principal, made it through the first round of interviews, and now you’re invited to teach a demonstration lesson, the education equivalent of an audition. Don’t panic! I’ve compiled tips from some very experienced teacher friends. Together we’ve taught more than a dozen demo lessons and received many job offers afterwards. Here are our collective thoughts on how to tackle the demo lesson challenge without losing your mind.

    (A big thanks to Abby, Aly, Lauren, and Susan for brainstorming these tips with me!)

     

    Demo Lesson Tips: Planning

    When invited to teach a demo lesson, you’ll probably be told the grade level of the class and the subject area they want to see you teach. And that’s probably it. You won’t know about the students’ prior knowledge, what they’re currently working on, or how they learn best.

    Don’t worry; you don’t need to hunt down the class’s current teacher to grill her on what lessons she’s planning for the week. It’s okay if your lesson is a bit out of left field. Here are some basic guidelines for what a demo lesson should be:

    Age Appropriate: Don’t feel as if you need to teach a lesson that matches the unit currently being taught in the class you’re visiting. But definitely look at the standards for that grade level and pick a clear objective that aligns with the standards for the grade.  

    Generic and Stand-Alone: Since you won’t know if the students have background knowledge or prerequisite skills to support your lesson, try to choose a topic that stands alone as much as possible. We’ve found that writing craft, figurative language, and strategy-based math games are all good options.

    Simple: We feel that it’s better to plan a lesson that might be a bit easy for the students than something that will be far too challenging. It isn’t about what you teach during your demo lesson, it’s about how you teach the lesson. So don’t stress about the content or whether the kids will already know it.

    For example, Abby taught a demo lesson that would normally use reading passages. But since she didn’t know the reading levels of the students in the class, she modified the lesson to use artwork instead.

    Short: Administrators sometimes make their decision after the first five or ten minutes of a demo lesson. We’ve even had principals leave after watching for less than ten minutes (which is incredibly nerve-racking, even though it ended up working out in both cases). So really consider pacing and keep your teaching point focused and snappy. Cap direct instruction at ten minutes tops.

     

    Demo Lesson Tips: Preparing

    For teachers, preparation is key to having a smooth, successful day. But never is preparation more important than for demo lessons. This is the time to be over, over-prepared!

    Supplies: Don’t count on having any materials available in the classroom. Yes, they will most likely have tape and markers. But things will be smoother if you bring every single material you might need for your lesson. Chart paper, dry erase markers, every material that the students will need beyond a pencil — pack it into a reusable shopping tote bag and bring it all.

    There are a few exceptions. If you need students to use a common math manipulative for your lesson, for example, you might ask ahead of time if they have this available for your lesson.

    Charts: Make sure to have all of your charts ready to go ahead of time. Even if it’s a blank chart that you plan to fill in with student participation, have a title or heading pre-written to get you started. Also bring a chart with the objective/teaching point for the lesson written out, even if that isn’t a regular part of your teaching practice. It allows anybody who walks into the room mid-lesson to quickly get a handle on what your lesson is about.

    Similarly, pre-write any directions for a student activity on chart paper so they can refer to it rather than asking you for clarification. If nothing else, it shows that you’ve considered different types of learners. (For younger kids, include picture icons as much as possible to support the text on your charts.)

    Written Lesson Plan: Bring extra copies of your carefully written and scripted lesson plan. Even though you probably aren’t going to be assessing the students at the end of the lesson or giving homework, preparing for next steps, or even differentiating, make sure to include all of these things on your lesson plan as if you were really teaching this class full-time. It gives administrators a look at how you plan and how you think about things like differentiation for varied learners. Have extra copies on hand for other adults who may drop in to watch you.

    Student Handouts: Once again, bring a lot of extras. If at all possible, try to only use handouts that you created, not materials copied from a workbook or printed from online. Even if this means you just tweak a previously printed worksheet to make it your own.

    Back-Up for Technology: My colleagues and I are evenly split about whether to use technology for a demo lesson. Some of us have used interactive whiteboards, document cameras, and projectors to include digital elements into the demo lesson. Some of us steer clear, even if tech features prominently in our lessons normally.

    It’s a bit risky; we’ve seen teachers have problems with Internet connectivity, with device compatibility, and software glitches that put serious kinks in their plans. So, if you do plan on incorporating technology, have an alternative so you can teach your lesson just as effectively as the “old school” way. Yes, administrators will understand and be patient with minor tech snafus, but it’s so easy to lose your young audience or get flustered while trying to get a laptop connected to a new projector.

     

    Demo Lesson Tips: Managing

    Set Expectations: From the first moment of your lesson, establish behavioral expectations in a clear, firm, yet positive way. Wait for silence before talking, and use compliments to name your expectations. “Thank you for getting quiet so quickly! I see this class really knows how to listen respectfully.”

    Attention Signal: Let students know how you will call their attention and model your attention signal once for the class. For more about attention signals including a video of many attention signals in action, see my blog post “Listen Up, Students! Attention Signals That Work.”

    Name Tags: Depending on the age of the students, some of us like to give out name tags at the beginning of the lesson if the students are old enough to quickly write their name and put on their tag independently. Calling on students by name beats saying “you, over there in the green shirt.”

    Explicit Directions: Be as clear and direct with directions as you would be during the first week of school with a class. Ask student volunteers to repeat directions in their own words or to demonstrate what they will do. If necessary, pause independent or group work to clarify directions or expectations.

    Group Work: Have a plan for dividing students into groups (they will obviously be fairly random, unless you go with their pre-existing table groups.) Giving each child a colored card or sticker is an easy way to make quick groups. Briefly remind students of group work norms. You might ask, “Who can remind us of something important to keep in mind to work successfully in a group. Let’s get three ideas …”

    “I’m Done” Plan: In our regular classrooms, we have routines for what students should do when they finish an assignment early that don’t involve directions from us teachers. But for a stand-alone demo lesson, it’s a good idea to have a plan for what an early finisher can do while waiting.

     

    Demo Lesson Tips: Lights, Camera, Action … Smile!

    Act Confident: Teaching a demo lesson can be pretty terrifying! But as much as possible, try to take a deep breath and stay calm. I watched one colleague teach a wonderful demo lesson in my classroom and the only tip-off that she was nervous was that she was flushed a bright beet-red the entire time. Her demeanor and interactions with the kids were totally natural and poised.

    Act Enthusiastic: Let your passion for teaching, your love of children, and your excitement for learning shine through. Not only will the students respond in kind if you demonstrate enthusiasm, one principal I spoke with said that she’s always looking for some of the “magical Disney princess/prince twinkle-in-the-eye” from teachers. 

    Don't be afraid to smile during a demo lesson. It really helps if you can connect with the students you're teaching, even just a bit. 

    Do you have any suggestions for teaching a demo lesson? Do you have a tried and true lesson you've used? I'd love to hear your questions, comments, and suggestions in the comments section below or reach out on Facebook or TwitterAnd for expert tips on resumes and interviews, check out Meghan Everette's blog post "Get Hired: Resumes and Interviews in Education."

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