In addition to the school-based NQT training sessions that are put on by my school throughout my NQT year there are a number of external sessions that are run by the area's NQT training programme. Some of these sessions are free to all NQTs in our area, others cost to attend.
This week I attended one of the free sessions titled 'working effectively with your TA'. When we were sent round a list of all the sessions available to us, and put on by the area, this was the 1st one that I felt was really relevant to my teaching this year. I have 4 bottom set classes out of the 7 that I teach and in each of these classes' lessons I have a TA with me, sometimes I have 2. So, I thought that it was essential to go on this session in order to improve on my current practise.
The session was really good and gave me loads of ideas/ways in which I can support my TAs support our lessons more effectively.
I was joined at the session by one of my school's other NQTs (D&T) and by about another 10 NQTs from across the area's Primary Schools. This itself was fantastic because up to this week I had almost missed the weekly training sessions I was having on my GTP this time last year. Meeting other teachers in the same boat as you and being able to empathise with each other's stories and experiences is a key part of developing in my opinion.
The session itself was lead by 2 experienced teachers who had had experience of not only working with TAs, but being TAs themselves.
We started by being asked to write down on post-it notes all the things our TAs were currently doing in our classes. Here's the finished combination of everyone's ideas...
Next up we discussed the roles of our TAs and the ways in which we must support our TAs in our planning and delivery of the lessons. Something that really hit home was the requirement to ensure our TAs knew at each stage of the lesson:
1)what the students were expected to do
2)what resources the students needed to access the tasks
3)the answers and questions students should be asked when completing the tasks and to check their answers
4)what extension work there was for students that had finished
In order to put this into context we were then asked to complete an activity for a particular lesson (our group chose fractions). We had a large piece of paper split into 4 sections. 1 was what students should be thinking about at the start of the task, 1 was what to do if a student became stuck, 1 was what to do whilst the students were working and the last were plenary activities/questions to pose to the students. All the while we were completing the sheet we had to think about our TAs and what they would need in order to support students through each stage of the lesson.
Here's our finished sheet...
We then discussed the challenges faced when working effectively with our TAs and the main thing that came from this was if our TA wasn't a specialist in our subject and how this would then alter our planning. Luckily, all the TAs I work with are more than savvy with Mathematics!
Still, we then had another tasks where we were given a piece of work photocopied from a student's exercise book and we had to highlight areas of the work to be developed and worked on in class. Taking into consideration how our TA would support that student if working with them in their next lesson. This was a really interesting task as it put into context the lesson, marking, planning, lesson cycle. At this point I was slightly shocked at the level of marking the primary school teachers seemed to be doing...i.e. marking each of the students books each day of the week! I think I am pretty good when it comes to keeping on top of my students books and marking and know that I do a lot more than others, but this was far more than what I can reasonably do in a week! Perhaps this is due to having 7 classes rather than just the 1? Perhaps not?
Anyway, here's our completed task...we had a year 7/8's division work...
Finally we looked at some data and highlighted students that we would target for TA support in our lessons. This was useful too as it allowed us to look at not just student's levels, but previous progress, targets and take into account any SEN etc. Obviously we know our learners a lot better than what a set of data can show us on paper, but it was useful nonetheless to see how just be seeing a few stats it becomes clear which students can be targeted for support.
The whole morning (the session was only a 9:30-12:30 job) was really beneficial and it reminded me of the sessions I had last year on my GTP. Even better was that it was during a time where I didn't miss any of my lessons and was back in school in time for my tutor group (and my P4 and 5 lessons thereafter).
Due to the success of this session I now feel better prepared when thinking about the planning of my lessons where I have TA support and what I need to ensure they know prior to the lesson, whether that be via a brief meeting before the lesson, after the previous lesson or via e-mail. I will now be feeding back what I have taken away from the course to my TAs and to the SEN dept as a whole.