Our recruitment and interview process posts are very popular. However we haven’t talked about the teaching interview activity. One of the questions we get asked is around the teaching side of the interview process. Candidates for teaching positions almost always have to demonstrate their teaching skills through an observed teaching activity. During the interview process for SEN teaching positions, this is usually between 15 and 30 minutes. If you are applying for a leadership position in a Special school you may be asked to observe a lesson and give feedback to a panel. During the current Coronavirus pandemic, these interview activities and lesson observations are often done remotely. As if it wasn’t stressful enough!
The short amount of time you get to teach a small group of unfamiliar children is a challenge. I have found that the explanation of the children’s additional needs is limited. I hope the tips for successful interview teaching activities below will help. Please consider sharing this page if you find it useful.
Great SEN Teaching Interview Activities
Before you start I recommend you plan and structure the session to make sure great teaching is at the core. Yes there needs to be learning but it is your teaching under observation. This applies to whatever length of the session or pupil needs cohort. Start with the Sutton Trust Report on great teaching. The benefit of using this is you can use it during the interview if you are asked about your lesson. SLT love research-based practice. Or they should!Plan and structure the session to make sure great teaching is at the core Click To Tweet
Here is a summary of the key findings that you can apply in your interview activity:
- Show your content knowledge.
- Show you understand how students think about a subject. What are their experiences of it?
- Identify any common misconceptions
- Use high-quality instruction, include strategies like effective questioning and a way for all pupils to answer.
- Assess where the pupils are and respond, this flags your assessment to the observer.
- asking questions throughout and checking/acknowledging the responses of all pupils.
- Finish with a knowledge check of some sort. Embed a key fact or skill.
- Use praise only when appropriate and be specific about what they did. No “Good Job!”
- Avoid grouping pupils by ability – try to ensure pupils have a communicative partner in the interview activity.
You need to gather as much information as possible during the recruitment process. Knowledge of the context of the interview and teaching activities is essential in creating an effective interview activity session. If you do a pre-interview visit try and note the following things. If you do not get to visit phone up and ask.
Are there schedules in the classrooms, what do the pupils have on their desks? Now and Next boards and visual schedules are common. What symbols do the school use – Widgit, Boardmaker, Twinkl? Do the school prefer symbols or photos in their visuals? Are the words below or above the images? Try and ensure your visuals are as similar as possible – if not you can explain why, they won’t expect perfection as you may not have the software but it looks good if you acknowledge you have noticed.
Does the school use Makaton, PECS or other recognised systems? If so brush up on a few key signs. If you are unsure you can always ask the pupils to show you during the interview activity. The school website should provide this information. If there are photos on the website have a look at the details. Do the staff have symbol key rings or on lanyards etc. If there are visually impaired pupils can you find out what format their work is presented in?
Logistics of the Interview Activity.
Time is short and a precious resource. Don’t waste time with the lesson logistics, moving desks, arranging lots of resources. Finding things you need in your bag etc. This also goes for the end of the lesson/ interview activity too much tidy-up time takes away learning time (or direct instruction, interaction time. The pupils might enjoy putting any equipment into your bag for you etc.
Take anything you might need just in case – you don’t want to be scrabbling around or sending people looking for things. The best way is to take as few resources as possible and have them sorted in a box or bag you are familiar with. You can extend the logistics element to ICT equipment. Use the minimum, use only technology you are familiar with and try it beforehand. If you want to use a short video clip or music download it do not presume youtube etc will be available.
If you are doing a video or virtual interview activity make sure the software is fully updated. Familiarise yourself with the software and stop anyone streaming anything in your house before you start. No netflix etc for family!
Teaching Interview Activity Tips
You have about 5 minutes max to introduce yourself and have a positive interaction with each child. Think about how you will learn and remember their names. A quick seating plan sketch you annotate at the beginning may well pay off! The children need to know who you are and the observers need to remember you. Take a “hook” that means they will remember your name. It could be your name written in glitter, an oversized LED name badge, or some other gimmick – but make it a memorable one.
You only have limited time – this means you should plan an activity to fit into this time, not try to squeeze a long activity into a shorter time frame. You want to appear calm and in control, not rushed or flustered. Keep your pace and communication appropriate. Allow processing time and reduce language, keep it simple and back up with symbols/visuals. A more considered pace shows awareness of the need for meeting sensory needs/ brain/ movement breaks. Even in short teaching activities breaking tasks into small short pieces of learning is a good idea.
Find out immediately how the children initiate conversation and answer questions. Use a generic communication board to allow the children to respond to questioning with vocabulary linked to your lesson plan.
Effective SEN Teaching Activity Ideas
Scavenger hunt – The board above is from our Mr Potato Head activity. You hide the pieces and then build, this uses teamwork and AAC users can take full part.
Storytelling – Read a book and use it to highlight vocabulary or actions. I.e You Choose. What would they choose and why? Can they spell the chosen item, can they categorise it?
Sensory Stories – These can be bespoke to the session or adapted key texts from the topic or curriculum area. Again the school website might help see if the class/year group has a newsletter that tells you the current topic. Have a look at our free Sensory Stories here.
Stories with actions – there are loads of these on youtube. Get the pupils moving. Think about how to encourage those with limited mobility.
Attention Autism – This is a specific intervention designed by Gina Davis. If you haven’t been trained you can use the ideas behind it but don’t call it attention autism unless it is. Try attention bucket, joint attention or topic box as a title for your session. At it’s heart you build anticipation by removing items with a common theme from a container. Some you have control of others are passed around. These should be highly motivating.
What’s in the box? Wrap some boxes containing different sensory stimuli such as bells, beads etc. The pupils can unwrap and use them. This is great for requesting and sharing. They could guess or find uses for each item.
Character description – elements of the Gruffalo for example have tactile resources ready for the pupils to retrieve or find.
Practical task – broken down small steps, maybe building a tower or cake toppings but check allegies first.
For older SEN pupils try a session that focuses on social skills, preparation for adulthood, employability or community inclusion. Create clear step-by-step instructions which indicate the start and end aim. Can they quickly sort and package some products?
We hope this guide is useful. Good luck in your interviews and please add your ideas in the comments below.