Before starting my NQT year, I certainly remember my head being filled with questions and feeling that they were too silly to ask anyone about. What should I teach on the first day? Will I be able to achieve a work-life balance? Do I need to bring my own mug? So here are five NQT questions and answers for you (and my younger self!)
1. What should I teach first?
Don’t feel that you have to come in on your first day armed with resources ready to teach the curriculum. Your first few days provide an excellent opportunity for you to get to know your class – you won’t get this time again! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Icebreakers are a great way to help you build relationships with the children and understand class dynamics. You could write questions on a big dice and pass it to a child. The child answers the question and throws the dice to someone else.
Alternatively, ask the children to write three sentences about their summer holidays (two must be true and one must be made-up). As a class, you must work out which sentence is not true!
Spotting Gaps: Activities that help you find out where your class have gaps in their understanding are really important. Try giving your class a title and ask them to write a story based around it. An open-ended task like this will allow you to spot common misconceptions and inform your planning over the upcoming term.
2. How do I create effective displays?
It’s easy to get caught up in making a display look Pinterest-worthy, but does it help the children? The most effective displays I made were working walls. Working walls may have bits of flip chart paper stuck to them or be scattered with Post-it notes, but they aren’t meant to look pretty. They help children to become independent in their learning and take less time to make and maintain. Win-win!
Here are my top working wall tips:
Linda Hartley, Pinterest
- Keep adding and removing – displays will end up looking like wallpaper if they stay the same!
- Use children’s work as good examples.
- Make it interactive. This could be as simple as a question that children need to answer on a Post-it note.
- Include features that will help your class to be independent, such as key vocabulary, modelled examples, word banks and hundred squares.
For more ideas, check out our blog on the most exciting interactive displays!
3. How do I manage behaviour?
Managing behaviour was something I used to worry about when I first started teaching. As soon as I started to ask for advice, I collected so many tips! After trialling and testing, I continued with the ones that worked for me.
Here are a few of my favourites:
Establish clear expectations sooner rather than later
Set expectations for behaviour early on. I’ve always started the year by discussing and creating classroom rules with my class. This gave them ownership and meant rules were more likely to be followed.
After the first few weeks, you may begin to convince yourself that the best course of action is to ignore certain behaviours. If you ignore it, you don’t have to deal with it, right? Wrong! Consistency is crucial. If some days an action has a consequence and other days it doesn’t, this will lead to confusion over what behaviour is acceptable and what isn’t.
Praise the positives
Praising a child who is listening quietly is more powerful than drawing attention to the child who is talking. This tactic will also steer the behaviour of the rest of the class in the right direction too – children want to be praised!
4. What are the best books to read?
As soon as I gained QTS, I devoured books specifically targeted towards NQTs. However, they have probably had the smallest impact on my teaching. If I could go back and do my NQT year again, here are the books I would read. Remember that these are optional, and you certainly don’t need to read them all!
- Cracking the Hard Class by Bill Rogers – this will cover all your behaviour management needs.
- How to be an Outstanding Primary School Teacher by David Dunn – perfect if you want a book that covers a bit of everything.
- Every Teacher Matters by Kathryn Lovewell – a great book for well-being.
- Growth Mindset Pocketbook by Barry Hymer and Mike Gershon – there are lots of Teachers’ Pocketbooks, so read the ones that interest you.
- Junior Illustrated Maths Dictionary by Tori Large and Junior Illustrated Grammar and Punctuation Dictionary by Jane Bingham – don’t underestimate the importance of subject knowledge!
5. What can I do to prepare over the summer?
Relax and enjoy your summer! This may not be the answer you wanted to hear, but you need to make sure you’re well-rested before you begin in September.
If you find your thoughts wandering towards school, keep a notebook handy and jot down any questions or tasks you think of. This will free your mind and help you to make the most of your time off.
Enjoy your summer and good luck!