Preparing for Sessions
Before your first presentation, it is important to schedule a meeting with the teacher to review each session's overview and objectives, and inquire about the students' general abilities. If possible, meet a few minutes before students arrive to avoid interrupting the class. Once class begins, schedule sufficient time to observe the interaction between the students and teacher.
Although you have the primary responsibility for the program's presentation, the teacher's involvement is crucial to its success. Below is a checklist to help streamline your visit.
Ask the teacher to:
- Provide you with a school calendar to avoid potential conflicts with your session schedule. Be sure to exchange contact information to communicate any schedule changes.
- Offer suggestions for classroom management and how best to deliver the sessions tothe class.
- Assist with any accommodations required for special-needs students.
- Help you acquire any necessary technological equipment.
- Provide feedback to help you communicate effectively with the class.
- Review or introduce concepts to prepare the students for your visits.
- Stay in the classroom at all times during your presentations to assist you andthe students.
When you visit the classroom, take note of the following:
- How many students are there? Knowing this will help you decide how to separate theclass into groups or pairs.
- How does the teacher encourage orderly participation? For example, do students raise their hands?
- How does the teacher handle interruptions?
- What does the teacher do to make each student feel important and at ease?
- Does the classroom have a wall clock? Will you need to bring a watch?
- Where can you display posters and visuals? Will you need tape or pushpins for displays?
- Will you need a flip chart? Does the teacher prefer that you display posters and other visuals in a specific place?
- How is the room arranged? Will you need to move desks or chairs for any part of your presentation?
- How can you engage the teacher in your presentation?
- Do you see any potential problems with managing the class? Discuss your observations with the teacher.
Meeting with the teacher and observing the students provide the background knowledge needed for your class visits. The following steps may help you efficiently plan your presentation time.
- Consider bringing to class only the materials required for the session.
- Review the overview, objectives, concepts, and skills.
- Review the preparation and presentation plans and the activity instructions.
- Become familiar with the Key Terms defined in the margins.
- Review the Teaching Tips.
- Check the materials list to be sure you have sufficient time to gather any necessary items that may not be included in the kit.
- Plan thoroughly, but know that you can modify your presentation. The session may take more or less time than recommended, depending on your teaching style and students' interests and abilities.
Prior to each session:
No two classrooms are alike, and no single session will meet the needs of all the students. With the teacher's guidance, adapt sessions as necessary, while staying focused on the stated objectives. You can greatly enrich your time in the classroom by drawing on your own experiences. Develop examples that are relevant to each session. The most striking aspect of the class will be the variation in the students' abilities, maturity levels, and interests. You will discover that students have unique social, personal, and academic needs. Approach them with sincerity and respect. Learn their names and compliment them to encourage their participation. Connect the sessions to the students' current and future needs; personalize everything.
Working with Students
- Know the school's policies regarding visitors; most require checking in at the office.
- Seek the teacher's advice; respect his or her authority and expertise in the classroom.
- Leave student discipline to the teacher.
- In any contact with a student, the teacher, another school-sanctioned adult, or the student's parent or guardian must be present.
- Arrive early, but don't interrupt if the class is in session.
- Wear business attire; look like an "expert."
- Greet the students in a friendly, yet professional manner.
- Smile, shake hands (if appropriate), and maintain eye contact.
- Give your name, and ask each student for his or her name. Use the Table Tents provided to help you learn the students' names.
- Be yourself. Talk about your early aspirations, your current job, and how you got it.
- Determine what the students already know about a concept or topic. What knowledge and experiences do they bring to the class?
Although the teacher is responsible for all instruction and discipline within the class, the following suggestions can help you work with the students:
- Tailor your presentation to meet the needs of the teacher and the students. Use language, examples, and analogies that the students can understand, but don't talk down to them. Avoid any use of gender, racial, or ethnic stereotypes.
- Discuss with the teacher the best way to work with students with special needs, those who have limited English language skills, or those who have difficulty reading.
- Limit lectures to no more than 5 to 10 minutes; lecture usually is the least effective of all teaching strategies.
- Define or review the main points and/or key terms on the board, an overhead transparency, a flip chart, or other visible place; keep the Key Terms posted as reminders for students.
- Wait at least 5 seconds for an answer after calling on a student. Use as many open-ended questions as possible.
- Don't answer your own questions, and avoid criticizing or rejecting wrong answers from the students.
- When particular skills are required, such as mathematical calculations, provide an example or demonstration of the process before asking the students to solve a problem.
- Frequently check for understanding by asking relevant questions.
- During the first session, explain to the students that they must live up to the group expectations to ensure the success of program activities. Share the following expectations, and remind the students of them when necessary:
- Students in each group must work together at all times.
- Everyone participates and shares her or his knowledge.
- Everyone listens with respect.
- Ask the teacher for suggestions on grouping or pairing the students. Pairing requires that both students participate. Groups of three or more students should have prior experience working in groups.
- Give general directions before separating the class into groups.
- Assign roles in a group. It often is effective to ask the students to number off, beginning with one, and to remember their numbers. Use the count to assign roles. After an activity, call on a student by number to report on the group's experience.
- Save time by using the same groups for each session. However, it sometimes becomes necessary to change group membership. Ask the teacher to assist in assigning group work. Circulate among small groups to answer questions and help keep the students on task. Encourage the students to help one another.
- Distinguish between active learning and genuine engagement and disruptive/inattentive behavior. A quiet class isn't necessarily good, nor is a talkative class necessarily bad. Rigorous discussions or active simulations often are noisy indicators that the students are learning.
If you deliver this program in an after-school or alternative setting, talk to the classroom teacher, site coordinator, or JA staff member about program differences, such as program setting, class length, available equipment, and number of students.