Teaching assistants play an important role in the lives of students as well as the teacher leading the class. Beyond helping to prepare lessons and set up the classroom, TAs help children with individual and small group learning, support children in the playground, and assist them in organising their own work. Some Teaching assistants also have a specific job attending to members of the class who require additional support such as those with SEN.
It’s not just a preference of schools to employ TAs, the UK law states that there must be one teacher for every 30 children in Reception and upwards, and one adult for every 12 children in Nursery. So teaching assistants are often required by law. In this article, we’ll list some tips for new teaching assistants and some free resources to support all TAs in their work.
Tips for New Teaching Assistants
Being a new teaching assistant faced with a class of children is daunting, to say the least. Remember that you are fully qualified and got your job for a reason. Remember, too, that the teacher is there to help you as a new member of staff. They will know what it’s like to deal with a class of children for the first time. Here are some tips for new teaching assistants to remember:
- Look for opportunities to help rather than waiting for instruction. Using your initiative to support the teacher is highly regarded and the teacher will know they can rely on you
- Plans can change at the last minute or a lesson might take an unexpected turn. Be prepared for things to change and keep your support flexible, making sure children are engaged no matter what happens
- Ask for feedback from the teacher and discuss how you can support them more. Having these discussions regularly means you know what is expected of you and can assist them in the most efficient way
- Get to know the students, listen to and value their opinions, find out about their backgrounds and culture and make friends. Knowing more about the students as individuals means you can provide the right types of support to everyone
- Know the school’s rules and curriculum inside out so that your assistance and answers to questions are consistent with the teacher’s
- Think of creative ways to help students solve problems, discuss ideas with the teacher before class so you can interact with them during a lesson in a way that encourages student engagement
- Help the teacher to maintain a strategy of managing behaviour and punishment. Reinforce this consistently with the students so all protocols are clear and they cannot be led to believe they can ‘get away with it’ with another adult
Free Resources for Teaching Assistants
Covering ages five to seven, this adaptable survival pack caters to TAs of all levels. The pack contains 21 resources focused on numeracy and literacy. Teaching Assistants are invited to look at the Overview and Instructions Powerpoint first to understand how to use the pack. Essay planning templates, revision techniques and work checklists are intelligently designed to be adaptable to any level of work in this age range making the survival pack an essential item.
The pack also contains information and guidance for the Teaching Assistant on how to support reading skills, punctuation and grammar using the activities included.
Springboard Supplies Early Literacy Progress Pack
One of the main activities that TAs help students with is reading. Giving children a sounding board to practice pronunciation with or just sitting with them and allowing them the confidence of reading to someone is invaluable in early years.
Through communication with graduate teachers and teaching assistants, the tutors at Stonebridge College created this guide of strategies for reading tasks based on real-world techniques that work. Creative strategies to get children engaged and immersed include character voices, spin-off activities, and audiobooks. They also talk of the importance of a reading space or book corner to help children compartmentalise a peaceful reading session.
If you’re on the hunt for teaching assistant training resources, this four-week online course could be the answer to your questions. The course has been developed by leading education expert Professor Helen Bilton at the University of Reading on the platform FutureLearn. The course is aimed specifically at teaching assistants and support workers to assist them in providing value and support to students effectively.
The course takes a multidisciplinary approach, with guidance on the psychology of student behaviour and how to help manage and control a class. On the course, students will hear from children on how they perceive and explore a classroom or lesson. There is also a secondary school course too.
There’s no doubt that becoming a teaching assistant is a formidable task. Through time, experience, and practice engaging and managing children in a class will become easier, allowing you to see students learn, grow and have fun through your support.